Why a UK PhD is totally worth it for international Students?

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In short, doing a PhD in the UK is totally worth it.

  1. First, a UK PhD is shorter in time span but not less in value. You get rigorous academic training meeting highest standards of research internationally.
  2. Second, as an international PhD student in UK you have multiple options to fund your PhD. The PhD stipend is usually enough to survive as a single person during your PhD years.
  3. Third, you get a lot of opportunities e.g., ICASE studentships, PhD in industry and industry impact programs by UK universities. Such programs can help you gain an industry experience during your PhD.
  4. Finally, the graduate work visa options allows you to explore reliable employment opportunities, and further settle in UK.

In this post I will explain why a UK PhD is still worth it. As an international student you may have multiple questions regarding the value of a UK PhD. Also, you may also be concerned about funding opportunities available to you in UK. Let me explain these one by one.

1. International PhD students get paid to do a PhD

There are many options for international students to do a funded PhD in UK. (a) First, the UK research council (UKRI) allow 30% of funds to be allocated to international PhD students. It is a good amount of funding to fund thousands of students. (b) Second, the International PhD students can apply for independent/ third party scholarships like Commonwealth and many others. (c) Third, in some cases PhD students are funded by industry. In such contract an employer in the UK contact the university to hire a PhD student and sponsor him for the for a specific PhD project. 

International PhD students can also apply for university funds that are allocated to supervisors or any other grant money of the supervisor. However, with such funding PhD students may need to full fill some attached obligations such as assistantship work.

A PhD in industry is very lucrative because (a) PhD stipend offered by the employers offer a higher PhD stipend than university grant, (b) it helps in getting an industry experience during your PhD, and (c) a PhD in the industry extend your network for post PhD employment opportunities.

2. PhD in UK may take less time

Usually a PhD take 3 years in the UK. However, there are some cases when PhD students have to extend their contract. If you are an international PhD student this may create problem for you. You are often dependent on your PhD funding. Usually this funding last for 3 years.

In UK, universities often extend their financial support to international PhD students. Anything that is taking longer than that may put you in a financial struggle.

There are some exceptions to 3 year PhD funding duration. Some universities offer an integrated one-year masters program before the start of PhD in UK. This can lengthen the duration as well as funding of your PhD.

3. PhD may be easier if you are proactive

Yes, a PhD in UK is a tough job. This is because it takes a lot more effort on average then your Masters or bachelors. A PhD is an independent project and much different than the course work you took during your undergraduate years.

In fact a PhD is a kind of training to make you an independent researcher. Keep in mind that academic research is hard no matter what your field is. That said, a PhD in STEM science can be much harder than a PhD in education or history, for example.

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Usually a PhD can feel harder not because of the subject matter of study but it can be challenging in presence of some issues like supervisor and student relationship, the terms of funding, academic culture etc.

4. A UK PhD may turnout useful

Benefits of a PhD in UK. On the other hand, a PhD can benefit you for settling in UK after your PhD. This happen due to the availability of post-graduate work visa which is usually allotted for three years to PhD graduates. On average, three years is a good enough time for a successful PhD graduate to develop a professional network and find an employer that can sponsor them for a skilled worker visa. A skilled worker visa is is a good path to permanent residency in UK which is named as indefinite leave to remain.

Deep Dive: What should I do after doing a PhD in the UK?

PhD in UK can give you many benefits. On average a PhD student in UK earn a higher salary than an average employee. PhD can also increase your long term earning potential and growth.

Academic career in UK after PhD. If your intention is to pursue a career in academia after PhD than odds might be against you. The reasons are highly competitive UK academic market as well as precarious academic job contracts.

Furthermore, UK PhD graduates are usually not welcomed as post-docs in their own university. For their post-doc, they are expected to move to another institution. This might mean they may have to move out of country. This might be an issue for you if you want to settle in UK after your PhD.

Industry Career in UK after PhD. On the other hand, if you intend to join industry after PhD in UK. Your chances to get good work opportunities and eventually a stable academic career are much higher than academia.

An academic career is always competitive in developed countries because of large supply and low demand of PhD graduates in academia. Academia can only employ so many PhD holders. Thus, more and more universities are focusing on creating an industry impact program for their PhD students. These programs can help PhD graduates to align themselves to UK industry environment.

Further, a PhD is also positively valued by employers in UK, thus, giving you an edge over other applicants, especially in the case of complex and cognitive work opportunities.

FAQs about is a PhD worth it in UK?

Is PhD in UK worth it?

A PhD in UK is surely worth it. First, anyone coming from developing countries or struggling economies will get a fully-funded PhD in UK. Second, it also depend upon your final goals of what you want from your PhD. If you want to move further in academia than make sure your field is not saturated in the UK and good job contracts are available. If you intend to work in industry after your PhD make sure to search about what you are trying to achieve because you may get that industry position with your masters and investing your peak years in PhD might not be a good idea. Finally, a PhD cannot be a magic solution to all of your problems. Remember, PhD is just a training for specific purposes. You should only do the PhD if you intend to achieve those purposes. Otherwise you may regret investing your time in a 3-4 year project which may or may not be financially worthwhile for you.

Is a PhD in UK fully funded for international students?

