20 Best PhD Schools in the World

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Universities, or any higher institution of learning, provide many world-changing research opportunities, help impart knowledge, and train future world leaders. Some universities are famous for their contributions and high levels of educational quality in the different fields and degrees (Bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD) they offer. 

Acquiring a Ph.D. degree is another level of educational achievement that takes a lot of time and money. Ph.D. students generally spend about five years, or it could be less, to obtain their 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 pairs you with a helpful supervisor or advisor who will help you along the Ph.D. road from the beginning to successful completion.

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Access to the right resources—bibliographies, archives, laboratories, collaborative opportunities, and research materials—is also essential to Ph.D. 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.

Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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 that many people want to achieve, but getting the right institution for 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 world’s 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 Ph.D. degree because it is one of the best and most 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 a larger percentage of its students take. Getting a Ph.D. degree from Harvard is surely a life-changing opportunity anyone cannot afford to miss out on.

2. University of Pennsylvania

If you wish to study and obtain your Ph.D. degree in the United States, the University of Pennsylvania is a great choice. This university is generally one of the first universities in America. It has modern-day infrastructure and libraries, among 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 for 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 are in search of 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. Columbia University is situated in Manhattan, New York, and has produced many world-class professionals and educators. The university provides high-quality education with quality teaching halls.

5. University of Tokyo: 

This university is 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 its 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 in Connecticut and ranks as the third oldest university in America. It was founded in 1701. This university offers many postgraduate and graduate courses and programs, and obtaining your Ph.D. degree from this university is not a bad choice.

7. University of Chicago: 

The University of Chicago ranks 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 is 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 1851. The university is quite famous for its comprehensive studies and world-class teaching techniques. North Western University offers different Ph.D. programs and courses and receives over 16,000 students each year into its 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 Ph.D. programs and is sure to be 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 along 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 a great privilege since it comes in close proximity to the universities of Stanford, Princeton, and Harvard. Pursuing your Ph.D. studies at this institute is a very good decision.

11. Duke University

This university is in North Carolina and is ranks as one of the best universities in the world. The university was founded in 1924 by James Buchanan Duke and, since then, has produced world-class professionals in numerous fields. The fact that the university has a lot of accredited courses and programs definitely makes it one of the best choices to pursue your Ph.D. studies.

12. Imperial College London

Founded in 1907, this institution is widely acknowledged as one of the best in the world. Imperial College London is famous for its high quality of education in some specific courses, such as biomedical research, engineering, and business. The higher institution of learning is another great place to achieve your goal 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 education institutions. 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 Ph.D. degree in science should accept only the best form of training at 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 highly among foreign students, and you can achieve your Ph.D. 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 that students can take up in any field of their choice.

16. University of Oxford

This is one of the most famous universities in the world. The university offers many accredited courses and programs for both graduate and postgraduate studies.

17. University of California

This university 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

This university was founded in Zürich, Switzerland, in 1855 and ranked among the top universities in the world in the QS World University Rankings in 2013. ETH Zürich is the top university in continental Europe. ETH Zürich is also famous for its prestigious architecture faculty, and Harvard Graduate School of Design offers an ETH Zürich architectural exchange program at 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 has facilities that include a veterinary center, hotel administration, and industrial and labor relations schools in the country.

20. Johns Hopkins University

This institution is famous for its medical and scientific studies and numerous specialties, such as neurosurgery, heart surgery, and child psychiatry. The institution was established in 1876 in Baltimore, Maryland.

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

Studying abroad entails so much, especially financial needs. Funding can be very challenging, and if you are in need of low-cost destinations to study and obtain your Ph.D. degree with low tuition fees, you can check below for some of the countries here.

1. Germany:

Germany is famous 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, which it hosts every year.

2. 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 consistently ranks in the top five of the QS Best Student Cities index thanks to its low tuition fees and high concentration of internationally recognized universities.

3. 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.

4. 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 famous for also reflects 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.

5. 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 gain admission to study for any Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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 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 program.
  • 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 chosen career field. There are numerous reasons why you can choose to study abroad but we list some here 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 Ph.D. 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), Ph.D. 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 are often only available to top students or at top schools. Additionally, you might qualify for certain scholarships from your home country or from 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 European PhDs take three years to complete, compared to five years or more in North America.
  • Teaching In some countries, Ph.D. 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 some countries it is common for first-year Ph.D. 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 Ph.D. 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 during 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 country. 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 access 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 people. This is because 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 that 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 Ph.D. degree.

Let’s Help You

You are wondering how to go about processing your admission to a Ph.D. in schools abroad. Don’t worry! We’ve got your back! Enrolling in the top universities in the world can increase your chances with employers. Unfortunately, it can be quite expensive to study abroad due to the current economic crisis. But this shouldn’t limit you, as there are other options you can explore to enhance your career. 

MPower Finance and Prodigy Finance are some of the best student loan providers for international students. They also do not require a cosigner or collateral before an application. At EdXtra Associates, we can help you with your loan application process. We also provide educational consulting services for international students to help make their journey easier and faster. You can reach out to us, as we’d love to guide you through this journey. 

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