Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Admissions policy

  1. Dec 2, 2008 #1

    Andy Resnick

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    There's been some very consistent rumors here regarding a new structure to the graduate program here and I'm wondering if anyone else has any experience with this, which is that the entire graduate program is being centralized at the level of the Dean's office. That is, there will be no more direct admits to departments, only admission to the School.

    This is similar to how undergraduate admissions works, but I think the impact is much more severe- the Dean's office is setting a class size that's about 1/2 of the existing number, and so some departments (the un-sexy ones) will have a very difficult time getting graduate students at all.

    It's being spun as a financial benefit to the Departments- students cost money and the Dean's office is paying for the 1st year of graduate school. Also, the first year curriculum is now a very general program of study rather than an entry point to specialized study.

    Think of how this would translate to an Engineering school, or a school of Science, and I think you will see that this a horribly bad idea. It's really not clear to me why this is being done. I guess I'm wondering what you all think of this, if you have heard or experienced something similar, and if so, what the unintended consequences were.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 2, 2008 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Yes, I have experience with that system at two institutions now, and it's HORRIBLE! You don't get the same quality of students, because they focus entirely on things like GRE scores rather than individual qualities. And, don't let them hoodwink you into thinking it's good for the departments. It takes away autonomy of the departments (at least in the schools I've been, this admission policy is tied to a generic undifferentiated first year curriculum, which prepares the students for nothing and just sets them back an additional year in their graduate work). It also lands sometimes unpredictable and often unequal distributions of students for various departments, especially if the departments aren't allowed to do their own recruiting to attract good applicants. The "popular" departments will be flooded with more students than they know what to do with, while other departments wind up with none.

    The other REAL reason they do it is because they think they can lump all those first year students under one pool of trainees for the sake of applying for training grants. But, of course enough institutions are doing this that the funding agencies have completely caught on to this ploy. And, in the end, it makes it harder to get the training grants, because those first year undifferentiated curricula make it hard to add the flexibility of the added courses or seminars that would be unique to students on a training grant.

    And, it's total nonsense that it saves departments money. If the dean wanted to offer stipends to incoming students, they could do it by giving the money to individual departments earmarked for stipends (with any leftover going into a pool for other departments to use) just as easily as they can hand then out to the aimless wanderers that undifferentiated first year programs attract. It also doesn't save money, because those students end up spending an extra year in grad school since they don't start their REAL coursework until their second year after wasting time in irrelevant courses in their first year.

    Why is it being done? Probably because all the deans get together at their annual meetings and compare the sizes of their p... I mean share ideas and try to convince each other to hop onto the same bandwagon.

    So, yes, a FEW departments will benefit...the handful that are either very popular programs, or that are the dean's pet programs that s/he'll funnel students into. The rest will find it rather detrimental. And I think it's awful for the students who basically end up spending another year doing advanced undergraduate work instead of really getting started on their graduate work with specialized courses.

    In case you couldn't tell, I think it's one of the worst plans I've encountered, and so do all the other faculty I've ever actually discussed the issue with. We keep asking when the dean will resign so we can get a new one to toss this program out the window. :rolleyes:
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook