How is a PhD in Europe different from a PhD in Asia?
Question: How is a PhD in Europe different from a PhD in Asia?
By: Dr Stephen Whitehead
The key differences between PhDs lies not so much between Europe and Asia, but between the USA and the UK, though European universities can have differing methods of assessment process (viva).
So when looking at Asian university doctorate processes, observe whether they follow the US or UK model.
The US Model
This follows a taught doctorate approach with PhD students spending 1–4 years in taught classes, producing module coursework (essays) before proceeding to production of a single dissertation (2–4 years).
USA students can potentially spend 6 years, full-time, on their PhD study. Only in the final thesis stage does the doctoral candidate undertake original research, leading typically to production of a 50–60k word thesis. In effect, the first two to four years of a US PhD are a lot like a Masters, and indeed some US universities may not make a distinction between an MA and PhD at this early stage. Only when the student has passed the taught element will they normally be permitted to move onto formal doctoral research.
Final thesis assessment is typically a comprehensive exam process, likely involving oral examination, debate with supervisors/examiners, presentation and defence of your doctoral dissertation.
The UK Model
Doctoral candidates submit a formal and quite comprehensive PhD proposal through the university channels, usually under guidance from their likely PhD supervisor. Once the candidate has had that proposal examined, assessed and passed by all relevant university committees (including the ethics committee) then the candidate will be enrolled as a doctoral candidate and can proceed to full research mode.
A full-time UK PhD takes a minimum of three, maximum of four years. Though extensions can be given upon formal request. In effect, unlike the USA model, the UK model ensures the PhD candidate proceeds to full and pure research from the outset. The only exception to this rule is if the university requires the candidate to undertake concurrent MA-level research methods training, usually lasting one or two semesters.
The candidate produces a 90,000 word thesis (note, UK theses are sized on word count, not page numbers as in the USA), excluding footnotes/endnotes, bibliography, appendices. Assessment is by viva voce only. This typically involves an internal (university professor) and external professor both reading and examining the final thesis, after which the candidate will submit to an oral examination/defence of their research.
The examination will conclude with the candidate being given one of four outcomes; fail; significant rewrite; minor rewrite; full pass with no alterations.
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