The lowdown on overseas hubs for PhD programmes

DESTINATION-WISE

Doctoral programmes in every country now follow standardised research protocols. The thesis outcome is shared through international publications, which add to the global pool of knowledge. Yet, some students prefer certain countries and departments over others. A PhD student is interested in the detailed exploration of the micro aspect of a topic. Hence, research excellence and publications of the individual thesis supervisor, as well as the funding received are critical factors that influence hisher choice.

US universities provide diverse choices. It is more likely for a candidate to receive full funding and work as a teachingresearch assistant. There are also more possibilities to work in modern labs, gain collaborative access to a large number of journals and books, find support for paper publication and international conference presentations as well as take part in intra-country discussion forums. A differentiating factor is the flexibility to choose the final research topic after a few months of coursework and study. PhD scholars are also attracted to the UK due to its academic rigour and focused research. The guide selects the student based on hisher proposed interest. Universities do not guarantee funds, but students may obtain a combination from the guide’s research funds and from Commonwealth and private organisations.PhD programmes

In Europe, a PhD student is paid a salary or granted a fellowship as she is required to join the team of an existing research project. Germany is noted for research areas related to automobile, mechanical, computer science and environmental engineering as also robotics. France attracts students who wish to conduct research in areas like renewable energy, public health, and information security. Ireland is a choice for students of biology and agricultural sciences. Switzer land, France and Germany lead in pharma-related research with more options for study in English than before. The Netherlands is known for research in arts subjects such as language, culture and psychology. Australia is the new favourite for Indian PhD candidates. It offers a variety of choices. Canada as well as Asian countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan are known for research. However, they are seen as the most `difficult’ options due to fewer spaces and high selectivity.

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UPCOMING AREAS AND TRENDS

Universities globally now try to ensure that research serves two main purposes -discoveries; and creating knowledge through research and work in partnership with businesses, the public sector and the third sector to transfer knowledge to research users to deliver economic, societal and cultural benefits regionally, nationally and internationally. Novel, multidisciplinary approaches are needed to solve many, if not all, of the big research challenges over the next 10-20 years framed within six priority areas like the digital economy; energy, global food security and global uncertainties; security for all in a changing world; living with environmental change; and lifelong health and well-being.

Research councils from across the world fund research with successive studies demonstrating the quality of the research base. The UK government announced a £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. Globally, multidisciplinary research challenges are em bodied in the themes of future cities, respond ing to the increased demand for design, construction and smart operation of sustainable urban in frastructure; resilient environments, ensuring that the built and natural environment and agriculture can withstand the implications of climate change; smart transportation, energy-efficient adaptive transport systems for people and goods and personalised medicine, utilising new technologies including epigenetics, etc, to create personalised therapies and treatments.

Universities are working to unleash the potential for creative techniques developed within the arts to be applied to the science and technology realm; design and delivery of new generations of enabling technologies; products and services.

­`MORE EXPOSURE’

I find it interesting to know how geologists look for evidence in rocks and trace millions of years of our planet’s history. This curiosity led me to carry out research in the Andes in Argentina and the Southern Alps in New Zealand as well as in the caves of Vancouver Island. I decided to pursue a PhD (in geology) at Stanford University and was awarded a fellowship that covers my expenses.While Indian institutes offer multiple research avenues, the ones abroad provide better research centres and more exposure. I have had insightful, inspiring conversations with almost everybody I have met and enjoy the diversity on campus.

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