Philosophy PhD Programs: University of Otago and St Andrews and Stirling Graduate Programme in Philosophy

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are University of Otago and St Andrews and Stirling Graduate Programme in Philosophy.. These programs were chosen randomly, using an app called "Pickster." (Next week's picks are listed at the bottom of this post.) This information comes from the APDA database, and was updated by my research assistant, Anna Durbin, using the program's placement page and what she could find online. The running tally includes select numbers from all of the programs covered so far.


  • Otago is a small program, whereas SASP is very large
  • Both have below average permanent academic placement, but Otago is a bit better than SASP on this
  • SASP students give it above average ratings overall and for research preparation, but lower ratings for teaching preparation and financial support
  • Otago students tend to be in LEMM or Science, Logic, and Math, whereas SASP students are in LEMM
  • Both have below average gender diversity, and SASP also has below average racial/ethnic and socioeconomic diversity

Overall placement, 2012-present
Otago had 16 PhD graduates in this period, whereas SASP had 81. Of Otago's 16 graduates, 11 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 4 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (36%), with 1 of these in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy (9%). SASP placed 15 of 72 into permanent academic positions (21%), with 9 in philosophy programs with a PhD (13%).

Of Otago's other graduates, 2 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 5 have other temporary academic placements, and 5 are in nonacademic positions.

Of SASP's other graduates, 21 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 18 have other temporary positions, 9 are in nonacademic positions, and 18 have no or unknown placement.

Nonacademic positions held by graduates of Otago include university administration, software development, and government, whereas those held by graduates of SASP include artist, government, consultant, teacher, and translator.

The average salary of SASP graduates is $54,894 and 100% preferred an academic job, whereas too few Otago graduates provided salary or job preference information to report.

The current database values for all 2012 and later graduates now in permanent academic positions, out of those in academic positions overall, is 42%, with 14% in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy. The average salary of all graduates who took part in the survey is $68,542 and 90% prefer an academic job.

Areas of Specialization, by Category
Including all past and current students in the APDA database, 44% of Otago students are in Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Mind (LEMM), none are in Value Theory, 13% are in History and Traditions, and 44% are in Science, Logic and Math. 51% of SASP students are in LEMM, 24% are in Value Theory, 14% are in History and Traditions, and 11% are in Science, Logic, and Math. For Otago, the majority of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in Science, Logic, and Math (75%), whereas those from SASP were split between LEMM, Value Theory, and History and Traditions (33% each).

Note that the current database values for all past graduates and current students are 28% in LEMM, 33% in Value Theory, 24% in History and Traditions, and 15% in Science, Logic, and Math.

Including all past graduates and current students, 28% of those from Otago are women, as are 24% of SASP students.

The current database percentage is 31% for all past graduates and current students.

Including all past graduates and current students, 11% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from SASP identified as something other than White, non-Hispanic. (Too few from Otago provided this information to report.)

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 21%, but this is likely inflated relative to the true population due to some of our data gathering efforts.

None of those from SASP were first generation college students, but too few Otago students 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 SASP provided two public comments on how philosophy could be more inclusive:

More humility. More open-mindedness. More listening. More willingness to look outside of philosophy to the ideas that exist and are created elsewhere.
More jobs, longer contracts, better pay

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 SASP students selected "somewhat likely" (4.4, n=11). (Too few Otago students answered this or the following questions to report.)

SASP did not have a 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.

"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. It is worth noting that some students give lower ratings to their program because they would not recommend a graduate education in philosophy to anyone or because they think it is more difficult to find employment from that program for reasons that have little to do with the quality of that program.

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for undergraduate teaching," SASP students selected "unsatisfied" (2.3, n=6).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," SASP students selected "satisfied" (4.3, n=6).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students, SASP students selected "neutral" (2.7, n=6).

Public Comments
(Note that these comments primarily come from current students and recent graduates, but in some cases may be from non-recent graduates.)

Otago students provided public comments on the program overall:

Professional environment and work mentality in the philosophy department and the university; high quality of life; many international students and lecturers/professors; very supportive university administration

on preparation for teaching:

In most cases, tutors get rather general advise on how to run tutorials, or how to mark essays and tests. However, some lecturers give very precise instructions what they expect student essays or exams to look like. A bit more instruction how to structure tutorials could be helpful.

and on financial support:

The university provides a quite generous PhD-scholarship. By tutoring, one can earn some extra money.

SASP students likewise provided public comments on the program overall:

Intensity of academic life in small college town. Close relationship with faculty, inc social. Many visiting speakers.
Excellent support from supervisor; weekly seminars for graduate students; excellent annual review process
Most useful was the network of famous philosophers. Good pastoral support.
Supportive collegiate community. Very high academic standard. Excellent supervision.

on preparation for teaching:

Good university wide teaching programme; Not enough advice from lecturers
There was little/no training for teaching. However, staff were friendly and helpful if you asked them.

on preparation for research:

If you asked staff would help. But you were meant to pick it all up by osmosis. There was very little formal training.
not a lot of advice

and on financial support:

Cons: Fellowships covering tuition and live-in expenses are rare in the UK. AHRC scholarships discriminated against non-UK members of the European Union (by only paying their tuition rather than tuition & living expenses, as they do for UK students) and were generally non-available for overseas students. Teaching for graduate students pays by the weekly taught hour and it was impossible to get so many hours as to earn enough for covering even modest living expenses, no institutionalised support for students seeking financial support from foundations and other sources. Pros: By comparison to other departments in the university, philosophy did a good job placing its students in the university-internal AHRC rankings, resulting in a decent percentage of successful student applications.
Some support available but not much.

Next week I hope to look at University at Buffalo and University of California, Davis. Feedback is welcome, at

Link to this post at: