Philosophy PhD Programs: University of Guelph and University of Sheffield

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are University of Guelph and University of Sheffield. These programs were chosen randomly, using an app called "Pickster." (Next week's picks are listed at the bottom of this post.) I updated this information myself, using the program's placement page and what I could find online. I aim to construct these posts with an eye to what can be seen about the programs from the APDA data set alone. This information has come from several sources, including current students and graduates. Prospective graduate students should look at the websites for the programs, linked above, for more complete information. The running tally includes select numbers from all of the programs covered so far.


  • Sheffield is one of the largest programs covered so far, and twice as large as Guelph
  • Both appear to have below average placement, but both lack a complete placement page, making it difficult to find information on graduates
  • Yet, Sheffield has above average student ratings, both overall and on specific measures
  • Sheffield students also provided many comments on the program

Overall placement, 2012-present
Guelph appears to have had 31 graduates in this period, whereas Sheffield appears to have had 63. Of Guelph's 31 graduates, 19 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 3 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (16%), with 1 of these in a program that offers a PhD in philosophy (5%). Sheffield placed 17 of 58 into permanent academic positions (29%), with 11 in a philosophy program with a PhD (19%).

Of Guelph's other graduates, 1 is in a postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 11 are in other temporary academic positions, 12 are in nonacademic positions, and 4 have no or unknown placement. (Guelph's placement page does not include names and ends with 2016 graduates, so I had to use dissertation records and match them to the placement page.)

Of Sheffield's other graduates, 14 have postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 8 have temporary academic placements, 5 are in nonacademic positions, and 19 have no or unknown placement. (Sheffield does not have a placement page, but they do have a recent alumni page.) The average salary of Sheffield graduates is $65,420 and 100% preferred an academic job. (Too few graduates from Guelph provided this information to report.)

Note that removing nonacademic positions from the total number of graduates in reporting permanent academic placement is a new standard for this project. According to the old standard, the overall proportion of 2012-2016 graduates from the 135 programs tracked by APDA in permanent academic positions is 36%, with 11% in PhD granting programs. The current database values for all 2012 and later graduates according to the new standard are 43% and 14%, respectively, with an overall average salary of $68,542 and 90% who prefer an academic job.

Areas of Specialization, by Category
Including all past and current students in the APDA database, 12% of Guelph students are in LEMM, 21% are in Value Theory, 56% are in History and Traditions, and 12% Science, Logic and Math. 42% of Sheffield students are in LEMM, 45% are in Value Theory, 10% are in History and Traditions, and 4% are in Science, Logic and Math. For both programs, the majority of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in Value Theory (67% for Guelph, 53% for Sheffield).

Note that the current database values for all past graduates and current students are 28% in LEMM, 34% in Value Theory, 24% in History and Traditions, and 14% in Science, Logic, and Math.

Including all past graduates and current students, 34% of those from Guelph are women, as are 31% of Sheffield students.

29% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. The current database percentage is 31% for all past graduates and current students.

Including all past graduates and current students, none of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Guelph and 19% from Sheffield identified as something other than White, non-Hispanic.

13% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. The percentage from the Diversity and Inclusivity survey is 14%. The current database percentage is 20%, but this is likely inflated relative to the true population due to some of our data gathering efforts.

10% of those from Sheffield were first generation college students. (Too few from Guelph provided this information to report.)

The percentage of all survey respondents who are first generation college students is 23.4%, compared to 31% for all United States doctoral degree recipients in 2015.

Students from Guelph provided one public comment on how philosophy could be more inclusive:

I wish I knew!

