PIL - SJD Harvard / PhD Cambridge


UKPIL
Hi Everyone -

Looking for advice on PhDs/SJDs in Public International Law. I have been accepted onto the SJD at Harvard (w/o the LLM) and a PhD at Cambridge. Both are fully funded by scholarships. For those in the PIL-know, my respective supervisors are David Kennedy and James Crawford.

Any advice and detailed knowledge of either of the programs and supervisors would be greatly appreciated. Just seeking to gather as much information before I make the decision.

Thanks all.
Hi Everyone -

Looking for advice on PhDs/SJDs in Public International Law. I have been accepted onto the SJD at Harvard (w/o the LLM) and a PhD at Cambridge. Both are fully funded by scholarships. For those in the PIL-know, my respective supervisors are David Kennedy and James Crawford.

Any advice and detailed knowledge of either of the programs and supervisors would be greatly appreciated. Just seeking to gather as much information before I make the decision.

Thanks all.
quote
Good Gosh
first congrats on your admissions.

second, with all due respect to professor kennedy and harvard, cambridge is the mecca of international law, with a preeminent faculty in PIL and the world's foremost expert and one of its leading practioners in professor crawford. for me i would definitely go to cambridge above harvard. cambridge has a stronger faculty in PIL, a larger student body working on the subject, and a more glittering alumni: see for example how many ICJ judges are cambridge alumni (5 vs only one who went to harvard).

finally, i would consider the quality of life issues. cambridge is possibly the world's most beautiful university town, with a gorgeous faculty and amazing medieval colleges. london is 45 minutes away. cambridge MA is not bad, but not nearly as nice, and also waaay colder.

while they are both great destinations, for me cambridge wins on every measure.
first congrats on your admissions.

second, with all due respect to professor kennedy and harvard, cambridge is the mecca of international law, with a preeminent faculty in PIL and the world's foremost expert and one of its leading practioners in professor crawford. for me i would definitely go to cambridge above harvard. cambridge has a stronger faculty in PIL, a larger student body working on the subject, and a more glittering alumni: see for example how many ICJ judges are cambridge alumni (5 vs only one who went to harvard).

finally, i would consider the quality of life issues. cambridge is possibly the world's most beautiful university town, with a gorgeous faculty and amazing medieval colleges. london is 45 minutes away. cambridge MA is not bad, but not nearly as nice, and also waaay colder.

while they are both great destinations, for me cambridge wins on every measure.
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UKPIL
Thanks Good Gosh.

Agree with nearly everything you have stated - and my thinking is along the same lines. However, two further points which I should mention for the benefit of any that can provide advice:

(1) My ambition is write an intellectually and theoretically rich PhD/SJD. Crawford is a great lawyer, and has an unparalleled knowledge of the law - but certainly his work does not demonstrate the intellectual agility of those such as Kennedy (David and Duncan) or Roberto Unger.

(2) My long-term ambition - much as I am currently doing - is to both a practitioner and academic. Crawford and Cambridge would certainly be better in this regard - but for anyone that is at Harvard what is the level of institutional and individual connections to practice in PIL?

Anyone with any detailed knowledge - it would be greatly appreciated. In particular what the two respective professors may be as supervisors.

Thanks.
Thanks Good Gosh.

Agree with nearly everything you have stated - and my thinking is along the same lines. However, two further points which I should mention for the benefit of any that can provide advice:

(1) My ambition is write an intellectually and theoretically rich PhD/SJD. Crawford is a great lawyer, and has an unparalleled knowledge of the law - but certainly his work does not demonstrate the intellectual agility of those such as Kennedy (David and Duncan) or Roberto Unger.

(2) My long-term ambition - much as I am currently doing - is to both a practitioner and academic. Crawford and Cambridge would certainly be better in this regard - but for anyone that is at Harvard what is the level of institutional and individual connections to practice in PIL?

Anyone with any detailed knowledge - it would be greatly appreciated. In particular what the two respective professors may be as supervisors.

