University vs. Seminary?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by telefax, Oct 29, 2009.

  1. telefax

    telefax Member

    Thought this might be interesting to kick around...

    Here’s an interesting comment on a perceived difference in quality between university and seminary doctorates. R. Scott Clark, professor at the WASC/ATS accredited Westminster Seminary California, reports another’s statement on his blog.

    “Before you enroll in a seminary PhD program be sure to ask about their success in placing graduates in teaching positions, if that’s your goal. I recall standing next to a dept chairman at Wheaton College and watching him pitch job applications unopened. I asked him why and he replied, “We don’t hire seminary PhDs.” I’m not saying that every school takes this view. We have three seminary PhDs on our faculty. I think they did or are doing better than typical PhD work but I’ve read a fair number of poor seminary PhDs so that proportionately seminary PhDs are less satisfactory than university PhDs.”​

    What is interesting here is that Wheaton College shares the regional accreditation as well as the evangelical convictions of the seminaries whose grads aren’t getting hired on. Therefore, they presumably believe that something academic is lacking. Whether this is a groundless bias or something substantive I have no idea. In my experience with both kinds of schools, the biggest difference in quality was not between university and seminary, but between good ones and bad ones of the same kind.
  2. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    I wouldn't know why a Christian school wouldn't hire seminary PhD's, especially for fields like Church History. One of my favorite undergraduate professors, the now late great Rev. Dr. Harold M. Parker, Jr., Professor of History at Western State College of Colorado (1967-1987) and Pastor of Lake City Presbyterian Church (1968?-1988) held his ThD from Iliff School of Theology (1966), did his dissertation on King Solomon's Mines, taught Ancient, Mediaeval, Renaissance, and Reformation History (and, yes, he emphasized Church History) for twenty years, and (even though it was a small teaching college that didn't require you to publish or perish) he even published one journal article a semester/quarter (mostly on Southern Presbyterian History) and at least two book-length monographs for twenty years. Toward the end, as faculty attrition increased (the department declined from nine professors to four from 1981 to 1985), he added Civil War History and Latin American History to his teaching load on the basis of a journal article on the resettlement of Southern Presbyterian slaveholders in Brazil during the Reconstruction. So, I wouldn't see why a seminary doctorate holder should be seen as in any way inadequate. NOTE: If I did get back on the B&M track, I just might like to do the University of Denver and Iliff School of Theology's Joint PhD program. Too bad I didn't do it during Harold's lifetime.
  3. telefax

    telefax Member

    That's a worthwhile dream, all right. I have a friend who just started his PhD at Denver/Iliff, and it's an excellent school.
  4. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    My first reaction is to question the truth of this. It doesn't really sound credible and might just be an urban legend. If the rejected applications were unopened, then how did this gentleman even know where the applicants earned their degrees? And if somebody has a prejudice against seminaries, then what are they doing serving as a department chairman at an evangelical church-related school? Which in turn raises the question, what kind of department was it? If it was a chemistry department, then there might be some rationale I suppose, unless there are seminaries awarding chemistry PhDs.

    Whatever this event was, I don't think that we can possibly generalize from it to all academic employers in every department at every school.

    There is a nugget of wisdom here though. It probably is a good idea for all prospective doctoral students with dreams of a teaching career to inquire into programs' graduates' success rate in finding full-time positions before deciding whether to enroll. That's true for doctorates in any subject, not just in conservative theology.
  5. telefax

    telefax Member

    Good point - I don't know the mechanics of how it happened, but I think Clark is a reliable individual. I would assume that it was one of the theology-related grad departments, given that that is Clark's background. I don't agree with that blanket generalization, since I think that the scholar supervising the doctoral research is more important than the institution.

    Your last bit is something readers here need to take seriously. Find an expert in your chosen field and pick their brain, then talk to schools about placement (avoiding generalities from the admissions department). Too many people seem to assume that if they earn a doctorate from wherever, they're on their way to a tenure-track position just because their doctorate is accredited by a CHEA-recognized accreditor. I think the reality is usually quite different, regardless of field.

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