Sheffield students provided a few:

Systematically confronting racist views in historical philosophical texts. Emphasising where-ever possible the methodological imperative to make extra effort to listen to the neglected and the quieter voices in both contemporary and historical philosophy. Instilling a culture of disciplinary transparency and the robust implementation of firm rules to weed out sexist, racist and other discriminatory behaviour from the profession. Distributing the research resources in the industry more evenly so as to enable better access into postgraduate study to people with less financial means. I.e. give less money in research money to faculty, post-docs, and PhD students, in order to give more to MA students so that doing a Masters can be a real option for working class graduates. As a community we must take a strong and unified line making clear that transphobia is unacceptable anywhere within academic philosophy. Journal editors and heads of departments (/faculties) are in particularly powerful positions in this regard.
A PhD is a job and should be treated as such (like in Belgium or Austria). Women are underrepresented. Parental leave should be increased n-fold.
More and better funding for members of underrepresented groups (including class). More climate training sessions held within individual departments. Changes to core philosophical curriculum to include more areas outside of LEMM and Ethics (Feminism, Race, Indigenous Philosophy, Disability Studies, East Asian/South Asian Philosophy, Africana Philosophy, etc) or even using articles that talk about core philosophical concepts with reference to more diverse examples and cases. Implementing hand/finger etiquette in Q&A sessions (where a hand is a new question and a finger is a followup on the question originally asked). Bystander training for chairs at conference sessions so the chairs can intervene in instances of disrespect and abuse - they could also be trained to prioritize certain identities of interlocutors if the Q&A is dominated by white men. This could be communicated through an advice to chairs pamphlet. Having diversity coordinators/advisors (or designated allies) within departments who can aid underrepresented graduate students if they are experiencing problems throughout their degree. Open conversations about depression and mental illness in graduate programs in philosophy - perhaps running mental health seminars with the help of university health programmes.

Program Rating

In response to the question: "How likely would you be to recommend the program from which you obtained or will obtain your PhD to prospective philosophy students?" past and current Sheffield students selected "somewhat likely" (4.4, n=16). It did not have moderate or higher correlation between graduation year and program rating. Of 69 programs with at least 10 survey participants who are past graduates, 14 had moderate negative correlations between these values, 7 had moderate positive correlations, and there is a slight negative overall correlation of -.06. (Too few from Guelph provided this information to report.)

"Somewhat likely," 4.0, is the average rating reported in 2017. The current database overall average is the same, with an average of 3.7 for teaching, 3.9 for research, and 3.7 for financial support.

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for undergraduate teaching," Sheffield students selected "satisfied" (4.1, n=10).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Sheffield students selected "very satisfied" (4.6, n=10).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students," Sheffield students selected "satisfied" (3.9, n=10).

Public Comments

Guelph students provided public comments on the program overall:

When counseling those who are thinking about a PhD in philosophy at Guelph, I think the bigger decision is whether to do a PhD in philosophy, not whether Guelph is the right place for it. My suggestion was always that they should do a PhD out of love for their project. The professional opportunities in academia are just too uncertain to warrant a PhD just to chase the tenure track; meanwhile, professional opportunities outside of academia are less dependent on your project, so you can get those benefits while still researching what you want.

on preparation for teaching:

You might need to ask for help in terms of teaching undergraduate classes. What I would like to see is the department promoting/advertising the pedagogy courses offered to graduate students. These courses are not part of the philosophy program, rather they are offered as trans-disciplinary courses that focus 100% on teaching. No doubt every philosophy PhD student wants to see themselves as the entertaining sage on the stage professor. The reality is that few of us are. But we can all learn how to teach students how to learn.

and on financial support:

Why do we PhD students pay tuition at all???? Cos it is Canada? Maybe. The funding is decent enough. However, beyond four years (the expected completion time) funding is pretty lean.

