Rhetoric Review Survey of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition

This page contains information collected for the 2008 Survey of Programs in Rhetoric and Composition. For current program information, please visit the Rhetoric Review Survey of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition Wikia

Rhetoric Review Cover

Welcome to the 2007 Rhetoric Review Survey of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition. This survey represents data collected from sixty-seven doctoral programs, covering topics from active faculty members to graduate support. For a summary of the survey results, read on! If you'd like to skip to the results for a particular program, select it from the dropdown menu below.

To download the entire survey as a PDF, click here.

Portrait of the Profession: The 2007 Survey of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition1

Richard Enos observes in his “Preface” to the 1994 Rhetoric Review doctoral survey that in the best circumstances, “change comes about because disciplines choose willingly to redefine themselves in order to better respond to educational needs and research challenges” (238). Nowhere is that more apparent that in the current findings. The fourth survey of doctoral programs in rhetoric and composition2 (see Brown, Jackson, and Enos, 2000; Brown, Meyers, and Enos, 1994; Chapman and Tate, 1987), the 2007 data represent the demise of some programs and the advent of new ones. Programs continue to be founded, and existing ones change focus or disappear. Sixty-seven programs are represented in the online survey (http://www.u.arizona.edu/~enos) and in the data examined here. As the table below shows, programs offer a number of different options for obtaining a specialization in rhetoric and composition:

Degree Offered
PhD in English with concentration 39
PhD in Rhetoric and Composition 7
PhD in Technical/Professional Communication 5
PhD in English 4
PhD in Rhetoric 2
Other 11

We present the types of dissertations written below. Numbers in parentheses are from the 1999 survey.

Dissertation Types



Rhetoric/Composition pedagogy 152 (120)
Theory of rhetoric and/or composition 100 (127)
Technology and communication 82 (49)
History of rhetoric and/or composition 80 (69)
Literacy studies 60 (49)
Literary studies (rhetorical emphasis) 45 (51)
Rhetorical criticism 44 (37)
Nonacademic or workplace studies 40 (39)
Political rhetoric 38
Linguistics 28 (26)
Visual rhetoric 26
Theory of technical/professional communication 24 (21)
Writing center studies 21 (11)
Technical/Professional communication pedagogy 20 (15)
Writing across the curriculum 20 (21)
Program evaluation or assessment 15 (13)
Writing program administration 12 (8)
Medical rhetoric


History of technical/professional communication 7 (8)



Programs reported 707 dissertations completed between 1993 and 1999. In the period between 2000 and 2007, 1,025 dissertations were completed with new categories appearing such as studies of visual, medical, and political rhetoric.

Rationale and Methodology

We revisited the 2000 survey in order to provide students interested in pursuing doctoral study in rhetoric and composition with a current and comprehensive guide to programs in the field. We continue to believe that the profiles presented offer the profession a tool for self-assessment. We further see this survey as a means of reflection on educational practices, especially as faculty at each institution address the questions in the survey. It also provides an opportunity to promote distinctive programmatic approaches to doctoral education in relation to others. As noted in the 2000 introduction, the profiles that appear in the online version should be seen as reference points. We did not attempt to rank programs; programs are too distinctive to accommodate any sort of fair system of ranking.

We began collecting data from programs in fall of 2007 via an online form. Listserv notices about the survey and its online form were distributed to the Consortium of Doctoral Programs and WPA Listserv. Additionally, some programs’ responses were solicited through personal contact. Although there were some frustrations with the form, most respondents were able to provide the information we requested. Essentially, the form requested similar information to the 2000 survey. Profiles of the programs that appear on the online survey are formatted similarly to those found in the 2000 printed version.

We still find some inconsistency of information-reporting. Many departments have no central data collection points or do not collect some of the information we solicited. Program identity is complicated by department structures. As Louise Phelps is finding in her continuing work on the Visibility Project for the Consortium of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition, comprehensive data on the profession are both lacking and difficult to obtain.


