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20 Best PhD Schools in the World

Universities or any higher institution of learning is a great place that is said to provide many world-changing research opportunities, help to impact knowledge, and also train future world leaders.  Some universities are well known for their contributions and high level of educational quality in the different fields and degrees which they offer.  

Acquiring a PhD degree is another level of educational achievement which takes a lot of time and money. PhD students generally spend about five years or it could be lesser to obtain thier degree. Each program has its own specific degree requirements, and aside from those, you will want to make sure you find a program that both supports your project and research and one that pairs you with a helpful supervisor or advisor who is invested in helping you along the PhD road from the beginning to successful completion.

Access to the right resources — libraries, archives, laboratories, collaborative opportunities, and research materials — are also essential to PhD success, and finding the right combination of resources, support, and program requirements may mean looking outside of your current undergraduate or graduate institution. In fact, for many prospective PhD students, it can be beneficial to consider what other countries have to offer for PhD programs. Depending on the field of study, you might find your ideal program in another region or country.

PhD programs abroad may also offer advantages over the domestic options: more funding for the field of study you are specializing in; particular faculty or researchers that are working internationally on projects that interest you; opportunities for cross-cultural exchanges that will benefit your project; access to more grants or different types of financial aid normally not offered; or advancing your skills in translation or a foreign language. This last advantage can be particularly beneficial to PhD students whose fields demand proficiency in a second language.

These are the 20 Best PhD Schools in the World

Studying abroad is a big dream which many people want to achieve but getting the right institution of higher learning can be very challenging with so many schools with great learning centers. In this article, we have tried to streamline some of the top world best 20 schools which you can check and assist you in making your decision.

  1. Harvard University: this university tops the list of the best 20 universities to pursue your PhD degree because it is one of the best and famous institutions in the world. Harvard University is located in Massachusetts and it offers countless graduate and postgraduate degree programs. Harvard stands out as the best business school in the world but that does not limit it from offering other courses on science and research, engineering, education, and the social sciences which are taken up by a larger percentage of its students. Getting a PhD degree from Harvard is surely a life-changing opportunity anyone would not afford to miss out on.
  2. University of Pennsylvania: if you wish to study and obtain your PhD degree in the United States, the University of Pennsylvania is a great choice. This university is generally referred to as the first university established in America. It is well equipped with modern day infrastructures, libraries amongst other things. The University of Pennsylvania offers some of the best programs and PhD degrees you can wish to study.
  3. Princeton University: located in New Jersey is a good study destination to study both graduate and postgraduate programs. Princeton University offers scholarships even to its postgraduate students which assist them in funding their studies throughout their program. If you need to study abroad and in search for an institution of worthy learning, this institution is arguably one of the best.
  4. Columbia University: This University is one of the most popular study destinations among international students from different parts of the world. The Columbia University is situated in Manhattan, New York and has produced many world-class professionals and educators. The university provides high quality education with well equipped teaching halls from where its courses and programs are taught.
  5. University of Tokyo: this university is located in Japan and was founded in 1877. The university offers various degrees for graduate and postgraduate studies and many courses such as engineering, sciences and social sciences as well. Since it’s inception, the University of Tokyo has produced many world-class citizens from different walks of life.
  6. Yale University: Yale University is a private institution located in Connecticut and it is ranked as the third oldest university in America which was founded in 1701. This university offers many postgraduate and graduate courses and programs and obtain your phd degree from this university is not a bad choice.
  7. University of Chicago: is ranked among the oldest universities in Chicago and it was founded in 1890 by the American Baptist Education Society. The University offers both undergraduate and postgraduate studies and it is said to be one of the institutions where you can obtain your phd degree in any course.
  8. North-western University: this university is one of the oldest in Chicago and it was founded in the year 1851. The university is quite famous for its comprehensive studies and world class teaching techniques. North-western University offers different phd programs and courses and receives over 16,000 students each year into it’s an institution.  The university can be said to be one of the most eminent and sought after institutions in the world.
  9. Stanford University: is undeniably one of the most prestigious institutions in the world and it focuses on scientific studies, technological research and social science studies. This world-class university offers many phd programs and is sure one of the best universities where you can achieve your advanced studies with ease. Stanford university is located in California and also offers other extracurricular activities together with its study and research programs.
  10. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: this institution is well-known as a reputed place for studies in research and innovation. Studying at the Massachusetts institute is of great privilege since it comes in close proximity with universities of Stanford, Princeton and also Harvard. Pursing your phd studies in this institute is said to be a very good decision.
  11. Duke University: this university is located in North Carolina and ranked as one of the top best universities in the world currently. The university was founded in 1924 by James Buchanan Duke and since then has gone to produced world-class professionals in numerous fields. Due to the fact that the university has a lot of accredited courses and programs, it definitely put the university as one of the best choices to pursue your PhD studies.
  12. Imperial College London: founded in 1907, this institution is widely acknowledged as one of the best in the world. The imperial College London is widely acclaimed for it’s high quality of education in some specific courses such as in biomedical research, engineering and business. The higher institution of learning is another great place to achieve your aim of pursuing your doctoral studies.
  13. University of Edinburgh: this university is also located in the United Kingdom and was founded in 1583 making it one of the oldest higher institutions of learning. The University of Edinburgh is widely known to be the institution that carried out the experiment and created Dolly the sheep, which was the world’s first cloned mammal used in research. The university has a strong science background and students who want to achieve a PhD degree in science should accept only the best form of training in this institution.
  14. University of Paris: The University of Paris was founded between the years 1160 and 1250. The University of Paris has produced many influential people. The institution ranks very high among foreign students and you can achieve your PhD aspirations with ease in this country.
  15.  University of Cambridge: this university is the third oldest university in the whole world. The university offers a wide variety of degree programs and courses which students can take up in any field of their choice.
  16. University of Oxford: is acclaimed to be one of the famous universities in the world. The university offers many accredited courses and programs for both graduate and postgraduate studies.
  17. University of California: was founded in 1868 in Berkeley and has a long history of student activism. The institution has made huge contributions to science one of which is remarkable, the school’s Laboratory which has been linked to the discovery of 16 chemical elements the most by any single university.
  18. ETH Zürich: was founded in Zürich, Switzerland in 1855 and ranked among the top universities of the world in QS World University Rankings in year 2013, ETH Zürich is the top university in continental Europe. ETH Zürich is also well known for its prestigious architecture faculty, and Harvard Graduate School of Design offers an ETH Zürich architectural exchange program in the university.
  19. Cornell University: established in 1865 New York’s Cornell University has been admitting students from different parts of the world. Cornell University is well equipped with facilities that include;  the veterinary center, hotel administration, and industrial and labor relations schools in the country.
  20. Johns Hopkins University: this institution is known for its medical, science studies, and other numerous specialties such as; neurosurgery, heart surgery, and child psychiatry. The institution was established in 1876 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Recommended For You! – Top 10 PhD Scholarships for International Students