Yes, international students are usually paid in UK. International PhD students who received PhD scholarship are usually offered 3 year guaranteed funding for their PhD studies. This means they will get (a) a financial support to survive in UK as well as (b) their tuition fee will be waived. To be eligible for PhD student visa you need to prove your own funds or show a full sponsorship documentation from a grant provider. PhD is usually funded by UK research Council (UKRI), universities, PhD advisor’s grants, independent funding offers for PhD, and scholarships offered by industry employers.

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Does a PhD guarantee a job in UK?

A PhD can boost your chances of getting hired in UK because (a) PhD holders have less employment rate then average industry worker in UK, (b) more and more universities are offering some hybrid form of PhD-including both an academic as well as an industry training component, and (c) UK employers usually do not discriminate PhD holders when hiring.

How competitive are PhD programs UK? 

Getting in a PhD program in UK is fairly competitive or we can say fiercely competitive. However if you are prepared to go extra mile in your application then you can make to a PhD program in UK. To be a successful applicant for a PhD in UK (a) you might need a good score in your masters, (b) a good score in your English proficiency test, (c) a good research proposal, and some other records and online proofs that you are an active student and you can participate in university activities such as teaching assistantships and research conferences.

Can I do PhD after Masters in UK?

In UK, a masters degree is often required for PhD application. In short, you need good grades in masters and an appealing research proposal to be considered for a PhD position in UK. There are exceptions to this when some programs offer an integrated PhD approach. In an integrated PhD international applicants can apply based on their bachelors. This means they need to complete a 1 year research masters training before pursuing their PhD project.

What are the benefits of doing PhD in UK?

There are many benefits of doing PhD in UK. First, you get the opportunity to pursue your research career in a well-structured and a develop academic system of UK. Second,  you are likely to get an industry experience as a postgraduate student. This may benefit you in getting hired after PhD. Third, your PhD will most likely be funded in UK this means you may not have to worry about your monthly expenses or your tuition fee during PhD years. Lastly, a PhD in UK can benefit you to work and settle in UK. Generous visa options like graduate work visa can help you to look for stable employment and apply for permanent residency.

Is it easy to get a PhD in UK?

A PhD is surely a tough journey. In fact, a majority of PhD students report it to be the toughest experience. It is likely to be harder than your undergraduate, masters or any job. In a PhD, you are solely responsible for your PhD project, its progress and success. The thing that makes a PhD harder is not the subject matter you study but the uncertainty on many levels. As a PhD student you are uncertain about the success of your research projects, funding, advisor and peer support as well as about the worth of you degree later.

Is a 3 year PhD from a UK university considered less valuable than a 5-6 year PhD from a US university?

Well, this depends on what you consider valuable. A UK PhD is shorter, require a masters qualification from you to start, and provide the opportunity to get into job market quickly. For 3 year PhD graduates, post-doc training is considered as a norm to acquire further research competence. On the other hand, a US/ Canadian PhD is longer (takes 7 years on average to complete), do not require a masters qualification from you and provide you an ample time to explore your research area. This may means entering in job market late or with more expertise in your subject.

Why are PhD students paid so little in UK?

Unlike many other European regions, PhD students in the UK are considered as students and not the employees of the university. This makes them eligible for a financial support package during their PhD studies. Financial support is not considered as a salary and is usually tax free. The purpose of a PhD stipend in UK is to just support a single PhD student. 

What should I do after PhD in UK?

After PhD, you are allowed to stay in UK on a graduate work visa. This visa is usually valid for 3 years after PhD. You can pursue post-doc (the next step in an academic career in UK), serve as lecturer, seek out non-teaching jobs, apply for a job in the industry, or start a a business if you are interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Is PhD losing its value in UK?

No, a PhD is not losing its value in UK. A PhD is a research degree and it is intended for a specific purpose that is to make you and independent researchers. Although fierce competition and low funding in academia may drown PhDs in low-paying and precarious postdoctoral contracts. Still, a UK PhD can be an asset for highly cognitive jobs, research and development roles and consulting in the industry. Despite stereotypes of the ivory tower, more and more hiring managers are realizing the potential of PhD graduates. This means industry in UK is recognizing that PhD holders can survive and thrive in fast pacing industry.

Is doing a PhD tough in UK?

Doing a PhD in UK is tough.
First, the selection criteria is tough. At minimum, you need (a) appealing grades-usually strong upper second class masters degree.
(b) a compelling research proposal-aligned with your prospective supervisor’s research as well as with PhD grant provider’s goals. (c) high English proficiency scores-usually more than 7.0 band overall in IELTS or equal in other acceptable tests by UK institutions to even meet the minimum requirements.
Second, to complete your PhD in a short span for three years you need to be
(a) able to execute and manage your research project independently. No body will spoon feed you like the undergraduate years. Consider it as a job and you PhD supervisor as a supervisor (not a teacher). (b) able to perform other assistantship duties assigned to you efficiently. The part-time on campus work may be consider mandatory for the financial support you get as an international student in UK. Balancing your own PhD project with other academic responsibilities might be tough.
Third, PhD that’s worth is tough in UK. To make your PhD worthwhile in UK you need to (a) complete you PhD project as soon as possible-usually 3 years. This is because your PhD funding may run out after that. (b) get some industry experience during your PhD in UK. As more and more students are switching to industry after PhD-to get a stable career, work permit and eventually settle in UK.