Thanks.
quote
Interalia
More of a curiosity reply than anything else , but do Kennedy (David and Duncan) or Roberto Unger do international law - either theory or doctrine - in the first place? Granted, I'm no international lawyer nor an expert in Critical Legal Theory so I might have missed the articles, but I can't seem to recall any reading an international law piece by either of them. It would be interesting to find out that they do write international law pieces. Of course, this question may seem rather silly since your supervisor is David Kennedy and you are doing a PIL paper but it is not unheard of for universities to allocate professors to supervise work that are not within their normal field of speciality. I applied last year to write a contract theory paper on the basis of Kantian principles and got a professor who while an expert in contract law doctrine, did not have the slightest clue about the contemporary contract theory nor Kant's philosophy instead of the professor in that same university who DID. *smacks head*

Second, I personally wouldn't be so quick to regard Unger's or Kenedy's work as unquestionably intellectually superior to the type of work undertaken at Cambridge. Certainly, the position that the Crits espouse is an acquired taste and there are a lot of respected academics who would reject their views as hogwash. It could just be that schools like Cambridge reject the Crits implict assumption that law should be examined as a subset of politics and thus accordingly adopt a different methodological approach to examining law, be it international law or otherwise. I don't think this difference in approach evidences intellectual inferiority.

Personally while I do have some sympathy for Unger's work - more so than Kenedy - and I do think his article on the Critical Legal Studies movement is excellent, I don't really find anything really new or groundbreaking as regards to the issues he raises nor his solutions, at least in the articles I read. Indeed, a lot of the supposed intellectual paradoxes Unger raises - e.g. that law is a continued unstable flux between libertarianism and communitarianism - were both addressed and solutions proferred by the German Idealist G.W.F. Hegel. Till this day, I am curious why Unger has never sought to adress Hegel's criticisms head on.
More of a curiosity reply than anything else , but do Kennedy (David and Duncan) or Roberto Unger do international law - either theory or doctrine - in the first place? Granted, I'm no international lawyer nor an expert in Critical Legal Theory so I might have missed the articles, but I can't seem to recall any reading an international law piece by either of them. It would be interesting to find out that they do write international law pieces. Of course, this question may seem rather silly since your supervisor is David Kennedy and you are doing a PIL paper but it is not unheard of for universities to allocate professors to supervise work that are not within their normal field of speciality. I applied last year to write a contract theory paper on the basis of Kantian principles and got a professor who while an expert in contract law doctrine, did not have the slightest clue about the contemporary contract theory nor Kant's philosophy instead of the professor in that same university who DID. *smacks head*

Second, I personally wouldn't be so quick to regard Unger's or Kenedy's work as unquestionably intellectually superior to the type of work undertaken at Cambridge. Certainly, the position that the Crits espouse is an acquired taste and there are a lot of respected academics who would reject their views as hogwash. It could just be that schools like Cambridge reject the Crits implict assumption that law should be examined as a subset of politics and thus accordingly adopt a different methodological approach to examining law, be it international law or otherwise. I don't think this difference in approach evidences intellectual inferiority.

Personally while I do have some sympathy for Unger's work - more so than Kenedy - and I do think his article on the Critical Legal Studies movement is excellent, I don't really find anything really new or groundbreaking as regards to the issues he raises nor his solutions, at least in the articles I read. Indeed, a lot of the supposed intellectual paradoxes Unger raises - e.g. that law is a continued unstable flux between libertarianism and communitarianism - were both addressed and solutions proferred by the German Idealist G.W.F. Hegel. Till this day, I am curious why Unger has never sought to adress Hegel's criticisms head on.
quote
UKPIL
Interalia -

Please don't get me wrong - I do not consider the purely positivist approach to law inferior to those that consider law alongside political and moral philosophy. I just consider the latter to have a lot more intellectual agility - in terms of constructing rounded arguments. The former has its virtues - and as a practitioner in PIL - I certainly appreciate it.

Secondly, both Duncan and David have written on international law extensively. David moreso. You may want to consider his article in the German Yearbook of International Law as a starting point (if you fancy doing the reading). Unger has only dabbled - but whilst I agree he has a borrowed heavily from political philosophy - his deconstruction of legal argumentation is genius (for its time).