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Top Destinations Where You can Study for PhD at a Low Cost

Studying abroad entails so much, especially in financial needs. Funding can be very tasking and if you are in need of low cost destinations to study and obtain your PhD degree with low tuition fees, you can check below for some of the countries which have been highlighted here.

Germany: Germany is well known for its strong academic standards, high standards of living and free tuition (regardless of nationality)! As many as 43 German universities, in fact, feature among the global top 750 in the QS World University Rankings® 2019, including Technische Universität München (61st), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (62nd) and Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg (64th).  German cities featured in the QS Best Student Cities include Berlin, home to the currywurst museum and fleet of uber-cool algorithm startups, and Munich, famous for the jolly beer festival, Oktoberfest, it hosts every year.

France: With 11 universities among the global top 300 in the QS World University Rankings, including Université PSL (ranked 50th in the world) and Ecole Polytechnique (65th). France offers low PhD tuition fees at its public universities. Although the fee may be higher in a Grande École, public universities in France will charge a nominal fee of approximately €380 (~US$440) a year. Top student cities in France include Lyon, Toulouse and of course Paris – which is consistently ranked in the top five of the QS Best Student Cities index thanks to its low tuition fees and high concentration of internationally recognized universities.

Finland: Tuition fees are completely free for all PhD students in Finland, regardless of nationality. And Finnish capital Helsinki, ranked 75th in the QS Best Student Cities, is home to two of the world’s top 150 universities, the University of Helsinki and Aalto University. Also noteworthy are Finland’s wide, open spaces and incredible natural phenomena such as the eerie midnight sun and the gorgeous Aurora Borealis, which fires up the Finnish night sky about 10 to 20 nights a year.

Sweden: The EU country with the highest percentage of renewable energy, Sweden has no less than 29 gorgeous national parks and 4,000 nature reserves. The progressive politics for which it is known are also reflected in its higher education system. Tuition is free for all students at the doctoral level in Sweden, and there are quite a few scholarships available to cover living costs, via the Swedish Institute, for instance, or individual universities. Eight Swedish universities feature in the global top 350 in the QS World University Rankings, including Lund University, ranked 92nd in the world, and KTH Royal Institute of Technology at joint 104th.

