I have been doing research into graduate programs and have noticed that some departments have a representation of their own PhD graduates as professors while others have an absence.

For example, a department I have looked at in a top university in Canada had a faculty completely composed of PhD graduates from top American schools, but none from its own.

I can see this as a signal of either two things -

  1. That the department may not want to be seen favouring its own candidates.
  2. That the department may not have as much faith in its own graduates as that from other schools.

I understand that this may differ from field to field.

But in general, what is the majority view-point on a department that has no representation of its own graduates on its faculty?

  • 19
    Many departments (like mine) explicitly forbid hiring its own PhDs, at least until they get tenure elsewhere or their advisors leave the department. I think this rule is very healthy.
    – JeffE
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 15:20
  • 2
    Not quite the same thing but related: One of the departments at my school will not accept its own Bachelors into its post grad program. It is not a matter of favoritism, or lack of confidence. It is a tool to ensure the diversity of the students in the program, as well as ensure the individual student has experienced a wider range of views.
    – Mr.Mindor
    Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 15:56
  • I don't know many universities who hire their own graduates in economics except MIT. Harvard almost never hires their own PhDs, neither does Penn.
    – Hedge Fund
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 0:24
  • academia.stackexchange.com/questions/8618/…
    – user137843
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 6:17

4 Answers 4


It's common in computer science for a university to have few if any of its own graduates as faculty, and should not be taken as a bad sign by itself. This low representation is for two main reasons:

  1. The best five or ten universities in the United States produce a disproportionately large number of strong academic candidates. In practice universities that have research departments at all (let alone the exceptionally strong ones) tend to be filled with professors with Ph.D.s from the elite few.

  2. Going somewhere else leads to cross-fertilization of academic thought. Presumably after 5+ years of graduate school one has spent a lot of time learning from the expertise available in their department. Going somewhere else allows a professor to transfer her knowledge to a different group of researchers, and to get fresh insight from them in return.


Partly, it depends on the size of the department. In a small or even medium-sized department, it means nothing. I wouldn't read anything into it until the department reaches a size where it has five or more graduates of a single school on the faculty (if they have no more than a few from any given place, then random fluctuations could easily push the number to zero). If they have hired five or ten from another school but none of their own, then it's clear they have a preference for that school. It's sensible to set up some barriers to hiring your own graduates, so a modest preference for other schools is actually a good sign. If it gets extreme, it's may be because they think the other school's students are genuinely stronger.

However, I wouldn't worry about this too much. Even if you run across an unambiguous case, it's hard to know what to make of it. Sometimes a department has an incredibly strong research group in a certain area but hires none of their own graduates because they simply don't need any more professors in this area. In that case the lack of hiring is no reflection on the graduates from this group.


No, will be my short answer.

This is a matter of "culture". In my Alma Mater in the US, the department did not hire its graduates as faculty. It was perfectly normal. Where I now work, in Europe, the opposite was the norm; it was unusual to recruit faculty from elsewhere. This has, however, changed and I think we have a healthy mix now. To a large extent this has to do with mobility, in the one case mobility is the norm, in the other it is not. You stay where you were born to some extent.

So the No means that in some fields and countries it is perfectly natural not to recruit from your "own ranks".

A follow up question to this might be what the benefits of internal vs. external recruitment might be. I am sure this differs substantially.


It almost never happens in Finance and Economics, well, except at Harvard, MIT and U of Chicago. This is mostly because there are more people graduating than there are tenure track jobs and people usually wind up upto 50-75 ranks below where they graduate. The top 10 schools graduate enough students to fill the positions in the top 50 schools and so on. Sometimes you hear of some stellar people who move up because they have done great work and are very visible but the general traffic is downwards.

  • 1
    In economics, the lower half of the distribution of Harvard graduates go teaching in liberal art colleges, and publish nothing. From that perspective, a top Ph.D. graduate of say Northwestern or Penn State is better than a mediocre Harvard graduate.
    – StasK
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 4:31
  • @StasK Yeah, you're right. There is still a huge supply of tenure track candidates from top schools but not as large as I'd indicated since, as you correctly pointed out, a lot from the bottom half go into teaching.
    – Amatya
    Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 20:41

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