Sheffield students likewise provided comments on the program overall:

Fantastic supervisors; Supportive community of phd students
Extremely supportive; Very friendly; Very impressive placement record
Excellent supervisors, dedicated graduate seminar chaired by faculty members, a very supportive environment -- I got to try out conference talks/job talks in front of faculty members, we simulated job interviews, we received specific job market training, those who taught would meet every other week with a member of staff to discuss issues, marking etc. I also got a chance to teach my own UG/MA course. My PhD was extended accordingly, and I received 6 extra months of funding. It was a great experience, from which I learned a great deal. It proved invaluable when I went on the job market.
Excellent support on the job market. Excellent opportunities to gain teaching experience. Friendly and collegial environment.
Minuses: not very stimulating from an intellectual point of view, micro-community with very similar ideas, close-minded intellectual milieu, little opportunities to network or funding for periods abroad, little support for job-hunting. Pluses: a lot of nice people, informal environment, excellent library resources (but prob less than excellent for UK standards)
There is a strong post-graduate community and a supportive and collaborative research environment. The supervision was focused on producing a PhD thesis, but the overall program aimed to build your broad knowledge, and to make you competitive on the job market. It was an excellent environment in which to grow as a philosopher and researcher.

on preparation for teaching:

Almost no training for teaching philosophy. Decent training available for teaching in general. Plus: Possibility to get higher education academy recognition
Sheffield provides the opportunity to tutor (TA) first year tutorial seminars to graduate students every semester. Graduate students are paid extra for this work and funding for the PhD is NOT contingent on teaching. Graduate students are also given the opportunity to apply to teach their own course on their research and paid extra for this work as well. The program requires graduate students to take a leave of absence when they teach their own course, however, which can delay graduation - I wish this were not the case and that graduate students could have more teaching opportunities without having to take leave.
The tutor training module is useful, but it is not enough. Some of it needs to be provided in advance (perhaps online), so that people can teach in the first semester without being completely thrown in the deep end. More needs to be said about our rights and responsibilities as GTAs, we need to know in advance how much we are paid and for how much work, we should be told that we are welcome to join the union.
While I was there, there was support for graduates with teaching in the form of workshops with other grads (so we could talk, as a group, about teaching issues as they arose). A faculty member was present to moderate and offer input, but in my experience there was little or no discussion of actual pedagogical research (this may have changed since I left).

on preparation for research:

Almost no preparation, except a few seminars
Excellent support from thesis supervisors on all aspects of research including publishing.
My supervisors have been as helpful as I could have hoped in this regard.
Sheffield provides a number of seminars to as a part of the Doctoral Development Programme to help graduate students develop skills that are necessary to successful research. Most seminars are optional but a certain number are required for first year PhD students. The seminars are run by department members so they are relevant to philosophy in particular which makes them very useful. Some seminars include CV Workshop, Job-Market Advice, Social Impact Seminar (which is similar to Public Philosophy), The American Job Market, Academic Presentations and Conferences, and Climate Training for Seminars and Colloquiums.

and on financial support:

Barely any financial support for conferences
Funding in UK institutions is slightly different from American institutions. Funding is sourced from a number of independent funding bodies within the UK rather than solely from the University of Sheffield itself. There are few University Fellowships available to philosophers (2-3 per year) but a number of external funding opportunities. A few students are self-funded as tuition fees for domestic students are much lower than in the USA. However, there is need for better funding for international students. There is no tuition remission scheme (even if you are funded), and tuition fees are mandatory for all postgraduate students and can total up to £16,000 per year for international students. This severely restricts accessibility to the field.
I have been fortunate to have been well supported by AHRC funding. However, not everyone on the PhD programme has any funding at all, and the dearth of funding available to MA students - at Sheffield just as everywhere else - is a very significant barrier to accessibility in the philosophy profession.
I received a fee waiver for my Masters year, and full AHRC funding for my PhD, thanks to the support of the faculty there. I taught regularly, which supplemented my grant-money, and the cost of living was extremely low relative to the country as a whole, so I was in just about the best financial position I could have been in as a graduate student.
Similar to most UK universities - most of the funding available is from the research council and therefore set at a standard amount.
There were plenty of funding opportunities. Initially I had funding from Italy (for the first two years). Then I received extra funding for 2.5 more years.

Next week I hope to look at Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Marquette University. Feedback is welcome, at

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