Off campus PhD


I'm only in the fourth month of my PhD in London and I'm having great difficulties adjusting to student life abroad. I'm a mature student and quit my job and moved country to do this PhD. I did a research focussed MSc at the same uni, same field of work, same supervisor and I absolutely loved it! I thought this was going to be as amazing, learning how to do research, something I would like to continue. But this time around I feel utterly miserable, have been physically sick and have no clue where al the enthusiasm and passion has gone. I cannot motivate myself and am BORED out of my mind! In addition, the need to settle down has unexpectedly kicked in and I want to do this in my home country. Therefore I was thinking about doing the PhD off campus, in my home country (Europe) and come to London once every month (or more or less) to meet up with my supervisors.


Does anyone on this forum have experience with an off campus PhD? What are your thoughts about not being in academic department while doing research? I should add I'm doing social research with data collection in my home country, so no lab required.
P.S.: my alternative is to quit and look for a job again.


I don't know anyone in that situation personally, but my supervisor has two other PhD students - one based in LA and the other in Canada. Their work is all emailed and they have all their discussions on Skype. Also, he did tell me once that if I wanted to move abroad at any point, that would be fine and I needn't give up my PhD.

I think it depends firstly on your uni and secondly what your supervisor can persuade them of. Mine is technology mad, he's an online conference nut and loves the idea that PhDs can be done by students based anywhere in the world. My advice would be to ask your supervisor(s) and see what they say.


I remember a Prof. as my place telling me he physically sees certain of his PhD's (Saudi ones apparently) only about once a year. Most conversations are undertaken through iChat or by phone, with work being emailed back and forth.


If you will live outside of the UK and will go to the university only once in a while, it might be even worse.
Mainly because, you might feel like sitting on two chairs at once without proper commitment to anything you do. MSc is brilliant because it provides a shorterm change, opportunity to get fresh experiences but knowing that it will end soon. PhD is a serious relatively long-term commitment, and believe me, in the first year it seems that it will never ever end. If you go to work away, the other things will take over, and PhD might turn into never ending story.

My 1st year of PhD I spent living between 2 countries Uk where I was doing PhD and one of European countries where I was continuing to work part-time in my previous job.I would not suggest anyone to do the same, if they want to get on with PhD and make progress.



I am a working away student I am working with owls and decided that I did not want to move back into halls and was kind of done with certain aspects of student life. I do miss living on campus, but I am definatetly more happy in my home time. I find it relaxing to work in my own time frame and I just email my supervisor or pick up the phone if I need something. He doesnt give the much supervision anyone, so he doesnt mind. It feels really nice.

It can be harder to motivate yourself. I do miss having friends about me, but I realised that doing a PhD was quite lonely compared with an MSc and undergrad anyway. I would say go for it and be a working away student. You can always move back anytime


Hi - I am based in Italy but am doing my PhD in the UK. I am currently spending five months in the UK but will be going back and forth for the rest of my time (doing the bulk of my research in Italy). I can't really say what it's like though as I've only just started! I plan to Skype mainly - will see how it goes!


verdy - I see what you mean, but I would be doing the PhD full-time off-campus. I would consider that to be sitting on only one chair, with full commitment to the PhD, with the only difference being living in a different country.
emilyowl - I think you are right about feeling happy where you work. It brings much needed balance! And I think that is exactly what I am missing. Too much PhD, too little life!
Tortellini - please keep me posted on your experience! I would love to hear how you find the off-campus experience.
I will definitely bring up the subject next week with my supervisors and hope we can come to some sort of agreement.


In that case, are you sure that you will be doing PhD and only Phd, that you wont take up any other responsibilities? Wont you feel isolated, I mean, if you dont have around people who do the same things (ie PhD), you wont have anyone (apart from your supervisor 1 a month) to discuss things related to it, share experiences etc. I found it very motivating to meet other PhD students on regular basis and just have a chat about how it is going. 'Normal' people usually notdo not understand what does doing PhD mean:)


i have been commuting back and forth between germany and the netherlands for the past five years (i'm currently an MA student in germany). i'm working at a research institute in NL while finishing off my studies in germany. i've noticed that although i make sure to keep in regular contact with my prof in germany (whom i worked for before for years as an assistant), relations aren't as hearty/friendly as they used to be, purely because i'm not there often enough. i also don't have a clue about what's happening at the department in germany. it's not a good situation for me and i would never do this again if i could help it, i feel totally out of it all. fortunately i will be finished by september.


i also really miss having contact with other students who are in the same phase as me (writing up my MA thesis/doing final exams) who understand my problems and could give me support.


Hmm, that's exactly my concern. Would I make things worse and isolate myself even more if I move away? I would have my life back, be able to buy a house and be happy personally...and that might be just what I need to get going again.
The only thing I do know is that what I'm doing now is not working. I'm too stressed and am not getting anything done at all.