Industry/Employer Funding Concerns


Dear all,

I've been trawling though the topics in this forum for the last few weeks but this is my first post (sorry it's a long one).

Recently, I have been offered funding for a PhD by my employer. I would be working part time on the PhD and part time for the company. The company would pay the tuition fees and I would earn enough from my part time work to live off (roughly equal to a stipend). As the company would be paying the fees, my employer has strong opinions about what the PhD topic would be. Although he says there could be quite a lot of flexibility, he has quite a lot of specifics about the topic basically being a continuation of what I'm doing everyday in work at the moment and wants to get some papers published about it. I think his idea of flexibility and mine are quite different.

I realise funding isn't easy to come by but I have two concerns about this set up:

1. I don't have any form of formal contract for employment with the company and have been told I wouldn't be able to have a contract while doing the PhD because of the size of the company and intermittent nature of work that the company wins. There is significant potential for me to be left with no funding and no income at some point during the 5 years it will take to complete the PhD.

2. The upside to this set up would be that I would be able to use some of what I do in the job for my PhD, hence being able to complete a part time PhD in around 5 years. On the down side I think it would feel like I was doing my job for longer hours and less pay. Although what I do at work isn't boring, the topic my employer is proposing isn't something that I really want to spend 5 years of intense study on. Maybe I'm being unrealistic but I always thought that when I went back to academia for a PhD it would be for the love of the subject not just to get another qualification under my belt. From what I've read on this forum, PhD job prospects aren't that much different to staying in Industry. If this is the case is there much point in doing a PhD if you don't enjoy the journey?

I do really want to do a PhD and maybe the topic will grow on me. My question is should I take this opportunity? This is a difficult decision for me and could use some good advice.


Hopefully not too late, but it sounds like a tough situation where you need some impartial expert advice.

Maybe speak to your potential supervisor or potential head of department? They should have enough of a gut feel as to how it all works, and be able to lay down a framework with your employer about how it would need to work?