Norway: tuition at public universities in Norway is free for all students, regardless of nationality. You will need to pay a small semester student union fee to cover things like exams and sports facilities, which is typically no more than NOK 300-600. Of course, as with all Nordic countries, living costs are still high, meaning you’ll likely want to find a scholarship to help. In terms of universities, there are four Norwegian universities in the QS World University Rankings, led by the University of Oslo at 135th.

Academic Requirements for Studying PhD Programs Abroad

Before you can be admitted to study for any PhD program abroad, there are some general requirements that you must provide. Also, depending on the university and course of study, other criteria may be needed to enable you to get your desired place in the institution. Below is an overview of some of the general requirements of studying a PhD program abroad.

  • A First or Upper Second Class Bachelor’s degree.
  • A relevant master’s degree, with Merit and a minimum average grade of 60% in both the taught course units and on your dissertation.
  • English language proficiency test is compulsory for students whose first language is not English. Some of the acceptable and required test proof can be;
  1. IELTS test
  2. TOEFL test
  3. Pearson Test of English
  4. Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)
  5. Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE)
  • English language test validity is usually not more than two years and your English Language test report must be valid on the start date of the programme.
  • Proof of sufficient funds to support you throughout your program.
  • A valid international passport
  • Previous research statements of the student work
  • A curriculum vitae
  • A valid health insurance policy must be taken amongst other things.

Top 5 Reasons You Should Study Your Phd Program Abroad

Studying abroad at a prestigious institution can be life changing, creating more opportunities in your choose career field. There are numerous reasons why you can chose to study abroad but here below are highlighted a few for your perusal.

1. Life changing opportunities: As you start to narrow down your research interests, you may find that there are only a small number of universities in your home country that have PhD programs in your field or faculty that work in your research area. Applying internationality will give you more options in terms of both programs and potential supervisors. Additionally, if your research requires access to certain museums, sites, libraries, archives, or equipment, studying in another country might facilitate your access.

2. Access to better funding: It may be significantly cheaper to do your PhD abroad. Tuition fees vary widely across the world, especially at the doctorate level. PhD students in Germany and Sweden for example do not have to pay tuition fees. In addition to saving money on tuition, you could actually get paid to do your PhD if you study overseas. In many European countries (including France, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Norway) PhD students are seen as employees rather than students and so they are paid a monthly stipend. This is markedly different from the US or UK where tuition waivers and stipends are not guaranteed and often only available to top students or at top schools. Additionally, you might qualify for certain scholarships from your home country or in your destination country that are specifically for students studying internationally.

3. Shorter Time to Degree or Better Structure: While the basic elements of a doctoral degree are the same around the world, every country has a slightly different program structure. The best structure for you might not be the one in your home country.

  • Time to degree-Many European PhDs take three years to complete compared to five years or more in North America.
  • Teaching-In some countries, PhD candidates are required to gain a certain number of hours of teaching experience, while in others they focus entirely on their research projects.
  • Coursework-Most PhD students have to take a course or two during their degree, however in the US and Canada students typically must do two to three years of coursework before starting their dissertation research. While this gives them a more in-depth knowledge of the subject matter, it also increases the length of the doctoral program.
  • Lab rotations-In some countries it is common for first year PhD students to rotate through two to three labs in their first year to decide which lab they want to do their dissertation work in. Students who already know what they want to research might prefer to start working on their project and should look for PhD positions that are project-specific. Students who don’t know what they would like to research would benefit from a program that has students rotate through multiple labs their first year.

4. Widen Your Network: One of the perks of doing an international PhD is the chance to broaden your network by making connections in a new county. On a personal level, you will get to meet people and make friends from all over the world. Doing a PhD internationally can also help you if you want to work outside of your home country after earning your degree.

5. Embrace a New Culture: Studying internationally will allow you to gain a global perspective. You’ll be exposed to new ideas, teaching styles and academic cultures. You might even get the opportunity to learn a new language. While English is the lingua franca of research, it may not be the local language. Learning the local language will not only help you navigate your new country, it could also help you in your future job search. Many universities offer free or significantly discounted language courses for their doctoral students.

6. Job opportunities: studying abroad is very fulfilling, and many after their studies can get a job placement with a very good reward. Studying in countries such as; Canada, the United States, Germany and so on can grant one the life-changing opportunities which you need to boost your future and career on the right path.

Finally, there are many world-class institutions of higher learning around the world with high quality of education for both graduate and postgraduate studies which you can take up to achieve your PhD degrees.

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