Among the points listed in the post “8 things to do before applying for a PhD program“, selecting the preferred universities is the most important thing. As the admission process involves many steps–filling an application, attaching diplomas and transcripts, writing aptitude and language tests, getting recommendation letters, preparing motivation letters and creating research interest –aspirants would require more time to prepare for each university. So, they should narrow down their preference to 5-6 universities instead of applying to all the good ones. This post sheds light on how to select management PhD universities based on 2 parameters and explains why those 2 parameters are more than enough.
Funding and Course structure are the most important parameters for choosing a university.
First, let us look into funding. Scholarship/Funding is the lifeline of a PhD student to manage academic and family expenses. The average age of a PhD student is between 28-32 years. For example, if we take the Sasin School of Management, one of the best management schools in Thailand, the average age from the PhD class of 2011-2018 is 29. In this age group, the aspirants would likely be married and have kids to take care of. For example, I am married and my daughter will be a year old if I join in the 2022 fall. So, as soon as the aspirants leave their current job, they depend on PhD stipends to meet their financial requirements. Therefore, it is highly recommended to study at a university that provides generous financial support.
The funding should cover 3 parts: living expenses, academic costs, and savings.
Living expenses are spends that you need to survive in the city where you live. Costs like house rent, food, clothing, leisure activities come under living expenses. Academic expenses are those that are part of studies such as annual tuition fees, conference expenses, exchange program costs etc. All costs within and outside the institution related to the PhD program belong to academic expenses. To support your family, you should save a certain amount, which is called savings. Smart PhD candidates will ensure they get all the financial benefits from the university. Since the PhD program takes a minimum of 4-5 years, living expenses and savings amounts are crucial for healthy personal and family life.
Next, we should look at the program structure. Before starting the PhD thesis, all students should master the research techniques. Regardless of background, it is advisable to spend at least 2 years in core and advanced courses related to research. For instance, if we take INSEAD, one of the best B-schools in Europe, the course structure is divided into 2 phases: during years 1 and 2, students should complete coursework and explore research areas; during years 3,4 and 5, students should propose and complete their dissertation, the final research project of a PhD program. While mastering the research techniques in the first two years, students can finalise the topic of their dissertation; this duration also helps students to find their dissertation advisor, a professor who guides the PhD student. Overall, a PhD program with a 4-5 years academic structure is a much more beneficial model when compared to an exclusive 3-year PhD program.
One may wonder why these 2 parameters are paramount? Why shouldn’t one consider the quality of professors, the possibility of publishing in the top journals, or the job opportunities after the PhD program? These perspectives are valid. However, as per my research in the last 6 months, it takes so much time to filter the universities if we sort them by professors, research, or job. Additionally, one cannot be sure whether the comparison will hold true for the long term. On the other hand, if we go by funding and course structure, we can shortlist the top universities within a short time. As top universities have reputed professors and consist of high infrastructure for research, they attract the highest funding which is eventually passed to their PhD students. These universities also have a 4-5 years course structure that mandatorily require the students to complete research techniques in the first 2 years. Unless students secure the minimum course credit points in the first 2 years, they cannot begin their PhD dissertation. This course structure forces students to excel in their PhD research work which eventually opens the door for premium job opportunities.
In summary, instead of looking at many parameters to shortlist a PhD university, just go for the highest funding university that offers 4-5 years academic structure. They will take care of all the other requirements.
Thank you for reading the full article! In the next series of posts, I will explain the admission requirements of my preferred universities. Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions, please type them in the comments section.