EPSRC funded at mediocre uni with new supervisor or self-funded PhD at a great uni with known supervisor?


First post - though I've been loitering here for quite a while.

I've just been offered the following:

1) An EPSRC-funded 3 year full time research studentship for £13,500 with tuition fee waiver; at a not-well-known London uni that's within commuting distance of where I live - with a supervisor who's never taken the role on before and is yet to complete his own PhD. The subject is one that interests me, but I'm more interested in the PhD offering listed next:

2) A self-funded PhD at Oxford, with a known supervisor at a known and respected department in a field I'm more interested in.

Several factors to consider:
1) EPSRC funded vs self-funded.
2) Mediocre uni vs "known" uni.
3) Noobie supervisor, vs experienced supervisor.
4) One is within commuting distance, the other will involve finding a place to live.
5) Subject A is alright - I can work with it. Subject B is "Oooooooh!"

Can you justify your answers to help me make an informed decision. I'm seriously at a quandry here.

I'm sure I'll have more questions later - but I'll leave it at that for now. Please excuse the long subject line ;)


I think the most important consideration is which topic you like the most. After all you want to study the topic you enjoy the most.

Next think about supervisor. The kind of supervisor you want to work with will depend on the kind of student you are. Are you very independant and happy to spend long periods of time without guidance? or do you prefer to work with a hands-on supervisor who you will see on a regular basis?

Chances are if you go for the less important supervisor he/she will have lots more time for you whereas the important supervisor is likely to be very busy with other committments and hence will probably have less time for you. They might also be a lot more demanding in terms of what they expect you to produce during your PhD. This might not be the case, but its my observation of the supervision styles of experienced/well respected supervisors vs new/inexperienced supervisors.


As regards money it depends on your financial situation and how much you think a PhD at Oxford is worth? Personally I think, having a PhD from Oxford could well give you a big edge in todays very competative job market if you decide to go into industry after.

If you want an academic career I'm not sure that it matters too much where you do your PhD provided you publish quality papers in well respected journals.

hope this helps


what subject is this? a supervisor who is completely his phd doesnt sound good ...


"a supervisor who is completely his phd doesnt sound good ..."....on so many levels.

How much time will he/she have for you? They're teaching and also completing their PhD. I would think (personally) you'll come way (way) down their list of priorities.


Thanks for the comments!

Oxford would be my personal favourite - all to do with Medical Computer Vision. The other place would be Artificial Intelligence in Computer Games - not my subject.

tbh the supervisor at the other place has delayed getting his PhD many times over due to other commitments, so you're right - I would most likely be way down on his list of priorities.

My trepidation is all to do with finance. I'm lucky in that my family have come forward to say they'll support me; and I've stashed away almost enough to sustain myself for the first year of a PhD at Oxford. I guess what I was wondering was how much the university name matters - I wonder if Oxford would close as many doors as it would open.


I doubt going to Oxford will close many doors for you. I'm on my way to Oxford for a masters in October and possibly a PhD after that... looking forward to it.


Well done on both your offers. I think there are questions you need to ask of both insitutions before making a decision...

1. The funded studentship. Usually I'd choose a funded place over a self-funding, as long as I was confident in the supervisor. But therein lies the difficulty. You say s/he hasn't any supervisory experience, and yet to complete their PhD? This rings loud alarm bells. Ok, supervisors have to start somewhere, but I think you need to find out more about this set up. At my place, anyone supervised by an academic who hadn't had a phD student before will usually be jointly managed by someone more experienced. Would this apply at your potential uni? I still think the fact thay they are working towards their own PhD could be a problem. Could you find out how far advanced they are? If they're about to submit, maybe, but if halfway through I'd have reservations.


2. Oxford self funding. Great place, great oppotunity, and there are several people on this forum who are there who would give you great advice about the uni, accomodaton, ethos, etc. Self funding is hard though, not just on the pocket. I can't speak from personal experience but have friends who are in the process of self funding who say that they often feel that they are not as "included" as their funded counterparts. They've described being just left to "get on with it" and feel that there is a marked divide between those to are funded and those who aren't. There are people on the this forum who self fund who I'm sure can offer a clearer perspective..

I think in this case you have to ask the Oxford team if there are any realistic possibilities of you being able to secure funding later on in the PhD (I know people who've done this), and would they support you?


My airy-fairy take on it is to always go with your instinct and your heart. I think enjoying the topic is essential.

Also, if you enjoy your topic and are at an institution that you have great confidence in then the funding may well come later - you don't know. You may get lots of paid teaching and research assistant posts. You may be allowed a sabbatical to work somewhere. However, in London you shan't be able to change the reputation, insitution, the project or the supervisor...

If you can even vaguely work out how to fund your first few months, if you were my friend I would say go to Oxford! What an opportunity!

Anyways... Good luck with your decision!


That's a good point kronkodile. I would think that if yabbas has had a good enough backround to be accepted to read for a Doctorate and sussessfully transfers to a PhD after first year then the department should be able to source funding from somewhere. It would at least be a courteous for them to try.

Yabbas said the topic is Medical Computer Vision. I would of thought they should have plenty of dosh floating around in that area?


cheers guys 'n' gals!

kronkodile: I know how advanced they are. The answer is unfortunately "not very" - at least, he doesn't come across like he is. I have this feeling I'll be used as a pawn to further their own careers and possibly fill in their gaps - I guess the question is "is the funding good enough to go ahead with that premise". The secondary supervisor is experienced, but again is more concerned with his MBA atm.

Jayney: Thanks :) you made me all smiley now, lol.

rjb: Plenty of dosh - and plenty of competition

At 28 I feel my time is rapidly running out to compete in the applications stakes, I'd really rather obtain a doctorate ASAP.

Thanks once again everyone. It's great here! :D


"At 28 I feel my time is rapidly running out to compete in the applications stakes".

Not really the case. The forum, if not brimming over, has its fair share of mature PhD'ers: many of whom have found funding.


inexperienced supervisor: can also be a plus. my partner is in that situation: yet to finish his PhD but probably going to start supervising PhD students soon. he has seen how some other supervisors (the experienced ones) treat their students, and he has his own "very recent" experience of being a PhD student, and he is determined to do a better job. no guarantee that it works, though. high risk, but the chance of high gains!
if lacking experience becomes a problem, there is always the experienced second supervisor to go to.

having been self-funded for a while, i would choose funding over self-funding every time - given that the funded project lets me do something i'm interested in.
the good name of the uni is no guarantee AT ALL for a good PhD experience.
the point about having to move would be the least important on my priority list.


Yay! am glad you smiley. Will you let us know your decision?

take care,
J x