Phd through a company


Hey guys,

A person in my university says he can get me in with a funded project that this company is undertaking and says I can get a research phd this way.
Can anyone tell me how this works? If I'm working for this company on their project, surley I can't just take their project and write up a phd of my own using their idea and research??

Thanks guys!

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

This sounds like a teaching company scheme. You probably find you have to register for MPhil first then at the halfway stage, if there is evidence of sufficient new data or original findings, be upgraded to PhD.

The finances may vary and it may be that a funding council may provide the money as a bursary for fees and student maintenance. The company will have a project in mind that may involve a new development (allowing you use of their facilities), but need a knowledge input from an appropriate University. The company may additionally provide extra money for the student to travel between University and company site (may literally be half a country apart) and even extra money for the student to live on.

I applied for one of these a few years before I did my PhD, however, a director at the company involved refused to recognise the project and it fell through. The financial model I describe was that I was expecting to work to. One of my predecessors on my PhD project worked to the above model also.

I know of a Swedish student who was upgraded to PhD from MPhil (teaching company). Whilst a UK University, the company was also based in Sweden and the funding was provided from Sweden.

If you do a PhD by this approach, you can gain more salable works experience with a company that leads to a real world product development and this helps dispel the so-called 'academic' air of PhDs emerging from Universities that many employers say we have.

Note the company is likely to want you to sign a confidentiality agreement, meaning your PhD thesis and related data may not be released to the public domain for up to five years. You'll find the company may veto or heavily vet information meant to appear in conference or journal publications. It's not all positive and and company politics may be an extra dimension you have to contend with.

Other financial models may well apply, so anyone else want to contribute to this discussion?

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)


I'm finding with my applications that any source of funding is scarce and if you really, really want a PhD and can't fund it yourself then you may have to seek any means possible. I part funded my MA by applying for a project grant with an educational development organisation. I used that project for my dissertation. It was good because although the project followed the organisations previous research it was relevant to me and I could still build on their original idea and bring something new. The company also invited me to present the project and findings at a national conference in London (expenses paid) and my name is credited in their literature, which has reached a wider audience than I could have alone. Yes, I would do it this way again and if I can't get studentship will source alternative funding. I'm sure there are positives and negatives in all PhD funding methods. Just find out what you are letting yourself in for first and if you can live with the parameters they set. Sounds interesting to me :-)


Not sure if this is exactly the same setup, but my PhD was funded partly by a big pharmacuetical company. Basically, they came up with a project, then they contacted the relevant supervisors at a uni, and together applied to a funding body for the rest of the money (and then advertised for a student). I therefore got a basic stipend from the BBSRC, and the pharma company paid me extra via a CASE studentship, which also included an allocation for travel to conferences and attendance on various courses etc. In my case, no confidentiality agreement was needed, as I was not working with any of the company's own drugs (I did refer to a few in my thesis, but just had to use code names and not give away any proprietary information! You may also have to make sure your thesis is not made freely available electronically via your uni).

Positives: I got to spend a lot of my time working at the pharma company, so got experience of working in industry as well as academia. I also had a number of supervisors from both places, so could call on a wider range of experts in my field. Also, the money is MUCH better than the basic stipend as I got an extra £3000 per year. The biggest plus point was the availability of high tech equipment at the company that I would never have had access to at uni, as well as skilled technicians to help out if anything went wrong! Oh, and the canteen did much nicer food :)

Negatives: never really belonging at either! Felt a bit caught in the middle at times, as my supervisors often had differing opinions on commercial vs. academic interests, and therefore each wanted my PhD to go in a slightly different direction. I won in the end though!! Definitely helped me to work on my negotiation skills. I have also heard of people in this situation having to actually 'work' for the company that are paying them so they have less time to spend on their PhD, but this was never the case for me.

According to my contract with the BBSRC, I was supposed to spend a certain amount of time at my industrial sponsor and a certian amount of time at uni, with money provided for travel between the two. However, I ended up spending most of my time with the company as they were much closer, and the uni didn't really care!

Overall, I would say it was a really good way of getting my PhD, particularly as I knew right from the word go that I didn't want to stay in academia. I think the experience I had of industry made my CV stand out a bit, and gave me more to talk about at interview! I work now for a science communications agency, and my 'insider knowledge' of the pharma industry has been a big bonus.

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

The joint company / Uni. PhD I applied for and the director refused to recognise was a CASE award in conjunction with an EPSRC bursary.

I guess it depends upon the company and the Uni. as to how well equipped they are respectvely. I found that when I finally did take up a PhD a few years later, the Uni. had better equipment than I'd seen in industry previously. That said, the Uni. concern had got it's hands on some serious grant money including that for my PhD.

Interestingly, my PhD Uni., a new University, was better equipped than the Russel Group Uni. where I did my aforementioned disasterous second post-doc. The new Uni.then closed down the group where I did my PhD, leaving all this cutting edge equipment to gather dust. I suspect the closure was ultimately over as little as restricting another group's access to an X-Ray Diffractometer (one of the more basic pieces of equipment in my PhD group's possession) as we needed to use it ourselves. By closing us, the other group got the X-Ray Diffractometer to themselves and discarded most of the rest.

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)