Advice on choosing the right PhD offer


======= Date Modified 14 02 2009 13:02:08 =======
I would be grateful if u could share ur opinion. Completed masters by research frm Edinburgh Uni-have been made 7 PhD offers-3 of which I declined-4 offers to choose from-it is proving to be difficult day-day to make a decision-I will write a little bit about the offer to give u a good idea.
PhD1-Project:-good science-Initial assessment of the study is done during masters & the project will be a continuation of my masters study-have one paper accepted & another under preparation. Sup: know them for nearly 2 yrs-very supportive, accessible & strongly believe in my potential. Uni: University of Edinburgh-RAE 2008:12 position. Stipend: £12960/yr for 3 yrs-60 hrs/yr teaching regulation(unpaid)
PhD2:Project:good science -will be using cutting edge technologies. Sup:3 sups-the day of interview were very friendly-since then seems to be very busy-havnt replied to any of my emails. Uni: Queen Mary, Uni of London-RAE 2008:13 position· Stipend:£15290/yr-Graduate teaching assistantship-4 yrs funding. PhD3:Project:-applied research in an upcoming area· Sup:sup a Prof & has wealth of knowledge in the field-supervises 25 PhD students! Non accessible-but email response has been excellent· Uni: Manchester Uni-RAE 2008:7 position. Stipend:£13290/yr-4 yrs funding-no teaching regulation. PhD4:Project: -good science-travel to many countries in Asia involved (which I consider-good thing).Sup:young enthusiastic supervisor-highly knowledgeable-external examiner for my masters by research thesis-he spoke to the vice chancellor of the University to secure funding! Is keen to have me in his team·Uni:Open University-RAE 2008:43 position.Stipend:£13290/yr-3 yrs funding -no teaching regulation-(if I don’t accept the offer-scholarship will not be awarded to anyone)
How do I rank the following: Sup, project & uni. Please comment on the following questions please
1.How imp it is to do a PhD from a reputed Uni? If u have a good PhD thesis with good no of publications-does the name & reputation of the uni have a -ve impact on ur future career prospects?-Imagine I apply for a postdoc 3 yrs down the line-will my job application be given less weightage coz I have a PhD from a less respected Uni? 2.How imp is it to have a sup who is accessible? How many students can they supervise? I don’t expect a lot of supervision as I work on my own-but willing to get some support while writing a paper- expect to receive feedback on my written work. 3.Is graduate teaching assistantship a good thing? I will be teaching 25% of my time (6hrs/week-9 mnths/yr)-I know it will help me gain extensive teaching skills-but unpaid & might be difficult in the final yr
Even a single line of advice would be much appreciated & will certainly help


======= Date Modified 07 Jun 2009 15:25:39 =======
Accessibe supervisor is really important. I'd be very concerned about the people who haven't replied to your emails - would they be any more contactable if you're their student? For the same reason it's a bit worrying if someone is supervising a very large number of students already. Again how much time would they have for you?

Teaching experience is a good thing if you want to continue in academia. In my subject area it's a standard thing that full-timers take on, which puts them at a huge advantage employment-wise against part-timers who don't get any experience in this area. Yes it's time-consuming, but it could be beneficial for you in the long term.

A 4-year funding place sounds appealing, but would they really encourage you to get to speed with things right away? A 3-year place might be more aware of time limits and get you moving faster from the word go.

Ultimately only you can decide which project is right for you. Well done on getting yourself in the position where you have so many good options to choose from! Good luck with your PhD.


Do you have any personal preferences woth regard to the projects themsleves (which are all greek to me!). I agree some regular supervisory support is important (speaking as one who didn't get any) and 25 students is rather a lot!

You are in a very specialist field so it may well be that your project and publications will counter any ranking of the uiversity (and that is not always the case, espeically if you apply further up the food chain for a postdoc). Is it the OU position you are espcially concerned about? Can you current supervisor give you any idea how a OU PhD would be considered if he were recruiting for his dept, for example? I honestly don't know and I would wonder about that if it were me. I know there are some top reseachers there in some fields and someone I know has left Cambridge and gone to the OU - I just have no idea how that would work in reverse.

