WEB EXTRA: GW cuts Ph.D programs from 52 to 35 over 10 years in effort to strengthen remaining programs

The decreasing number of doctoral programs being offered at GW is helping to strengthen the most popular Ph.D programs and will further GW’s reputation over time, University officials said.

Since 1995 the number of doctoral programs offered at GW has dropped from 52 to 35. The money from cut programs has been used to strengthen the more popular programs without the need for additional funds. By allocating resources from cut programs to strengthen others, the University hopes to improve the reputation of GW’s doctoral programs, said Donald Lehman, executive vice president for academic affairs.

Lehman said the goal in reducing the number of PhD programs is to strengthen GW’s reputation for its doctoral program nationwide.

“(T)he remaining doctoral programs will become stronger academically and recognized externally,” Lehman wrote in an e-mail last week. “As a consequence, GW will become known for having outstanding doctoral programs in certain key areas. The latter will enhance the prestige of GW as a doctoral-research institution.”

The number of doctoral programs within the School of Business was cut from 11 to one, while the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the School of Public Health and Health Services have each gained one program. Last year, GW’s Board of Trustees approved a new doctoral program in physical therapy.

Lehman said the additional money given to programs comes from the money the University saves in faculty salaries by cutting some other doctoral programs. Lehman said the decision to cut the number of doctoral programs was not made to save money; instead, he said, the cuts serve as “the means for GW to reallocate resources from one area to another.”

“The main funds that become available to be reallocated are graduate research assistantships and graduate teaching assistantships. These funds are being reallocated to the top doctoral programs,” Lehman said.

Lehman said the programs ranked in the “high academic strength categories” – American studies, political science, psychology, hominid paleobiology and physics – have received a total of $605,000 in investment over the past 10 years because other programs were cut.

Economics, public policy and administration, biology, chemistry and special education – ranked at the top of the “middle category” – have been given $462,000 since 1995.

Political science, human evolution and the GW Institute for Public Policy have also been designated signature programs under the University’s Strategic Plan for Academic Excellence, Lehman said, so they have received $415,000 in addition to graduate student support money over the past three years.

Some of GW’s graduate school officials agree with Lehman that the University will be able to bolster its reputation by improving its most popular doctoral programs.

“The paring back of doctoral programs is generally a good thing,” said Steven Balla, assistant director of the Ph.D program in the School of Public Policy and Public Administration. “The University should focus its limited resources on its nationally recognized programs and programs that have the potential to become nationally recognized with a little extra push.”

Balla said the additional funding for the most popular programs within his school – including public policy and administration – has helped improve such programs.

“In recent years, the Ph.D program in public policy and administration has had additional funding packages that are used to attract better applicants and students,” he said.

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