Thursday, February 22, 2007

The incredible shrinking PhD

Our faculty recently decided to change the curriculum, reducing it from 84 to 72 hours. The specific courses don't change much, except that practicum is cut from two years to one. The big change is simply fewer electives or cognate courses. However, rather than making the new curriculum only apply to incoming students, it also applies to those of us already here.

So students are confronting new plans for the next few semesters. Of course, we can't go back in time and un-take one year of practicum. (We have to finish this year of it out, they decided.) A 12-hour reduction is substantial, since we take 9 hours most semesters. Quite a few students are now are much closer to the end of their coursework than anticipated - and in some cases, their courses may not be allocated quite the way they would have been had they planned it. Originally, only Ms. Prepared was intending to finish coursework this year.

What does this do to us? Faculty attitudes vary. One student said his advisor was pleased, because finishing earlier is always better, as you get a job and make decent money sooner. On the other hand, one's vita might improve in an extra year, and one might thus get a better job by waiting. My advisor and I negotiated down to three years of coursework, dropping a 6-hour semester that would have been tacked on at the end. One benefit to this is that I can, if I try, get far enough along to go on the market in my fourth year, but if the market sucks I can reasonably stretch it out another year.

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