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Posted on 6 Jan '22

6 Surprising English-Language PhD Destinations

There are a huge range of potential destinations available for your PhD and – present circumstances aside – they're a lot more accessible than you might think. One of the reasons for this is that many countries deliver doctoral programmes in English. Here are a few you might not have thought of. You can learn more with the free study abroad webinar at our PhD LIVE virtual event this month.

If you’re looking to study a PhD abroad, you’ve probably already considered some of the major anglophone postgraduate destinations: the UK, USA, Canada and Australia are extremely popular with international doctoral students, and with good reason.

But it’s worth widening your search to include some countries that you might not have otherwise considered for their English-language PhD programmes. Whether you’re looking for the chance to expand your cultural horizons or engage in cutting-edge research in a different kind of environment, these places will have you covered.

Hong Kong

Despite Hong Kong’s relatively small size – both geographically and in terms of population – this territory punches well above its weight in the world of higher education. Out of its 22 universities, five Hong Kong institutions rank in the world’s top 200 according to the Times Higher Education’s rankings – pretty impressive for a territory of just over seven million people.

English is one of Hong Kong’s official languages, so there’s no shortage of English-taught PhD programmes at its universities. If you want to study a PhD at one of Hong Kong’s prestigious University Grants Committee-funded institutions, there are government scholarships on offer for talented research students. For example, the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme provides successful applicants with an annual stipend of around USD $39,700 and travel allowance of USD $1,700 for up to three years.

For more information, check out our guide to studying a PhD in Hong Kong or browse Hong Kong PhDs.


Israel is another small country that invests heavily in research and development. In fact, Israel is ranked number one in the world for R&D as a proportion of GDP! And, while Hebrew and Arabic are Israel’s official languages, English is widely-spoken and the language of instruction for many PhD programmes in Israel.

Whether you’re interested in investigating Jerusalem’s sacred sites or using your research as a springboard for a start-up in innovative Tel Aviv, Israel offers plenty of unique PhD opportunities. It’s common for Israeli universities to waive PhD tuition fees and many institutions offer a range of scholarships to help doctoral students with living and research expenses.

For more information, read our guide to studying a PhD in Israel or browse Israeli PhDs.

New Zealand

Sometimes overshadowed by its antipodean neighbour, New Zealand makes for a compelling PhD destination. Despite the small size of its higher education system, all eight New Zealand universities rank in the 2021 Times Higher Education league tables.

International PhD students in New Zealand are charged tuition fees at the same level as domestic students, while the local government runs a competitive, generous New Zealand International Doctoral Research Scholarship (NZIDRS) scheme to support talented PhD students during their time in the country.

And, of course, New Zealand itself is a stunning place to study a PhD, with unparalleled research opportunities involving Ecology, Anthropology and much more.

To find out more, read our guide to studying a PhD in New Zealand or browse New Zealand PhDs.


The Emerald Isle has a long and proud history of academic excellence, producing plenty of prominent figures in the Arts and Humanities (James Joyce and Samuel Beckett spring to mind) as well as ground-breaking scientists like Ernest Walton.

Ireland has a unique position as one of only two countries in the Eurozone where English is an official language (along with Malta). This helps explain the number of multinational companies that have their headquarters in Ireland – perhaps one of these could be the perfect place to put your research into practice?

For more information, take a look at our guide to PhD study in Ireland or browse Irish PhD programmes.

The Netherlands

The Dutch have long been known for their extremely high levels of English proficiency, and you’ll find that English is the de facto language of choice in the Netherlands’ diverse, international universities and workplaces.

Dutch universities feature heavily in global ranking metrics. In fact, only the USA, UK and Germany have more institutions in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings than the Netherlands – not bad for a country of 17 million people!

In the Netherlands, PhD students are usually treated as employees by their universities, with all the associated benefits such as a salary and teaching responsibilities. You’ll also be able to enjoy the presence of a ceremonial bodyguard at your thesis defence (we’re not joking).

Check out our guide to PhD study in the Netherlands or browse Dutch PhDs.


As the birthplace of the modern PhD, Germany seems a fitting place to conclude this blog. In the 19th century, Germany was where the doctorate became a way of demonstrating that students had made an original contribution to knowledge in their field. In other words, German universities have a pretty impressive pedigree (or should that be ‘pe-degree’?).

Germany is also famous for the Max Planck Society, a network of research institutes that host PhD programmes and have also been responsible for producing some 18 Nobel laureates.

And, while German is the language of instruction of instruction for most PhDs in Germany, the sheer size of the higher education system – and its international outlook – means that there are plenty of English-language doctoral programmes to apply for. Plus, there are no PhD tuition fees at public universities in Germany – regardless of nationality.

Find out more about PhD study in Germany or browse German PhD programmes.

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Last Updated: 06 January 2022