Philosophical Gourmet Report

Philosophical Gourmet Report

The Philosophical Gourmet Report (also known as the Leiter Report) edited by Philosophy and Law professor Brian Leiter — in response to the Gourman Report — is a ranking of philosophy departments in the English-speaking world, based on a survey of philosophers who are nominated as evaluators by the Report's Advisory Board. Its purpose is to provide guidance to prospective Ph.D students, particularly those students who intend to pursue a professional career in academic philosophy.

As of December 2004, there are a total of 110 philosophy Ph.D programs in the U.S. alone. In its latest version (2006 - 2008) the Report ranks the top 50 programs in the United States, the top 15 in the United Kingdom, the top five in Canada and the top five in Australasia. The rankings are based primarily on perceived quality of the philosophical work of the faculty members.

The Report was first compiled and distributed in 1989 and first appeared on the web in 1996; it has been distributed by Blackwell since 1997.


The report's rankings are based on an anonymous survey of faculty members of philosophy departments throughout the English-speaking world. Respondents are asked to assign scores from one to five to lists of the faculty of each department (the name of the department is suppressed in the survey questionnaire.) The results are compiled and sorted into an ordinal ranking which used to be subdivided into "peer groups," but no longer is.

Arguments for

* There is currently no objective alternative to the survey. Thus this is the most objective and useful source for students that is currently available.
* Before the report, students largely relied on the opinions of their undergraduate faculty lecturers, without knowing how well informed, or biased the lecturers were in their opinions.
* This attempts to shift the halo effect away from the prestige and reputation of the university, to more appropriately, the reputation of its philosophy department
* If anyone would know about the quality, reputation and influence of the published academic works of various philosophy departments, it is most likely to be the senior, experienced and active academic philosophers.
* This helps to combat unsubstantiated marketing language and claims, eg. 'This university has one of the top philosophy departments in the country'.
* There is most likely to be a strong correlation between strong research reputation and good Ph.D supervision practise by the respective staff.
* The sample skew towards popular subjects is likely to have a strong correlation with employment prospects.
* This reinforces competitive pressure on departments to be more open, honest and transparent about the research records of their staff, relative strengths of their staff, number of supervising staff available, etc.
* The Report leads to an increased ability of Deans and other higher-ups in the university to see an immediate impact for money and effort spent on building a philosophy department. Some argue that this has increased cash flow to the discipline as a whole.

Arguments against

* There is no necessary causal link in quality between research record and teaching practice, as the Report itself says. In some cases, the research record is quite misleading, ie false positives or false negatives.
* It is extremely difficult for anyone to fairly and consistently assess the relative reputation of an individual academic, or an entire department, or a number of departments.
* An injustice is done to those departments which are not assessed and to those who narrowly miss out on the top 50/15/5 ranking on a statistically insignificant difference.
* The scores are likely to reflect (consciously/unconsciously) the biases, interests, knowledge and specialisations of the evaluators.
* The sample of evaluators is alleged to be skewed towards popular areas of philosophy - this is not necessarily an indicator of quality of research program.
* The methodology of ranking in the "Breakdown by Specialties" is not the same as the methodology of overall rankings, and has been ably criticized by many for involving the subjective views of advisory boards made up of philosophers who are not peers, i.e., who are not specialists in the very area of specialization they are assessing.

Observations, concerns and/or other criticisms

* The survey intentionally acts as a market regulating mechanism of students and staff and recruitment practices.
* Different survey methodologies can sometimes produce different results. It is not clear that the method applied in this case, is the most appropriate or the most robust.
* Because the score is an aggregate, the overall rankings are alleged to highly favor large research departments over smaller usually private schools with fewer faculty. This is fine for graduate students who have no idea what they might want to study--which is often but by no means always the case — but for students who have a quite clear idea of what they want to do the Specialty Rankings are much more relevant.
* Coursework students have mistakenly attempted to apply results to their own situations.
* This can be misleading as to the overall relative strength of a department, as departments with strong research records are omitted from the report if they do not have a Ph.D program.
* Local vs Foreign differences are evident in the scores.
* The composition of the consultative board is not proportionally representative of geography or area of specialisation.
* The Report is alleged to be biased towards analytic programs.

Evolution since the first web report

* Addition of a consultative board who influence policy, ranking refinements, instructions to and nomination of evaluators.
* Elimination of peer grouping universities based on median scores, as this could potentially mislead consumer choice as to the difference in relative merits of institutions.
* Addition of specialised rankings (but not yet scores) of various areas of philosophy.
* Elimination of handicapping based on department size.
* Addition of median scores, and local (for non-U.S.A. universities) mean and median scores.
* Addition of some data on placement records and career prospects.
* Addition of some advice on some individual areas of philosophy.
* Addition of number of staff evaluated at each department.
* Addition of names and specialties of evaluators.

ee also

* College and university rankings

Reflections and advice for philosophy job seekers


External links

* [ The Philosophical Gourmet Report]
* [ Female Friendly Departments]
* [ A Ranking of U.S. Departments of Continental Philosophy]
* [ The American Philosophical Association's statement on Rankings]
* [ Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy statement on rankings]
* [ A Letter of Concern about the Philosophical Gourmet Report]
** [ Leiter's Reply]
** [ Reply by various philosophers supporting Leiter]
* [ Yale's Keith DeRose's position]
* [ Richard Heck updates and re-articulates his opposition to the Gourmet Report]
* [ "Some Thoughts on How to Choose a Graduate Program in Philosophy," by Keith DeRose]

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