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Uchicago — English Department


Replies to: Uchicago — English Department

  • ChrchillChrchill Registered User Posts: 1,024 Senior Member
    Perhaps we could revert to the original purpose of my post: exploring how / why UChicago and Berkeley have for some time now been the two preeminent English departments in the nations.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,992 Senior Member
    The statement "UChicago and Berkeley have for some time now been the two preeminent English departments in the nations [sic]" is fundamentally inaccurate, especially in the case of Chicago. They are no doubt two of the preeminent English departments in the world (the "world," for English departments, consisting essentially of the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and some islands in the Caribbean), but it's not as if they tower over the other six or seven top departments, or even that there's broad consensus on how to rank the top departments. Berkeley is a perennial in the top group, at least for the past 3-4 generations. Chicago's high status is much more recent. (40 years ago when I was interested in graduate work in literature, Berkeley was a preeminent program and Chicago wasn't even quite second rank, unless you were interested in Latin, Ancient Greek, or something like Akkadian.)

    The 2010 National Research Council complex data-based rankings of U.S. programs put Chicago well down in the pack in every criterion, and were wildly inconsistent as to Berkeley (with some methodologies, it was top-6; with others it was barely top-50). The methodology that most reflected conventional wisdom had Berkeley at #6, behind (in various orders) Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, and Yale, with Chicago toward the bottom of the top 20. Had foreign programs been considered, Cambridge would definitely have been in the top group as well, and maybe Oxford too. Some departments showed up at or near the top of the heap no matter which criteria were used -- Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Columbia, Wisconsin, Cornell.

    I would say that, at the level of academic folklore, traditionally Yale and Berkeley have been considered the preeminent English Departments, at least for the past 60 years or so. 50 years ago, Yale was head and shoulders above everyone else, but that hasn't been true since the 1980s. Harvard tends to have very strong, prominent senior faculty that it recruits from elsewhere, but that need to be replaced constantly. Stanford has been increasingly strong for decades. Columbia is traditionally very strong, but had the worst ideological rifts of any department, and had to be placed effectively in receivership by the university for awhile. Cornell, Hopkins, Michigan, UCLA are all generally strong programs, too.

    Chicago has gotten a great boost from, as I said, its having caught a few waves of academic fashion just right. But I don't think its placement results for recent degree recipients is consistent with being anything like "the" preeminent department, or even one of two (or five) of them. And in the end, that's what matters most -- attracting the best students, polishing them so they shine, and generating so much light with your own faculty that some of it reflects off their advisees and everyone wants a piece of that.
  • JBStillFlyingJBStillFlying Registered User Posts: 5,045 Senior Member
    ^^ Is 2010 the last time the PhD programs were ranked by NRC?
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,992 Senior Member
    It was a huge project that cost a lot to carry out, and I think it was not seen as especially successful or useful.
  • JBStillFlyingJBStillFlying Registered User Posts: 5,045 Senior Member
    Shoot. It's far more comprehensive than other rankings. Hope they update at some point.
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