At the 2008 CCCC meeting of the Consortium of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition, Phelps reported that 78 programs were represented by the Consortium, although several were still in the planning stages or did not have current PhD programs. Included in the Rhetoric Review online survey are profiles of 67 programs. Sixty-five programs were profiled in 2000 (72 programs were represented in the 1994 survey; Chapman and Tate identified 53 programs in 1987). New programs that we are aware of but are not represented include University of Central Florida, East Carolina University, University of Memphis, and Oklahoma State University. Eight programs that appeared in the 2000 survey but are no longer represented include

Catholic University of America
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Mississippi
University of Pittsburgh
University of Southern Mississippi
University of Southwestern Louisiana
Temple University
University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee

We have only anecdotal information about why these programs did not submit information. Two reported that program directors did not have time to complete the survey. Others indicated that their programs were no longer viable or simply did not respond to repeated requests for information.  Eleven programs not included in the 2000 survey but now represented include:

Case Western Reserve University
Clemson University*
University of Hawaii at Manoa*
Indiana University at Bloomington
Kent State University
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Michigan State University*
North Carolina State University*
Old Dominion University*
University of Texas at El Paso*
Virginia Technological University*

*Known to be newly developed since the 2000 survey


We are also aware of two programs now in planning stages: University of Denver and University of Houston.

The following 67 programs are included in the online survey:

University of Alabama University of New Hampshire
University of Arizona University of New Mexico
Arizona State University New MexicoState University
Auburn University University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Ball State University North Carolina State University
Bowling Green State University Northern Illinois University
University of California at Santa Barbara Ohio State University
Carnegie Mellon University Ohio University
CaseWestern Reserve University University of Oklahoma
Clemson University Old Dominion University
University of Connecticut University of Oregon
Florida State University Pennsylvania State University
Georgia State University Purdue University
University of Hawaiiat Manoa Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
University of Illinoisat Urbana-Champaign University of Rhode Island
Illinois State University University of South Carolina
Indiana University of Pennsylvania University of South Florida
Indiana University at Bloomington Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
IowaState University Syracuse University
University of Kansas University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Kent State University University of Texas at Austin
University of Louisville University of Texas at El Paso
University of Louisiana at Lafayette Texas A&M University
Louisiana State University Texas A&M Universityat Commerce
University of Maryland at College Park Texas Christian University
University of Massachusetts at Amherst Texas Tech University
Miami University Texas Woman's University
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor University of Utah
Michigan State University Virginia Tech University
Michigan Technological University University of Washington
University of Minnesota Washington State University
University of Missouri at Columbia Wayne State University
University of Nebraska-Lincoln University of Wisconsin at Madison
University of Nevada, Reno  

In all, the profession seems to be maintaining stasis in the number of programs that offer doctoral education in rhetoric and composition.


The number of faculty in rhetoric and composition has increased from 505 in 1999 to 546 in the current survey (238 reported in Chapman and Tate’s 1987 survey; 567 in 1994). This is a slight increase in average number of faculty per program from 7.7 to 8.1. Female faculty (300) now considerably outnumber male (246) after having reached parity in 1999 (252 and 253, respectively). Programs report 205 Professors, 192 Associate Professors, and 122 Assistant Professors, suggesting that faculty are being promoted and tenured, but the profession is maturing. The data also suggest that the fewer numbers of Assistant Professors may create a vacuum in the future.

Students matriculating in rhetoric and composition PhD programs show a slight decline at 1,181 (1,276 matriculated in 1999; 1,173 in 1994). Female students (742; 777 in 1999) continue to significantly outnumber male (349; 499 in 1999); in fact, the gap has widened since the 1999 survey. Other significant demographics from the 2007 survey are presented below:

Student/Applicant Demographics  
PhD students in department 3,871
PhD students in rhetoric/composition/related 1,181
International students 204
Students 35 years of age or older 306
Female students 35 years of age or older 206
Male students 35 years of age or older 102
Female minority students 91
Male minority students 34
In-state residents 350
Out-of-state residents 431

Numbers of applicants and numbers of admittances continue to show growth as represented by the table below:

Applicants 06-07 1,160
Applicants 05-06 1,014
Applicants 04-05 879
Applicants 03-04 698
Applicants 02-03 577
Admits 06-07 340
Admits 05-06 343
Admits 04-05 300
Admits 03-04 228
Admits 02-03 205
Matriculated 06-07 253
Matriculated 05-06 247
Matriculated 04-05 214
Matriculated 03-04 174
Matriculated 02-03 169

 Average time to degree is 5.27 years, slightly better than the more than six-year time to degree that is the national average for PhDs across all disciplines. Diversity of admission criteria continues among programs. The table below represents the cumulative ranking of criteria, but prospective students will want to consult the profiles of individual programs in order to better tailor applications.