Further - whilst I disagree with your classification of the Kennedys as crits (in particular in their more recent work), you are undoubtedly right about Unger - I do not think that such categorisation is helpful. I am certainly not considering becoming a crit follower - but I certainly wish to engage in the scholarship and thinking. The beauty of Harvard is that it has the positivist lawyers in abundance and it has those that critique from the view-point of a number of disciplines. Cambridge lacks - in my opinion - the latter, but possesses the best of the former.
Interalia -

Please don't get me wrong - I do not consider the purely positivist approach to law inferior to those that consider law alongside political and moral philosophy. I just consider the latter to have a lot more intellectual agility - in terms of constructing rounded arguments. The former has its virtues - and as a practitioner in PIL - I certainly appreciate it.

Secondly, both Duncan and David have written on international law extensively. David moreso. You may want to consider his article in the German Yearbook of International Law as a starting point (if you fancy doing the reading). Unger has only dabbled - but whilst I agree he has a borrowed heavily from political philosophy - his deconstruction of legal argumentation is genius (for its time).

Further - whilst I disagree with your classification of the Kennedys as crits (in particular in their more recent work), you are undoubtedly right about Unger - I do not think that such categorisation is helpful. I am certainly not considering becoming a crit follower - but I certainly wish to engage in the scholarship and thinking. The beauty of Harvard is that it has the positivist lawyers in abundance and it has those that critique from the view-point of a number of disciplines. Cambridge lacks - in my opinion - the latter, but possesses the best of the former.
quote
Interalia
Thanks for the reply, I learn something new everyday :)
Thanks for the reply, I learn something new everyday :)
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There's a fundamental difference between the Harvard SJD and Cambridge PhD. One is a US-style doctoral degree - and therefore more rigorous and longer in duration - and the other is not. Few English seem to understand that the 3-year English doctorate is not respected in the US. Because it is modeled on US PhD programs in other disciplines, the Harvard SJD begins with an 18 month course work requirement, followed by oral exams - separate from, and in addition to, the required LLM. Only then does the 3+ year dissertation writing phase begin. Read the Harvard website if this is news to you. Accordingly, most SJD candidates at Harvard take at least 4 1/2 years - and often longer - to graduate. The Cambridge PhD may be a fine degree, but because of its structure it doesn't carry weight in the US. Other SJD/ JSD programs in the US are often 3 years - and thus similar to English PhDs/ DPhils; only the Harvard SJD stands out and is modeled on US PhD degrees in other disciplines. So, if you're comparing the Harvard SJD and Cambridge PhD, you need to understand the difference. In short, one is more rigorous and takes longer - but it also gives you an entrance to the US legal academic market; the Cambridge PhD is unlikely to do so. Finally, Harvard University forbids Harvard graduate schools outside the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences from conferring PhD degrees - accordingly, Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, among others Harvard schools, are prevented from conferring PhD degrees (HBS calls its doctoral degree the "DBA"). Check out the website for the Harvard SJD program, speak with people actually doing the degree and - most importantly - actually see the law school in person. Between Harvard and Cambridge, it's manifestly clear within about 5 minutes of walking around that one law school has apparently endless resources and the other is strapped for cash. Real consequences flow from this. Get on a plane and see for yourself - it will be worth the money and you'll be able to make a much more informed decision.
There's a fundamental difference between the Harvard SJD and Cambridge PhD. One is a US-style doctoral degree - and therefore more rigorous and longer in duration - and the other is not. Few English seem to understand that the 3-year English doctorate is not respected in the US. Because it is modeled on US PhD programs in other disciplines, the Harvard SJD begins with an 18 month course work requirement, followed by oral exams - separate from, and in addition to, the required LLM. Only then does the 3+ year dissertation writing phase begin. Read the Harvard website if this is news to you. Accordingly, most SJD candidates at Harvard take at least 4 1/2 years - and often longer - to graduate. The Cambridge PhD may be a fine degree, but because of its structure it doesn't carry weight in the US. Other SJD/ JSD programs in the US are often 3 years - and thus similar to English PhDs/ DPhils; only the Harvard SJD stands out and is modeled on US PhD degrees in other disciplines. So, if you're comparing the Harvard SJD and Cambridge PhD, you need to understand the difference. In short, one is more rigorous and takes longer - but it also gives you an entrance to the US legal academic market; the Cambridge PhD is unlikely to do so. Finally, Harvard University forbids Harvard graduate schools outside the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences from conferring PhD degrees - accordingly, Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, among others Harvard schools, are prevented from conferring PhD degrees (HBS calls its doctoral degree the "DBA"). Check out the website for the Harvard SJD program, speak with people actually doing the degree and - most importantly - actually see the law school in person. Between Harvard and Cambridge, it's manifestly clear within about 5 minutes of walking around that one law school has apparently endless resources and the other is strapped for cash. Real consequences flow from this. Get on a plane and see for yourself - it will be worth the money and you'll be able to make a much more informed decision.
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Well, well, well. 3-year English Ph.D. is not respected in the USA and S.J.D. is? Sorry but I need to tell you that S.J.D. is not even recognised in the USA. If you go and ask every single S.J.D. student at Harvard at the moment, they will complain about how little this degree is recognised even in the USA. How many professors at Harvard have completed S.J.D.? 5 per cent (I am being generous)? Furthermore, what are your chances to be recognised outside the USA?
Well, well, well. 3-year English Ph.D. is not respected in the USA and S.J.D. is? Sorry but I need to tell you that S.J.D. is not even recognised in the USA. If you go and ask every single S.J.D. student at Harvard at the moment, they will complain about how little this degree is recognised even in the USA. How many professors at Harvard have completed S.J.D.? 5 per cent (I am being generous)? Furthermore, what are your chances to be recognised outside the USA?