Teaching is useful but 25% of your time unpaid is a lot - I did find it tough in my final year (about 33% of my time in term time and although paid, not by choice). Do the other positions have the possibility of some teaching?

Might seem relatively trivial but I would also consider how you feel about spending 3-4 years in any of these places.

Interesting dilemma!


I'd opt for one or two: good funding, teaching experience, both have good RAE rankings. But since the teaching commitment is less for Edinburgh, then that tops the list (and also the fact it's a beautiful city).
Manchester looks a great offer too, but discovering the supervisor has 25 PhD students would raise a red flag for me, and I'd scrub it off the list.
I'd steer clear of the OU purely on the basis that some departments will be snobby about recruiting a PhD from the OU (I'll may get blasted for saying that), and on another point, although the RAE needs to be taken with a pinch of salt, coming 43rd is very low.

To echo Smilodon's comment, the actual project may be the decisive factor here - although it's all Greek to me too, the projects titles do seem quite different. You must have a preference to a project.


well, number one priority for me would be which one grabs you by the throat and says 'choose me'! This, I think is the most important thing as you will be eating sleeping and probably dreaming it for at least three years. How much face to face contact might be important. Me, I'm quite happy with e-mails for most of the time as it fits in with the rest of my llife. If you think that you need to see someone often then this might be an issue. Not getting e-mail replies would cause me concern, although at this time of year some people are very busy, e-mails are quick to send - even if they only say I'm a bit busy at the moment, here is a quick off the top of my head reply and will get back to you in more detal later. Try sending another e-mail (you could intimate that you may have got the address wrong and just want to check) if you don't get a reply again I wouldn't take it any further, you need to be able to contact people if you need to do so.

Teaching is probably a good thing if you want to get into academia, and doesn't go amiss in lots of jobs, it teaches you how to present if nothing else! The scholarships vary, but then so does the cost of living in various places, so check this out too if there is a tie between them. Check what other support is available in terms of library facilities etc. phone up the library etc. and ask about something and see how they respond - a bit sneaky but may prove useful. Well done for getting all the offers though :-)


i totally agree. lack of response to emails is indicative of the type of supervisor that cherishes the student who they never have to see or talk to. If you are happy for this to be the order of the day for the duration of your PhD then by all means go for it, otherwise I would advise you to steer well clear. Go for a PhD project with a supportive supervisor who will have time for you. You will probably learn more, be more productive and generally have a better PhD experience.

i ended up going for the " i dont like students i have to supervise type " supervisor route when i took on my PhD. the supervisor was never in his office didnt really reply to emails and yet i stilled signed up. big mistake!!!


Many thanks for all your advice.


I would choose the project that really interests you - totally and utterly as you will be dreaming about it and one that you can do and maintain interest in even if your supervisor loses interest or doesn't help as at the end of the day it's up to you to finish it regardless of everything else!! Then I would consider the supervisor - if you are all things are equal - i.e. you have no preference over the projects choose the one with the best supervisor!! Make sure they are helpful and accessible which is the most important quality of all! At the PhD stage the uni is not so important - what is more important is the contacts you make and your supervisor as he/she can provide you with help and references if you want to stay in academia! I think their reputation counts more at this stage but most important of all is to get a someone who is supportive and will help you regardless of their reputation. If you want to stay in academia teaching is a good thing when you are applying for a lectureship but depending on your subject not many people go straight into one so you’ll get opportunities to teach along the way hopefully! The dept is also important as you need to consider if it's the right environment for you and if you feel comfortable there and see what the resources are like. The best thing to do is to see what the supervisors are like - do you know anyone that will give you an insider view to what each supervisor and dept are like to help you decide? Good luck