Is it worth doing a PhD at an unknown University?

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Is it worth doing a PhD at an unknown University???

Hi

I am considering doing a PhD in electronic engineering, at an unknown, under acknowledged University. When local people are asked they say, "oh, do they do engineering there?".

However the topic is great, really frontline smart stuff, and the supervisor is top notch too, with many contacts throughout the world. I would like to stay at the University but not to do a PhD that will hardly be recognised by anyone in industry.

Does anyone have any advise on this subject? Is it even worth doing a PhD in terms of pay and opportunity throughout the world.

Cheers
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
mgb_phys
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All that matters is the supervisor/group reputation.
Assuming you want to go into an academic career - if you just want to show off then a big name matters more, if you just want to be rich - don't do a PhD!

Good luck
 
  • #3
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I am often surprised at the good reputation of some supposedly unknown schools in specific fields. For instance, Rochester does top-notch classical optics, but perhaps most people would not guess this.

However, if the school is not known in your field, a "brand name" school would be an advantage.

Try talking to faculty about this, and realistically evaluate your chance of being accepted in a "brand name" school.
 
  • #4
mgb_phys
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Rochester is the home of Kodak so naturally optics research has grown up around it.
Especially for theoretical topics which don't need large facilities, or ironically for those needing huge international facilites - the university size doesn't really matter.
Sometimes a dept grows around one prof who just happened to like sailing or skiing and moved somewhere they wanted to live.
A good group will be well known in your field - even if nobody remembers which city it's in.
 
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  • #5
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That's the thing, the project has no real group based around it. It is just me and the professor at the University. He is most likely getting funding for the project at the end of next year to start building a group around the topic but, thats next year.

In saying that, the contacts that will be in, or working closely with the project are from big names such as University of California, University of Sydney, and Agilent Technologies.

I'm not experienced enough to see how this will pan out...
 
  • #6
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to me quality of instruction is all that matters but i'll be a theorest if anything. for an experimentalist i guess a big budget is important too.
 
  • #7
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I'm in a similar boat but I'm an ME. I like the research that I will be doing and the tight ties the school has with industry that my unknown university has, but the school is still small and unknown and I don't know how that will affect my career after graduation. I would like to think that the name of the university doesn't matter but its the work and publishing that justify your worth. But I don't know if employers actually think this way.
 
  • #8
Moonbear
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That's the thing, the project has no real group based around it. It is just me and the professor at the University. He is most likely getting funding for the project at the end of next year to start building a group around the topic but, thats next year.
I'd be REALLY cautious about starting a program at an unknown school when the project is not yet funded. If it was funded already, then I'd say go for it...getting funding by itself shows the project has merit and is recognized by the faculty member's peers. When it's not funded, there's no guarantee it ever will be, so you don't really have much guarantee that project can be done once you sign on.

As others mentioned, the overall reputation of the school itself is not a big deal. A top-notch researcher can pick a small school just because it's located near their family and they want to raise their kids in that area. Or, they might be looking for the challenge to build a new program in a place where there is no strong program already existing (especially good for those aspiring to move up into more administrative positions eventually). The limitation is that you won't have many other faculty to choose from as mentors, so you really want to have some certainty that you can pursue your interest with the one who is doing good work, and part of that is ensuring they have funding for it.
 
  • #9
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Depending on your career goals, I might be very worried about starting at an unknown university. Look at where the faculty members of other universities (or even this one) got their degrees. You'll almost certainly find that the same 20 institutions granted PhDs to upwards of 90% of faculty members anywhere. If you want a career in academia and you have the chance, going to one of those 20 schools appears to make your chances vastly greater.
 
  • #10
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But what if he wants a career outside of academia? Do industries really care where you got your PhD from?

Most PhD students and my unknown university get recruited about a year or two before graduation. Is this a common occurrence?
(Note: It is not my intention to hijack this thread.)
 
  • #11
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But what if he wants a career outside of academia? Do industries really care where you got your PhD from?
That's why I said "depending on his career goals". Actually, I have no idea what industry looks for in a job applicant.
 
  • #12
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Actually thats another question I am not sure on. What does industry look for? Will I even have much of an edge if I obtain a PhD?
 

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