quote
Again -- read the Harvard SJD site. Its grads are placed at the top schools around the world, including in the US. Even if some people aren't aware of the differences between the Harvard SJD and a 3-year English program, they may well spot the difference in the research produced. There's something to studying at the no. 1 university in the world - and spending years longer doing so.
Again -- read the Harvard SJD site. Its grads are placed at the top schools around the world, including in the US. Even if some people aren't aware of the differences between the Harvard SJD and a 3-year English program, they may well spot the difference in the research produced. There's something to studying at the no. 1 university in the world - and spending years longer doing so.
quote
The three-year English doctorate also doesn't garner huge respect outside the field of law. In other disciplines, especially in the sciences and humanities, PhD graduates from English universities are likely to struggle to get positions in the US and some European countries. If you have an English PhD and want a job in the US, the best approach is to apply for post-docs or fellowships and spend a couple of years at a top US institution researching. It's possible to do very well. There is no doublt that many English PhDs are exceptionally smart. But they're not well served by their qualification.
The three-year English doctorate also doesn't garner huge respect outside the field of law. In other disciplines, especially in the sciences and humanities, PhD graduates from English universities are likely to struggle to get positions in the US and some European countries. If you have an English PhD and want a job in the US, the best approach is to apply for post-docs or fellowships and spend a couple of years at a top US institution researching. It's possible to do very well. There is no doublt that many English PhDs are exceptionally smart. But they're not well served by their qualification.
quote
impartial
If a Harvard Law School doctoral degree doesn't command respect around the world, then no degree will. That said, why is there debate about two very fine degrees?
If a Harvard Law School doctoral degree doesn't command respect around the world, then no degree will. That said, why is there debate about two very fine degrees?
quote
Hi all,

From the perspective on an 'insider', the analysis in this thread seems pretty facile. Specifically, the idea that the reputation of the institution will determine your academic career prospects is inaccurate. Harvard SJDs get (or don't get) academic jobs because their supervisors recommend (or don't recommend) them to their peers at other schools. For UK grads looking to get into the US the key is, similarly, choosing a supervisor with US contacts and using those contacts to get you and your research noticed. I recently completed my DPhil at Oxford and made at least a dozen trips to the US to present my research. I'm not sure whether potential academic employers knew what a DPhil was, but they knew my work and that I came highly recommended.

Ultimately, reputation is a second-best proxy for parties who lack the incentive to actually invest in producing information which might reveal the quality of the candidate. Law schools looking to fill academic posts do not rely on reputation: they hunt, they dig, and they rely on the recommendations of experts they trust. They are selecting colleagues, not some grad student they'll be rid of in a couple of years if things don't work out. In my experience, this informal network works pretty well as a screening device: marginal candidates from great schools (including Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard) seem to end up with less sought after academic posts.

Do a doctorate where ever you want, but if you think the name on your transcript is going to get you anywhere at this level, you're absolutely deluding yourself.

