Does it Matter Where You Get Your PhD? | FindAPhD.com
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Does it Matter Where You Get Your PhD?

Completing a PhD is all about making an original contribution to your field and honing your skills as an independent researcher. By the time you graduate, you’ll have unique academic insights to your name (and that much-coveted ‘Dr’ in front of it). So, does it really matter which university you graduate from?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. The reputation of a university is just one of many factors you should consider when deciding whether to do your PhD there!

University prestige and career prospects

The prospect of advancing your field should be a major motivator when it comes to getting your PhD, but career considerations are also likely to be high on your priority list.

The good news is that just by earning a doctoral qualification, you’re already placing yourself at a significant advantage, whether you’re seeking an academic or non-academic position. Research shows that PhD graduates are more likely to secure professional roles, and earn higher wages, than those with a Masters.

Given this, a doctorate from a particularly prestigious university is likely to be a mere extra cherry on what will already be a very well-iced employability cake. This doesn’t mean that the cachet attached to studying at a top-ranked university shouldn’t factor in your decision at all, just that it probably isn’t worth agonising over.

Looking beyond rankings

The ranking and reputation of a university also aren’t things you should be considering in isolation. Rather than fixating on how impressive the name of a particular institution will look on your CV, think about features that have earned that university its reputation, and how useful they are likely to be for your own research.

For example, what facilities will be available for your? Does the university have a particular specialism in your area of interest? Whether a university is home to a supervisor with research expertise that closely matches your project is likely to be a more important consideration than its position on a league table!

It’s also worth remembering there are no postgraduate-specific rankings (though a good understanding of the methodology behind league tables can still help you make use of them!). This means that while league tables can be one useful resource in your search, they are unlikely to capture everything you should care about as a prospective PhD student.

A possible alternative to standard rankings for UK students is the Research Excellence Framework (REF). This is a nationwide assessment for the research being done at UK universities which is published every six years. It assesses each institution’s research based on output, impact and environment.

The REF was most recently published in 2021. You can browse the results on our website and read our accompanying guide for advice on how to interpret them.


To wrap up, it would be inaccurate to say that the reputation of a university doesn’t matter at all when it comes to choosing where you should do your PhD. There will doubtless be some correlation between the ranking of an institution and how good its research opportunities are likely to be, as well as the doors a doctorate from there might open in the future.

But the most important thing to consider is how good a match the university is for your project in particular. Make sure you look beyond ranking and reputation; what facilities, expertise and networking opportunities can an institution offer in your particular field.

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Last Updated: 28 February 2024