Duke University - Graduate (MS/PhD) Ratings|
|Total Grad Surveys||7|
|Avg years at University||1.6|
|Research Quality||B+ (7.5)|
|Research Availability||B+ (7.9)|
|Research Funding||C (4.9)|
|Graduate Politics||B (6.6)|
|Not Errand Runners||B- (6.1)|
|Degree Completion||B (6.8)|
|Alternative pay [ta/gsi]||B (7.2)|
|Sufficient Pay||B- (6.4)|
|Education Quality||C+ (5.6)|
|Faculty Accessibility||B (7.1)|
|Useful Research||B+ (7.7)|
|"Individual" treatment||B (7.2)|
|Campus Beauty||A (9.0)|
|Campus Maintenance||B+ (8.0)|
|University Spending||B+ (7.4)|
|Scholastic Success||A- (8.5)|
|Surrounding City||B- (6.0)|
|Social Life/ Environment||C+ (5.7)|
I arrived at Duke believing I would have three things from the MIDP program when I left: 1) an amazing educational experience I wouldn?t be able to find outside graduate school; 2) an extensive network useful for my chosen career path; and 3) a degree from a brand name university. Of these, only the last one was accomplished.
The truth is the educational standards of MIDP are below those of most U.S. graduate schools (except perhaps the online variety), and the network is extremely small and not useful for those working in development for NGOs, private companies, or for anyone coming out of an American or European context.
If you?re an American, I would recommend Johns Hopkins SAIS or Georgetown, or really any school in New York City or Washington, D.C., rather than Duke?s MIDP. This is because those other programs aren?t diploma mills for foreign government officials or foundations, who for lack of English-speaking skills and other qualifications, bring down the academics (read below to see why). Additionally, there are extensive networking and internship opportunities in those areas that are not found at Duke.
All this said, Durham is a great city and the area is fantastic with a great food scene. It?s also pretty cheap compared to DC or NYC.
The Student Body
The school doesn?t tell you, and you won?t learn it until you arrive, but the majority of students in the MIDP program are foreign government officials (Turkey, India, and Korea dominate) who get full tuition and stipends paid for and who sometimes show up without any English or an adequate educational background. These student will all go back to their government jobs and finish their careers. Many see their time at Duke as a vacation and don?t participate fully in academic life because they know they are going to go back to their job.
The second largest group are foundation-sponsored (World Bank, Rotary, etc.) and they also receive full tuition and stipends, and as with the government bureaucrats, some of them show up hardly any English. It?s why most international students in MIDP are required to take remedial English language courses starting their first semester and why it causes them to hardly ever speak in class.
As a general rule, both these two groups know those within their group, either before they arrive in their home country (in the case of the government officials), or after (the foundation folks) through special orientations that the rest of the students don?t go through. They also usually take the same courses, either because they are required to (Rotary) or because of their subject matter (for example, the Turks are usually Ministry of Finance tax officials and so take all the same tax and finance courses). This usually results in students only hanging out with members of their nationality (mainly the Turks and Koreans do this) or within their sponsorship group (Rotary). This negatively impacts relationship building among the class as a whole. There really isn?t a sense of community in the MIDP program though there are small groups of friends that have gotten together, usually comprised of those who individuals without any sponsorship. I found some good friend there but all of them were from the third group I discuss next.
The third group of students are the individuals who show up having learned about the program and having decided to attend. Among these are only a few Americans who comprise about 5% of the class. The year after I graduated only three Americans entered the program. Everyone else was an international student.
Academics in MIDP are easy. You really don?t have to work hard, so if you are looking for a program you can phone it in with, this is it. You won?t be challenging yourself or learning anything you couldn?t learn somewhere else or on your own. The reason has to do mainly with student demographics. As mentioned, there is no GRE requirement so there are no real academic standards for admission. Good English is also not a requirement.
The low admission requirements are because of the profit Duke makes by allowing all the full tuition paying students who are sponsored to enter and graduate. Sadly, the MIDP program does not hold students to academic standards found at other brand name universities because the truth is many if not most would fail. And if even one fails then Duke loses the money that student would continue to bring and the next year the sponsoring government or foundation might think twice about sending the same number of students (and hence dollars) to Duke. So Duke has a financial incentive to have low academic standards. And professors realize this and respond by not trying very hard or requiring much. Class room discussions are pretty bad because a lot of the internationals can?t or don?t want to participate, either because they can?t understand what?s being said or what was in the readings for that days class, or because they don?t feel confident communicating their ideas.
Worse than the academic standards are the ?honor? standards. MIDP doesn?t talk about it, but plagiarism and cheating are a problem that gets swept under the rug and which remains unpunished. Violations that would get you kicked out of any other school or a citation on your transcript end up resulting in a slap on the wrist.
As to professors, like any university, some a good, some are bad, some are very hardworking, some are lazy, etc. Some of the professors see students as existing them so they can have cushy, well-paying jobs, while others understand they exist to serve the students by providing a high quality education. I can?t say which group dominates, but I found too many instructors were lazy and subpar compared to other academic institutions I have attended. It may be of note to let you know that each semester I took one course outside of the MIDP program, and each semester the professor teaching the class I took outside MIDP was the best in terms of the quality of instruction. One professor even mentioned at the beginning that he wasn?t going to learn everybody?s name. He also used transparencies that looked to be about 15 to 20 years old and hadn?t been updated since he first made them.
The MIDP program is good about letting you graduate early. I realized midway through my second semester what a mistake I had made and decided to expedite things by taking extra courses and doing coursework during the summer. I have a friend who did the same.
One more thing: one of the worst things about academics at Duke are the degree to which the professors use group assignments, either in the form of presentations or papers. Groups assignments in my experience comprised about half of your grade. And they don?t let you choose groups, they are assigned, meaning professors are always sure to put distribute native English speakers or an international student with good English skills evenly among the groups. What this means is if you speak good English, then you have a lot of extra work to do and must carry the weight of the group. This has happened numerous times, so I?m always the last one doing the PowerPoint or paper because if left to anyone else it would look like it was written by a sixth grader. It?s unfair, and extra work, but it?s what they do.
If you?re American, you should avoid MIDP. It?s basically a ghetto and diploma mill for foreign government officials who get free rides and don?t have an incentive to participate socially or academically. You?ll be stuck doing way too much group work and carrying the load because of your English skills, and the network is abysmal. Everything you can learn there you can learn outside of it through self-study. It was not worth the cost of attendance, and if you?re working already there will be a huge opportunity cost. Only attend if you?re a rich kid, or if someone else is paying for everything, and if you want an easy time with little to no challenge.