Admit Criteria Rankings  
Goals/statement of purpose 1
Writing sample 2
Perceived fit of applicant with program's goals 3
Letters of recommendation 4
Graduate GPA (MA level) 5
Research Interests 6
GRE scores 7
Type of MA degree 8
Teaching experience 9
Source of MA degree 10
Undergraduate GPA 11
Personal knowledge of applicant 12
Undergraduate type 13
Work experience 14
Undergraduate source 15
Other Criteria 16
Note: 5 rank holistically, with no ranking.

The quality and quantity of instructor training confirms the high value the profession places on pedagogy. To reiterate our observation from the survey in 1999, teacher training continues to have a high priority. As Janice Lauer has argued, the provision for “formal training in pedagogy theory . . . and opportunities for extensive teaching experience under close supervision” is one of the defining features of doctoral education in rhetoric and composition (11).



% of
Total (67)

% of Reporting

Presemester orientation and training sessions 48 71.64% 100.00%
Ongoing orientation and training sessions 45 67.16% 93.75%
Required course in composition theory and practice 43 64.18% 89.58%
Professional development workshops 40 59.70% 83.33%
Faculty-GA mentoring program 34 50.75% 70.83%
Writing center training 32 47.76% 66.67%
GA-GA mentoring program 28 41.79% 58.33%
Required course in technical/professional communication theory and practice 9 13.43% 18.75%
None reported 19 28.36% 39.58%


The following tables reflect some of the conditions that teaching assistants face.


GA Support
Average salary $13,819
Average courses taught per year 2.98
Average required credit hours per term 8.26
Average length of TA-ships, in terms 10.68
Number of FYC students
taught per year
Programs reporting
15-25 7
26-50 13
51-75 15
76-100 13
>100 3

Benefits, distressingly, are varied and scant. With an average salary at less than $14,000 per year, the lack of benefits makes graduate education both expensive and risky.



% of Total ( 67)

% of Responding

Health insurance for student 41 61.19% 93.18%
Health insurance for spouse/family 24 35.82% 54.55%
Dental and vision for student 18 26.87% 40.91%
Prescription drug benefit for student 18 26.87% 40.91%
Dental and vision for spouse/family 15 22.39% 34.09%
Short-term disability for student 7 10.45% 15.91%
Life insurance for student 5 7.46% 11.36%
Maternity leave for student 5 7.46% 11.36%
Long-term disability for student 4 5.97% 9.09%
Tuition waiver 3 4.48% 6.82%
Prescription drug benefit for spouse/family 0 0.00% 0.00%
None reported 23 34.33% 52.27%

On the other hand, programs continue to report high job placement rates.

2005-06 Job Placement Demographics
Average percentage of job-seeking graduates with no more than 2 dissertation chapters completed 23%
Average percentage of job-attaining graduates who disembark without completing their dissertation 17%
Number of graduates who have received tenure-track positions 190
Number of graduates who have received nontenure-track positions 39
Number of graduates who have received nonacademic positions 10
Number of graduates who have not received job offers 8
Number of graduates who did not seek employment 8
Job Placement by Institution Type
Doctoral-granting 108
International 54
MA-granting 45
Four-year university 41
Four-year liberal arts college 22
Two-year college 13
Industry 5
Government 2
K-12 (private or public) 1
Trade or Vocational 1
Self-employment 1
Other 1
Job Types
Teaching within emphasis (rhetoric and composition) 67
Research with teaching in emphasis (rhetoric and composition) 64
Writing program administration 54
Teaching across emphases (rhetoric, composition, literary studies, etc.) 25
Writing center administration 7
Teaching outside of English studies 3
Consulting 1
Literacy training 0
Publications management/editorial work 0
Organizational communications 0
Other 3

