Anyone taking longer than three years?


I just passed the three year mark this month. Feeling pretty down about going over time. I don't know many other PhDs. Please tell me I'm not the only one going into my fourth year?!:-s


I'm at the 3 year 2 month mark. And it should be 3 year 5 months by the time I've done the Viva and made any corrections. I only know of one person in my department who's done it before the 3 year mark though.

I think it's fairly common to run over :) PhD's tend to be advertised at 3 years, but then there's always the writing up tacked on the end.


I'm in exactly the same position as Peljam. And I'm looking a further few months before I've successfully completed my PhD, so you're not alone :-)


Hi Florence

Really, don't be so hard on yourself, going over your 3rd year is not going over time.......... it's just that funded PhDs only provide 3 years funding. In the days when I was finishing it was the norm to take about 3.5 years, the richer funding bodies were even extending their funding that way. Personally I'm proud to have taken only 3 and a half years to submit my thesis.


I am part-time so I am at the 5 years and 6 months. I hope to submit by next easter so will take about 6 years, effectively 3 years full time. I have applied for a 12 month extension just in case as I will be borderline on the submission and completion dates. I think that 3 (FT) or 6 (PT) years is an unrealistic aim and a small extension is often all that is needed. We would all love to complete early though !!


I took 4 years (i was only funded for 3.5). i handed in with only 1.5 hours to spare before for my 4 year deadline! I really don't see why you shouldnt take 4 years. If you've been given 4 years to do the best job you can, you might as well use all the time to ensure it is as good as it can be. But that's just me...


Hi Florence,

How is your research going ? Are you enjoying it ? I supposed put simply are you answering your question, developing your field ?

If you're having a good time and making progress then in the grand scheme of a lifetime another six months or year of enjoying yourself, adding to the body of knowledge and being wonderfully self indulgent is no bad thing.

Please don't feel bad, enjoy it.. you've lasted 3 years ... :-)

If no to any of these then feel free to virtually slap me. It will make you feel better.


I was funded for three, but I took three years and eleven months to do it; wrote it all up in my "fourth" year, and just passed viva the other day. It was frustrating and hard (esp. with no money). However, don't feel bad, as not many finish in exactly three years, and the outcome will be the same! Don't go into the fifth year if poss tho; at my uni they fine you severely for doing this (sprout)


I'm just about to go into my fifth year. I was funded for three but went part time for the last six months so effectively the funding carried on pro rata to cover a total of three and a half years. Since that finished in May I have found it very difficult to work on my thesis because I have had to work to earn money. I don't want it to carry on too much longer so am aiming to sort out my work/PhD balance (no life in there!) by January (fingers crossed I will get one of the part-time well paid jobs I'm after). This means I could then aim to submit by the end of the year or sooner if possible. That would then be five years in total. All my colleagues who have recently got their PhDs took four years to finish. We are all in humanities and it seems that this is fairly standard.


It depends what you mean by fourth year, are you still doing "research" work or are you just writing up? I did all my research work within the three years I was funded for then took another year to write up (I worked at the same time hence why I was so damn long!) so it was 4 years until I actually submitted.


Thanks everyone.
I am still enjoying it - more than I thought I would at this stage. I hate the deadlines but I love the ideas.
As for where I'm at, I'm not exactly just writing up in the sense of knowing that there is not another single book nor article that I need to read, but by and large I am done with the research. I have a plan (an actual plan as opposed to those fake dreamy ones you come up with earlier on when you think you'll talk about everything under the sun); I have material for every chapter. But I still need to make the material into chapters and not just bits of stuff. I'm starting at the beginning and working my way through. Hopefully 2 out 5 chapters thesis-ready by Christmas. The rest of it ready by... I don't want to think about that...


Hey Florence- I don't think I know anyone who has finished within 3 years, and there are a lot of PhD students where I am! I think if you have done the bulk of the research within the three years then you're doing a great job! I know some people who were still out testing participants well into their 4th year! Good luck writing up! KB


Florence you're not the only one. Everyone I know in my department had spent at least extra 3 months to 'submit'. So don't worry too much about it. You're certainly not alone!!


Given the bureaucracy involved, I don't think it is practical to expect to complete a PhD in 3 years. Universities don't tell you about all the little steps in between idea and certificate. Consider what happens at the end (based on my Uni procedures)

1. Inform supervisors and administrators one year before you are due to submit.
2. Two months before, get supervisors to agree that work is ready for examination.
3. Submit thesis.
4. Hunt begins for supervisors (because there was a change of administrators, and no-one remembers you giving them notice)
5. University remembers that you once worked for them in a part-time capacity, so now they need to find a second external.
6. Wait seven months for viva (university promises 3 months)
7. Outcome of viva is seldom a straight pass, so...
8. Discuss outcomes and examiner's comments with supervisor (3 weeks)
9. Make minor or major changes (1 month)
10. Submit to supervisor and chair, schedule meeting (3 weeks)
11. Resubmit electronically, university want it printed, print and hand in so they can post it to examiners (in the field of IT) (2 days)
12. Wait for examiners to approve changes (weeks and weeks)
13. Examiners feedback OK, it goes to the faculty research committee (3 weeks to schedule, 2 week wait)
14. Faculty approved, so it goes to the Senate, rules changed, more delays.
15. Wait 2 weeks, sit outside VC's office, receive letter, wait 4 weeks, receive certificate.

Topic approved January 2007, submitted for examination September 2009, viva in April 2010, resubmit July 2010, received certificate mid November 2010.

Sorry to be a miserable git, but I am still irritated by my experience. The UK PhD machine is not efficient and requires more patience from the student than one would expect from a first world system. I've seen a number of highly intelligent and ambitious people systematically demotivated and arguably forced to be subservient to a bunch of entrenched egos who are not quite as bright as they think they are. Welcome to a life in academia.

Don't be disheartened. Take the time to learn more and plan for the future.


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Don't worry about going into a 4th year which is pretty standard as it's very rare that people finish within 3 years so I agree with what the others have said.  There are many factors which might mean you need longer, e.g. change of direction in research, difficulty with data gathering/analysis, having to learn techniques from scratch to analyse data etc... Even if everything goes to plan (very rare) as research seems to have a mind of its own it's very rare to finish within 3 years. It also depends on what the subject it is as I know a few people who have finished within 3 years in social sciences and it's practically unheard of in science (people seem to question how lab time you used as that is such a labour intensive part but then again that varies depending on techniques used as well) so there are many variables which affect how long it takes. 

Writing is another kettle of fish - everything takes twice as long as you think especially when preparing diagrams and their analysis/interpretation. Writing takes as long as it takes (there is a recent thread on this), some days you can write loads and really productive and other days you just struggle to write a page or even a couple of paragraphs.  It's a bit of a roller coaster so don't be too hard on yourself. You just need to keep at it and just plough on and it'll come together eventually!  And remember to take breaks - if you're having a bad day go and do something else for a while and come back to it with a fresh mind! And chocolate is the answer .... it doesn't matter what the question is!  ;-)