What does PHD stands for? Doctorate of Philosophy, shortened to PHD, which I am sure many do not know why is it called this way.  As the subject portrays, you are looking at a problem and trying to find out a solution for it, a scientific solution, you are hungry to know the answer, you are thirsty for the knowledge, you want to know the wisdom hence the name philosophy

On the other hand PHD is not for all fields, if you are a doctor, then your highest degree is MD (Medical Doctor), and if you are a lawyer your highest degree is LLD (Letter of the Law Doctor) or JD (Juris Doctor).


Many students enquire about PHD applications, most of them have no idea what is involved and do not even know the ins and outs of a proposal preparations. Many do not have the pre requisites such as a great research question and proposal, a good GPA or a high level of English language, references from proffessors who can vouch for you, and ability to research. In my 17-18 years of life as a counsellor I was able to obtain very few PHD acceptances to a very high caliber students; the word very few is literally said.  To add to this complication, we must also only apply to high ranked universities and to a few countries that are on the list.  Many of the Gulf countries stipulate few majors for Masters and PHDs at certain universities which makes our job even more difficult.


What students don’t know is that a PHD is like marriage, you are hugging the books, living in a library, your best friend is your supervisor, and your worst enemy is the supervisor too.  You will be cursing yourself for taking the decision to do a PHD, you will think of cutting your losses and returning home, you will be more than bored, and you will be changing your mind and going in circles when you search for something or the other. You will start with a theory in the morning (this is normal while having your shower) and by mid day the excitement tapers off, by night, when you are the only one in the library, you will be thinking of running in the parks and screaming.  Sometimes you may even stick a note on your supervisor’s door saying that you declare it a quit, and you return back the next morning very early to remove the sticky note from the door before the supervisor arrives.  Basically you slept on it.


Is it rewarding? No one can deny this fact;  the mere fact that someone answers your survey, means that they care about you and your studies.  The mere fact that someone will use your research to do his or her own research makes it worthwhile.  These days if your research is sited means the world for every university you are part of.  And don’t forget the benefits that you receive for just being a PHD holder, you may get a better salary, better job, less working hours and more research hours, invitations to speak around the world.  Basically PHD holders receive big perks.


Now that we had established some facts, lets go to the nitty gritty details and establish some  other facts:


Why do I want it: this is a basic question, you know that it takes long and its draining, then you must decide at the outset if you really want it and what purpose will it serve? If you just want it because you can become a minister, then I don’t think it’s a good enough reason, as the real time spent in doing a PHD and creating that thesis is why more inspiring than just being a minister!! I think that the job of a minister requires skills that a PHD holder may not have and diplomacy that is not exactly a criteria of PHD holders who are born to question everything (they are philosophers after all)


When do I have to go: a PHD is an invitation that can be taken up any time of the year (except the holidays of course) so there is no set timing like other programmes.  Universities know that when the inspiration attacks it cannot last forever so lets catch it fast if we can.


Where do I have to go: Check the lists of approved universities in your country, and apply only to those that are on the list.  The application takes around 9 months or a bit more, thus you don’t want to be wasting your time and then finding out that you cannot go to that universities.  Of course we would recommend supervisors in many universities and its up to you to speak with them and negotiate what you want to do.  And to this end I must add that professors at universities are people like us who were students before, so don’t be afraid of making a mistake.


What am I going to research?  Very good question, as this is the first thing you will be doing, the proposal you are submitting has the research problem, and all good universities list their professors and their research interest next to their names, from that you can contact the relevant professor.  If you want to do climate change for example, then you need to go the the department of climate change at the university and see what their professors are doing,

Maybe you can get one of them to help you.


How will I fund myself: if you are Gulf National then you can receive a scholarship from your government.  However most universities have money set aside for scholarship students.  Please note that in every exhibition I go to, my statistics says that 85-90% of the people who walk in that exhibition want to do a PHD.  So the money at the universities is not much to support everyone.  If you do not have the money but is able to do it, then there are lots of organizations around the world who would fund your research.  Also some countries have additional perks for PHD students, E.G. paying same fees as local students, the spouse can work, the children can go to schools for free.



Who will go with me: If you are married with children, then the thought of uprooting your family can be hideous, but it can be fun.  Your wife/husband need to know that you will be hugging books for the next five years.  An understanding of your time commitment must be ingrained into your spouses head.  To answer your question, the whole family can go with you.


Les go back to the practicalities of enrolling into a PHD programme.  If we put aside the problem of speaking to supervisors as the student has to do it himself/herself then the steps are quite complex, take a lot of time and a lot of interaction with the universities.


  • Identify what we call the match, as both the Universities and the students must be in congruence, taking into account their qualifications.
  • Identify possible university and programme options as well as matching the applicants’ qualifications.
  • Identify supervisors with similar research interest
  • Student contacts and dialogue with the supervisors
  • Outline the entry requirements for the PHD and related matters (Language tests and other tests)
  • Assist students to prepare for a Phd interview
  • Identify & apply for any potential scholarship that may be available


There are Do’s and Don’ts for PHD students and it’s a line that should never be crossed.

  • Never buy a proposal
  • Never buy a Phd
  • Never pay someone to write your proposal.

One day someone somewhere will find out.  The world is full of traps and you don’t want an extra trap in your life just because you will get double or triple your salary.  Its not worth it.


TIME: because time is of the essence, I encourage you to know your time limitation.  If you have none then you can be doing your PHD and working at the university for a long time ( I met someone who was doing his PHD and teaching for 11 years and 9 months, this is over 22 years ago when all of this was just like Mirage for me, I don’t know if her graduate or not yet).

Also you can do PHD part time, and online. Personally I feel its like imagining that glass of water on TV.



PHD by experience: well there are some universities who can provide PHD by experience, are these approved? Not sure, but I feel a person who has been writing articles for the news papers and researching all the time, he or she can get a research question from all of the research done, and can get the help of a supervisor at a university and can do a PHD in a short time.  In todays world time is of the essence, so we do need to think of where to spend it.




Writing retreats: now that you are registered, and of course you will be having writers block, don’t worry, many universities will take you to a writing retreat with no phone and no distractions.  Only you and your fellow PHD students.  Many swear that they had generated a lot of work in that retreat and were able to restart their writing

I have a final note which is as important as doing the PHD itself.  If you are living in one of the Gulf countries and want to use your PHD, then you need to ensure that you had spent a minimum of 30% of the time on campus.  The ministries around the gulf have a formula that they use to calculate the number of days spent abroad, and your passport would be the source used for this formula as every entry and exist to the country of PHD destination will be take into account.  If you are short of one day, then its dooms day, as your PHD will not be equivalized. This means that every agony you had gone through will not matter.  I felt that I must mention this as one of my friends had this same problem.



If you are hungry for knowledge and want to give the world, then do a PHD.