Challenges and Opportunities

Programs report a number of challenges (for example: faculty hiring and retention, budget and resource issues, diversity of students and faculty, and the need for better benefits and compensation for teaching assistants). Several indicate they will be hiring new faculty to fill expanding programs and to replace retiring faculty, suggesting both expansion and solidification of their programs. Notably, conflicts within English departments, especially with literary studies, are not mentioned as significantly as they were in earlier studies. Ominously, new conflicts seem to be arising as some faculty define themselves as either rhetoricians or compositionists and not as both.

As programs report challenges, they also indicate strengths. Most commonly cited are mentoring and individual attention to students, job placement rates, the availability and integration of technology into their curricula, interdisciplinarity, the attention to professionalization, program flexibility, and the merits of their faculty.

As many questions arise as are answered in this latest survey of the profession as it is represented by doctoral education. The profiles reveal much about what we don’t know. Further research is necessary to obtain a representative portrait of the students who study rhetoric and composition. Here we would like to observe the many impediments to gathering accurate data in a timely fashion—from stringent IRB policies to technical delays and computer glitches to a real resistance on the part of some administrators to supply data.  As our field continues to grow and change, it is incumbent upon us to participate in mechanisms, like this survey, that will allow for our disciplinary identity to emerge; it is in this spirit that we thank the participants and strongly encourage everyone to engage directly with data.  Such habits will serve us well, but unlike our friends in the sciences we in the humanities are still catching on to this way of thinking.

Although we obtained information about assistantship workload and compensation, the nature of exams, and length of time to degree, further information about the amount of student debt, diversity (including international students), retention (or lack thereof), and satisfaction with the degree could well be useful inquiries. Information about the internationalization of graduate programs in rhetoric and composition also would provide insight into the direction of the field.3 Additional information about faculty would be of value. Knowledge about workload issues, job satisfaction, and the kinds of self-study practices and program assessments would enrich our understanding of the profession. And finally, larger questions appear: Are our PhD programs preparing graduates for the kinds of careers that they obtain? How do we justify ourselves and our resources, no matter how scant? Individual programs may necessarily collect some of this information and be able to articulate that to their institutions through various outcomes assessments, but it would be of value to the profession at large to see more cumulative data in order to better present the discipline both within the academy and without.



1The 2007 Survey of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition was approved by the New Mexico State University Institutional Review Board on April 18, 2007, Human Subject Application #219 (Exempt Pre).

2Consistent with earlier surveys, we use the term rhetoric and composition as a commonplace to signify the variety of programs profiled, including those that emphasize technical and professional communication or those that offer an English degree with emphasis in rhetoric and composition.

3The 1994 survey included two Canadian programs (Simon Fraser University and University of Waterloo. Neither appear in the 2000 nor the 2007 surveys.


Works Cited

Brown, Stuart C., Rebecca Jackson, and Theresa Enos. “The Arrival of Rhetoric in the Twenty-First Century: The 1999 Survey of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric.” Rhetoric Review 18 (Spring 2000): 233-373.

Brown, Stuart C., Paul R. Meyer, and Theresa Enos. “Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition: A Catalog of the Profession.” Rhetoric Review 12 (Spring 1994): 240-389.

Chapman, David W., and Gary Tate. “A Survey of Doctoral Programs in Rhetoric and Composition.” Rhetoric Review 5 (1987): 124-85.

Enos, Richard. “Preface.” Rhetoric Review 12 (Spring 1994): 237-39.

Lauer, Janice. “Doctoral Program Reviews: Taking Charge.” ADE Bulletin 119 (Spring 1998): 9-13.


Stuart C. Brown, New Mexico State University

Theresa Enos, The University of Arizona

David Reamer, The University of Arizona

Jason Thompson, The University of Arizona

This is a preprint of an article printed in Rhetoric Review © 2008, copyright Taylor & Francis; Rhetoric Review is available online at: http://www.informaworld.com