This college, which I will not name here, specializes in computer-related programs, which makes its other courses, like political science, unpopular among student applicants. In one instance, the social science department only had three students who graduated with a degree in politics. Because of the very small student population, the school only had two political science professors who handled all the major subjects. Would you say that this is sub par college?

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    You are talking about Cal Tech or MIT? No, number of factulty does not determine whether a college us sub-par. Even small colleges (where every department is only 2-3 people) need not be sub-par. – GEdgar May 3 '15 at 13:31
  • Imperial College London, where I got my bachelor's degree, does not offer any general education courses. When I was discussing getting into a PhD program in the USA I was told that a degree from Imperial was a point in my favor. – Patricia Shanahan May 3 '15 at 13:58
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    @GEdgar Can you please turn your comment into an answer so that I can vote it up? – jakebeal May 3 '15 at 14:01
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    My impression is that usually too big educational departments are sub-par (as they admit almost anyone applying). And I know departments which are very small, but good. – Piotr Migdal May 3 '15 at 14:14

If you're talking about MIT or Caltech, then the answer would be that their degrees in the humanities and social sciences are equally as respectable as those from any other colleges and universities in terms of graduate admissions (in social sciences/humanities).

Part of this is that we realize that folks who fall out of the mainstream at these schools merit some attention. It takes more of an effort and commitment to do sociology at MIT than it would at U-Michigan. For example, in order to get the credits to graduate, you've also undoubtedly taken courses in that discipline that were offered outside of that institution -- in MIT's case, you'd be taking classes at Harvard/Radcliffe. That takes dedication and forethought.

Finally, we realize that students choose their undergraduate institutions based on limited knowledge and choice. We weight their accomplishments based on what they were able to do with the resources that they had.

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I can't comment about the unnamed college you are describing, because you haven't given enough information to make a judgment. But the answer to the question in the title is simply


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I think when you are talking about departments with only two permanent faculty that the teaching and research opportunities are necessarily sub-par. While even top departments have gaps in their expertise and some off-topic teaching is inevitable, with only two faculty members there are going to be substantial gaps in expertise. It is not even clear to me how two members of faculty can develop and maintain a complete curriculum.

Further, with only two members of faculty, a substantial amount of teaching will either be done by adjunct faculty, who will be essentially unsupervised, or in other departments. Both cases, I think reduce the quality of education.

With only two members of faculty, there will also be limited chances for gaining research experience.

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