Tuesday, April 3

Why I'm applying for a PhD in the US and not in Britain

EDIT: I will write detailed posts on funding in the UK and some other topics later on J.

For quite a while I've been keen to apply for PhDs in International Relations or Political Science. By chance I stumbled upon the application information for a US program and was amazed at the contrast with the UK.

Despite being pretty much set on the idea of applying to programs in the US I'm going to run through a few of the things that led me to this conclusion.

Britain vs America  (at a glance)
- Poor funding.

In most cases you must first pay for a masters degree (varies). 

Scholarships (ESRC & University provided) are available, but funding is less common. If you’re interested look up www.jobs.ac.uk
-  Great funding at most schools

Certain state schools are contrary to the norm e.g University of California, San Diego
- 3 years to completion

The short time frame means you must have an implementable research proposal with little room for change over time.

A Masters degree is required and the majority of scholarships will not cover this. Fees are commonly £5,000 and go up to £10,000 at Oxford and £13,000 at LSE.
- 5-7 years to completion 

Plenty of time to identify academic interests, but significant cost in lost earnings.
- 'Inferior' training from a US perspective

No coursework requirement (we focus more as undergrads)

Limited methods training - largely trained in what you need for your project alone.

A barrier to employment in the US.
- 2 years of coursework + methods training

Possibly some repetition on the coursework, especially as I will have completed a 4 year degree almost entirely in International relations.

The graph is sparser than I intended, but it's very difficult to compare the broad range of differences even within the countries. I'm sure it will get bigger with time though.

To me there is simply no comparison. In the UK funding is sparse and requires a firm idea of your research interests with fewer opportunities for person and academic development.

I'm lucky that my academic interests are focused more in line with US academia too. I doubt a critical security studies theorist or post-structuralist would be encouraged to study there. Should certainly be considered in light of recent comments by some academics on the heterodox psuedo-scientific nature of the discipline and graduate training.

Finally, a great video on why many of us are heading to postgraduate/graduate education, though I hope these aren't my real reasons.. ;)

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