Want to do a PhD in England--Can't Find Leads

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Want to do a PhD in England--Can't Find Leads

Postby Robert Brooks » Thu Nov 25, 2004 9:03 pm

I've been trying to find different avenues to do a PhD in England in particular Oxford, Cambridge, Kings College, or Imperial. I'm just not interested in the US style of PhDs curcum. The system is so different over there that i don't know how to get my foot in the door. Has anyone ever done this, go from the US to UK? How did you do it? Also, what about the costs associated with doing this? Any suggests on how I can do this?
Robert Brooks

Want to do a PhD in England--Can\'t Find Leads

Postby Shehan9762 » Fri Nov 26, 2004 12:44 am

Hey Robert,
England offers shorter Ph D careers than in the US and it takes usually 3 years in most universities to complete the degree. The funding system for local students are either from EPSRC (government) or from companies. Nowadays, the studentships are more and more restricted mainly to UK students or people from the EUropean union.
I did my Ph D in chemistry in UK and got good experience from it. I am not originally from England but managed to get a studentship from my former adviser. But like in USA, some professors cant afford to pay students from other countries. You should start to contact the professors you would like to work with. If they like your resume, they ll probably ask to work for them. You stand better chances with well known professors.

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Want to do a PhD in England--Can\'t Find Leads

Postby Robert Brooks » Fri Nov 26, 2004 1:29 pm

Do US students need to take any speacial exams for admission to the schools. Or will they just base admission on previous schooling (undergrad, masters) and work experience?

Does anyone know the exact cost for a foreign student going to, say, Oxford?
Robert Brooks

Want to do a PhD in England--Can\'t Find Leads

Postby Paul » Mon Nov 29, 2004 12:59 pm

Hey Robert,

This is a subject that I discuss with friends and colleages all the time.

Look around the big labs in good institutions. Most of the people working there are "post-docs". All have PhD's and all are working hard to get their Nature, Science or Cell paper. Usually, there is a huge mix of nationalities. Noone ever grades those people on where they got their PhD from. The fact is that people are judged mainly on their performance at post-doc and their publication record...not simply on the institute they got their PhD from! A postdoc with a PhD from China, India, Europe etc will be seen as more successful than a postdoc from Harvard if that person has better papers.

I am orgininally from the UK so got my PhD from there. The 3 year PhD program is, essentially, the last three years of the US PhD. On day one you will be given a bench in the lab of your supervisior and that will be you for the next three years. At the end, you write a thesis and get examined on your work in an oral exam. This can be extremely formal or extremely informal, depending on the institute and the examiner. Mine lasted over 4 hours but was friendly and flew by.

I think the difference stems from the specialization of the degree system in the UK, and across Europe. I graduated with a batchelors degree in Immunology and Pharmacology so, by starting a PhD in an immunology lab, I already had the knowledge and background to hit the ground running. Most of the Americans I work with have their batchelor degrees in broad subjects and are require the tuition in their subject area of interest that the extra two years of a PhD in the US provide.

Saying that, I work with many Americans who take a year or two out to work as research technicians before going on to a PhD. In general, these people are already trained in their subject and the skills to be able to walk into a PhD program in the UK and I try to advise them to consider this option. Consider the difference in age and debt that those two years can make. Why be finishing your PhD when you could be finishing your first post-doc?

As far as leads, check out


The British government are actually very keen to attract international students and there are specific funding schemes set up for this. Also, start writing to people. Often, institutes will have funding "inhouse" that they can apply for.

Just as an example, I had a tech who wrote off to several people in the UK enquiring about a PhD. She got good feedback and is now at the Biochemisty Department at Dundee University (a 5* ranked department) doing a PhD with a mentor with an excellent reputation. She got funding from a source specifically earmarking funds for US researchers to work in the UK and is better paid than many of her UK counterparts.

Want to do a PhD in England--Can\'t Find Leads

Postby Val » Wed Dec 01, 2004 1:46 am

I was applying for admission to PhD schools in England about 10 years ago. The system is built on the premise that the prospective PhD students have already done all necessary coursework in their undergrad years (unlike in the US). I suspect that the applicant with a bachelor degree from the US will be directly accepted into the PhD program in the US. There are no entrance exams like GRE in the US. The admission is based on the applicant's marks (transcript) and on the recommendation letters.

The UK government provides scholarships from EPSRC for PhD studies which cover 1/3 of the tuition fee of around US$10k pa at that time. The rest is covered either by the student or by the supervisor from his grant. Normally, only rich profs from established universities can afford to do this. I believe the situation is essentially the same now.

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Want to do a PhD in England--Can\'t Find Leads

Postby Massimo P. » Wed Dec 01, 2004 10:51 am

Hi Robert, acceptance in a post-graduate program in a US University for a non-US citizen is slightly more complicated than in the EU. You'll need to demonstrate your language skills, and the only way recognised seems to be the TOEFL, and general knowledge skills through the GRE. The US embassy could give you info on that.
Generally you'll be asked to attend classes full time over the first year, and you won't probably enter a lab for quite a while. But this may vary across different Universities. In comparison, the UK PhD is "hands on" on day one.
Good luck, Massimo
Massimo P.

Update: Want to do a PhD in England--Can\'t Find Leads

Postby Robert Brooks » Fri Dec 03, 2004 12:38 am

Thanks guys. Since I work at NIH, do you guys suggest I try to seek out some potential UK scientists that i could possibly do some collorations with and once the UK scientist see some of my work, I could I try to wingle my way into a degree program there. This might be the best way? What do you guys think? How bout if i get my NIH people to pay some of the UK tution if I do some of the work at NIH and UK?
Robert Brooks

Update: Want to do a PhD in England--Can\'t Find Leads

Postby Jason » Sat Feb 05, 2005 8:01 pm

Any new thoughts or approaches to studying in UK?

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