Best of luck,

Paddy
Hi all,

From the perspective on an 'insider', the analysis in this thread seems pretty facile. Specifically, the idea that the reputation of the institution will determine your academic career prospects is inaccurate. Harvard SJDs get (or don't get) academic jobs because their supervisors recommend (or don't recommend) them to their peers at other schools. For UK grads looking to get into the US the key is, similarly, choosing a supervisor with US contacts and using those contacts to get you and your research noticed. I recently completed my DPhil at Oxford and made at least a dozen trips to the US to present my research. I'm not sure whether potential academic employers knew what a DPhil was, but they knew my work and that I came highly recommended.

Ultimately, reputation is a second-best proxy for parties who lack the incentive to actually invest in producing information which might reveal the quality of the candidate. Law schools looking to fill academic posts do not rely on reputation: they hunt, they dig, and they rely on the recommendations of experts they trust. They are selecting colleagues, not some grad student they'll be rid of in a couple of years if things don't work out. In my experience, this informal network works pretty well as a screening device: marginal candidates from great schools (including Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard) seem to end up with less sought after academic posts.

Do a doctorate where ever you want, but if you think the name on your transcript is going to get you anywhere at this level, you're absolutely deluding yourself.

Best of luck,

Paddy
quote
It's amusing how everyone person on this forum says something that supports his/ her own previous decisions. Paddy says he has an Oxford doctorate - and surprise, surprise, Paddy thinks highly of an English degree. These sites reflect preferences. The best advice -- given by someone above -- is to get on a plane and visit the top US law schools and the top English schools. As someone who has studied at both, I think there an a dramatic, easily observable difference. Do this test, for example: visit the Harvard Law School library. Then visit the Yale Law School Library. Then go across the pond and visit the law libraries at Cambridge. Then do the same at Oxford. The differences you'll see in the library also reflect major differences in other aspects of the schools. If you have a choice among these four schools, this comparison will prove informative.

The world has changed over the past several decades. Who knows what the future will hold. But for today, US universities reign supreme. All credible international rankings bear this out. The resources at a place like Harvard are simply staggering. If you have ANY doubts, get on a plane and see for yourself -- and stop reading other people seeking to vindicate their own decisions.
It's amusing how everyone person on this forum says something that supports his/ her own previous decisions. Paddy says he has an Oxford doctorate - and surprise, surprise, Paddy thinks highly of an English degree. These sites reflect preferences. The best advice -- given by someone above -- is to get on a plane and visit the top US law schools and the top English schools. As someone who has studied at both, I think there an a dramatic, easily observable difference. Do this test, for example: visit the Harvard Law School library. Then visit the Yale Law School Library. Then go across the pond and visit the law libraries at Cambridge. Then do the same at Oxford. The differences you'll see in the library also reflect major differences in other aspects of the schools. If you have a choice among these four schools, this comparison will prove informative.

The world has changed over the past several decades. Who knows what the future will hold. But for today, US universities reign supreme. All credible international rankings bear this out. The resources at a place like Harvard are simply staggering. If you have ANY doubts, get on a plane and see for yourself -- and stop reading other people seeking to vindicate their own decisions.
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guddu
If you want to do doctrinal work or practice in international law, go to Cambridge. If you would like to join academia or critique/appraise the law Harvard would be better.
If you want to do doctrinal work or practice in international law, go to Cambridge. If you would like to join academia or critique/appraise the law Harvard would be better.
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Observer,

You might want to read my post a little more carefully. I don't think UK institutions are superior: what I think is important is choosing your supervisor very, very carefully and with a view to strategic considerations such as the extent to which you can leverage their academic network to achieve your career goals.

Best,

Paddy
Observer,

You might want to read my post a little more carefully. I don't think UK institutions are superior: what I think is important is choosing your supervisor very, very carefully and with a view to strategic considerations such as the extent to which you can leverage their academic network to achieve your career goals.

Best,

Paddy
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USPIL
UKPIL - would you mind please giving me some idea of your background and more specifics on your doctorate proposal. i have an anglo-american education, PIL experience, am heavily influenced by crit work and am looking to do sjd/phd...
UKPIL - would you mind please giving me some idea of your background and more specifics on your doctorate proposal. i have an anglo-american education, PIL experience, am heavily influenced by crit work and am looking to do sjd/phd...
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3L
How hard would you say it is to get into the SJD program? Do you have to already have an LLM first?
How hard would you say it is to get into the SJD program? Do you have to already have an LLM first?
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