Talking to people on another forum about PhD submission deadlines, in the past I noted some places (UK Universities) enforced submission after 4 years fulltime whilst others were quite happy to allow five years or more.
I submitted after 4 years and two months what seems a lifetime ago now. My old University has now adopted the 4 years maximum rule. It is probably a good thing as my own supervisor would delay submission until he was 99% certain of pass with minor corrections (I fell into this trap). I know of one instance of a fulltime student who submitted after 7 years (he was working fulltime after the four year mark, so he had something to live on), with two further submissions after 6 and 5 years. So tightening up the rules would prevent students and supervisors alike from delaying unless there were extreme circumstances (health, etc.).
Am I right in thinking there's a general tightening up by Universities on submission deadlines and 4 years maximum regardless of where you are is becoming the norm?
I think there is a general tightening but it has been going on for a while. When I started (2007) our regulations stated we had a minimum of 2 years and a maximum of 4. I handed in 4 years to the day! I have heard there is certain research funding that can only be obtained if the Uni (or maybe dept.) has 75% of PhD students completing in 4 years. I know I caused some panic as I was only at a small uni (well a medical school affiliated with a uni) and there were only 3 PhD students in my year. I was last to submit and had I not got it in within 4 years we would not have achieved the 75% completion rate.
My uni has imposed the 4 year submission limit rule. While I do think there are benefits to the student I think another factor at play is that PhD completion rates within a specified timeframe are yet another metric unis are now measured on. So I don't think it's all for our benefit. In my experience the limit can be enforced in a way that isn't flexible to students pursing additional training that might be of benefit to them. I'm not sure how it would affect people on 1+3 schemes either where the first year does sort of contribute, but not fully, to 'PhD time'.
My Uni is pushing to get us submitted within 3 years 3 months, but I think the absolute maximum is 4 years before they start getting antsy. We have our 3 years and then they'll give us the first 3 months after that without paying continuation fees, but if we go over the three months we have to pay for those three months and any further months.
From what I gather its some target thing for all universities that is driving it to get us all to complete in a reasonable time frame.
Kinda puts the pressure on though when I think I've only got 5 and a half months till my 3 years is officially up.
So this hardening to the four year rule seems more about a department being able to show that PhD candidates are completing within a given period to funding bodies and government departments.
Thus if after four years you have not submitted, that's it, you're finished, and you don't show up in the University's statistics?
The University can then say 100% of their candidates who submitted, submitted with four years? Am I being cynical?
The statistics are based on the proportion of students who completed their first year (or possibly 18 months) and submitted within 4 years and completed within 5 years. It is an accountability measure (it's always existed for some research councils like the ESRC), but to be honest, if someone is properly supervised then it's not unreasonable as an expectation. Any periods of interrupted study due to illness / maternity leave etc do not count towards the target. One effect though where I work, is that we've become very reluctant to accept weaker candidates (even if self-funding) and much more likely to terminate registration after a year if no progress is being made. To be honest, I personally don't think that's a bad thing given the over-production of PhDs, but others might disagree.
i spoke to my supervisor about it and she said although my uni says it is a 3 year FT course, 4 years in a more common timelength that students take to complete and that going beyond that time frame is not a big deal. same with Part time. part times are 4 years but can easily take 12-18 months longer and thats fine. no strict rules there.
I dont want to sound like one of the 'Stalinists' but the time limit is a (mainly) good idea. How current is the contribution to knowledge if the PhD was started in 2006 and has been limping forwards at the rate of half a chapter every summer since then? When I was working on my first PhD in the early 00's there were more than a few British academics who had been 'working on their PhD's' for years and years - it was an excuse to get research leave I think, because a lot of them never completed. Time limits are good for keeping the material fresh and most important of all they stop you from losing momentum. Losing momentum is the real killer in my experience: if you put a big research project 'on the back burner' it takes huge effort to get it moving properly again. Moral of the story? Like the Replicants from 'Blade Runner', work on the assumption that you have a very limited lifespan!
I agree with TEHEPIKDUCK321. Finishing a PhD in a timely manner is an important skill to show that you can complete a project in a reasonable time, and not drag it out too long. If there are personal reasons for an extension then that can be applied for, including medical reasons. But I don't see why full-timers should run on many years overdue, or part-timers similarly. I'm all in favour of research councils encouraging universities to clamp down on long-runners.
I should say that I took just under 6 years to complete my part-time PhD, but given that I was assumed to be half-time, and in practice was only 5 hours a week for medical/disability reasons, I feel ok about this. It was also within the strict time limits set down my both my university and funding body (AHRC) [4 years for full-timers, 6 years for part-timers]. I don't understand how some full-timers can rack up similar periods. There has to be some sense of urgency and forward progress.
Oh, a PhD should ideally be completed within four years. But a 'one size fits all' approach does not take into account that some PhDs might have problems with access. If the four year (full time) thing had been underlined as a priority to me in the beginning I could have intercalated when I had a family problem or taken my one year empirical study in a different country which I had to combine with employment as 'researching away from the university'... There were plenty of options, if only I had known these in advance.
My university's 'encouraged' hand-in time is 3 years - so when the DEL funding stops. After this you get four months 'free' to finish up and if you exceed this you have to pay the university for each extension after this (I cant remember how long each extension is, I think its a few months.)
Nothing motivates like money, apparently.
My uni allows three years for a PhD and the fourth year as a writing up. It is also possible to change full-time studies to part-time and vice-versa and so those who are struggling may wish to change to part-time route, but this may be possible for local and not oversees students. Before enrolling a student has to have done a research and decided on a narrow area of research which can be accomplished within the three year period. It is the duty of a supervisor(s) to ensure that this is the case.
Hmm, the above is food for thought. I think an update of my blog (at least for UK PhD'ers) is required!!!
So if you have a four year time limit as is becoming standard in the UK, the longest you could go on for is five and a half years?
The worst timewise that could happen is four years for the PhD, submit, viva, major corrections (one year), new viva, minor corrections (one to three months) and factor in delays whilst examiners look at the thesis after initial submission, after major corrections and again after minor corrections.
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