Harvard graduate schools are right to admit fewer (with a few caveats) | Notice
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – and worsening in many ways – has forced US universities to radically rethink their approach to graduate studies. Harvard was no exception: the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences ad that it will reduce the number of admissions for the next school year. Harvard Graduate School of Education suspends his doctorate. admissions entirely.
This decision is an undeniable blow to future graduate students. Go to graduate studies a historically served as a cocoon in times of recession. But in this context, closing admissions makes higher education less accessible, precisely when pursuing your education may seem more appealing than braving the struggling job market.
And yet, it may be the right choice.
Admitting fewer graduate students will allow the University to support the students it already has. The pandemic has imposed financial, social and research restrictions that strain the experience of graduates and seriously complicate Harvard’s ability to deliver the experience promised to graduate students upon admission and must develop as researchers. . With certain types of research stopping, funding crunching, and face-to-face interactions with peers and faculty nearly impossible, Harvard’s resources are already depleted.
We have written extensively on the need to support graduate students. When the pandemic started, we called on the administration to to be generous to our graduate peers, advocating for universal temporary stay on student loan repayments and funding for the transition year. Before COVID-19, we supported the graduate students union decision to retaliate when our university’s working tensions seemed likely to become the dominant campus story of 2020 (they weren’t). A drop in admissions, while unfortunate for students who wish to study here, could ensure that our current body of graduate students receives precisely the kind of resources and attention they have always deserved.
Additionally, the University’s decision to cut admissions fits into a larger context that precedes COVID-19: dissatisfaction with graduate studies itself. The letter from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences announcing the admission decision asserts that the reduction in admissions will allow the University to address “existing and fundamental concerns about the doctorate.” study programs, student well-being and their employment outcomes. “
That said, we are not so convinced by another of the University’s justifications: an “ethical responsibility” not to exacerbate the banned academic job market by admitting new students. We have resisted the notion that the sole purpose of education is to induce students to particular careers; transmitting and producing knowledge serves a broader societal objective. We thought Harvard shared that sentiment. And given the number of people who use their graduate degrees in the workplace outside academia, this justification does not necessarily hold water anyway.
Speaking of the implications for higher education: We are particularly disappointed that the humanities and social sciences departments appear to be overrepresented among departments completely stopping admissions to schools across the country. This trend only perpetuates the widespread devaluation of these disciplines in an increasingly technocratic societal and academic moment. While Harvard’s approach offers greater ministerial flexibility than that of many institutions, we fear that admissions cuts may further worsen this trend in the long term.
Finally, if the desire to improve the quality of higher education is the guiding principle – as it should be – admissions reductions are not enough. We hope to see this renewed commitment reflected elsewhere, starting with policies that adequately address the resource constraints that are causing graduate student dissatisfaction long before the onset of the current crisis.
The University absolutely has an “ethical responsibility” towards graduate students; last December, graduate students went on strike to demand its completion. A year later, there is no better time to reflect on this assignment.
This staff editorial represents the majority opinion of The Crimson Editorial Board only. It is the result of discussions at regular editorial board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to give their opinion and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
Have a suggestion, question or concern for the Crimson Editorial Board? Click on here.