Which phD program is better?
February 14, 2012 6:32 PM   Subscribe

How do I know which Ethnomusicology graduate program is considered better in the field? And how do I decide where to go?

I have recently gotten acceptances for phD programs I have applied. I have narrowed down the decision to two schools.

Both of these programs are in Canada, and I am having a hard time finding out how these programs are perceived in the field in and out of Canada-- most discussions focus on US schools.

I have asked as many people as I can about both, and have gotten mixed responses. Some people (in the field) either don't know anything or have never heard of school B. Some says school B has a better program. Some says school A is top notch in Canada.

I have also scoured the program requirements. School B requires twice as many courses, and has a more elaborate comprehensive exam than school A. School A has more resources relevant to my research. School A is also in the same city as my field site, and has more teaching/ TA opportunities.

I have made my pros and cons list in terms of funding, timeline, location, cohort likeability, quality of life, overall prestige in case I never get an academic job and need to impress a non-academic employer, general theoretical leaning or atmosphere, etc. Now I just really want to know how these two programs are received in the field.

How does one go about finding this information?

I also want to know quality of education, but I feel like that has a lot to do with how I get along with my advisor, so it's hard to say right now.
posted by anonymous to Education (8 answers total)
You've done a great job with your pro and con list.

BUT, I'm really nervous that people in the field don't know the school (or the faculty?). That is not a good sign.

The program reqs and resources are really a tough call.

So, for me, it would come down to -- are there people at School A or B that you are dying to work with? And they are a good fit for what you want to do?

Also remember that worst case, you could always leave one school for another if it doesn't work out.
posted by k8t at 6:43 PM on February 14, 2012

Have you visited and hung out with people? Have you spent a few days getting a feel for what it would be like to live and work there? I imagine you've probably done an in-person visit, but maybe it was full of scheduled interviews and not so much down time. (Of course, being a student, I'm sure you've got TONS of money and time... but still!)
posted by Madamina at 7:41 PM on February 14, 2012

Where are graduates from the two schools getting jobs? Are they getting jobs? Can you find out what their dropout rates are? How much are professors being cited (if this is appropriate for the field)? Do students graduate? Present at major conferences?

Also, if there are people who have never heard of one program, it's probably got overall less prestige, even if those who have heard of it think it's a hidden gem.
posted by jeather at 8:13 PM on February 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

One (relatively) objective way to gauge how these schools are perceived is to inquire about how many of their graduates get jobs, and where. That's a reasonable question to ask of the program faculty themselves. You can also get some sense of the relative social capital of the program's faculty by looking at what, and where, they're publishing and whether any of it gets cited. Of course, being a great researcher doesn't necessarily make one an effective teacher, but you asked about reputation and that is largely measured by publications and the employability of their graduates.

For one subjective opinion from a U.S.-based ethnomusicologist, MeMail me the names of the schools.

(on preview -- jeather and I independently came up with the same answer, looks like)
posted by dr. boludo at 8:19 PM on February 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm going to guess school B is MUN. I have heard that it has the best ethnomusicology program in the country, because they've got a really amazing faculty, but it's not going to be known outside of Canada.

Schools like U of T and McGill have a much higher prestige factor worldwide and, I would imagine, more course options just because they are bigger. U of A also has an excellent program, depending on what you want to study.

I am a Canadian music librarian; I've attended the past few years of joint CUMS/CAML meetings and tend to hang out with the CUMS students because usually I went to undergrad with some of them, so I get to hear about the various schools. And as far as presentations at the CUMS conference goes, I just checked last year's program and almost every session has someone from U of T presenting, while the other schools usually have four or fewer presenters in the whole conference.
posted by kyla at 10:36 PM on February 14, 2012

I meant "do students publish", the second time I asked if students graduate.
posted by jeather at 4:52 AM on February 15, 2012

If you're talking about MUN, it has an excellent ethnomusicology program and I can second kyla on the fact that their faculty is amazing. Definitely not unknown in their field. (I did a grad degree in Folklore at MUN and there is some crossover between courses, so this is firsthand knowledge). The graduates I can think of off the top of my head are working and finished in a reasonable time period. They seem to be really well supported (financially and professionally) by their department, which is sadly a lot more than I can say for most grad students I know. Feel free to Memail me if you'd like to know more.


I have also scoured the program requirements. School B requires twice as many courses, and has a more elaborate comprehensive exam than school A. School A has more resources relevant to my research. School A is also in the same city as my field site, and has more teaching/ TA opportunities.

Sounds like you have already made your decision. Whatever it may be, good luck! Ethnomusicology is a fascinating field.
posted by futureisunwritten at 7:31 AM on February 15, 2012

The music librarian at my alma mater is an ethnomusicologist (and a great guy). I'm sure he'd be happy to discuss this with you, and because there's no equivalent program there, he has no horse in this race.
posted by coolguymichael at 8:10 AM on February 15, 2012

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