I am talking about computer science. Recently I did survey on my own i mean informally. I find out that there are some researchers who were able to do PhD in same area in 4 year as compare to other researcher who did their PhD in 6 or 6.5 year's in the same research area. Is it depends upon the duration of the PhD of supervisor or it depends upon the country etc.

Question : Why does a PhD take a longer time in some countries? What factors affect this? Does it affect the research quality? I mean if I am taking more time I should have more quality research.

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    My PhD took 6 years. Another student -- same topic, same university, same advisor -- took 4 years. It's highly individual. – Thomas Mar 29 '18 at 18:26
  • @Thomas So you are saying it totally depends upon the person, but are the problems due to which it takes longer I mean is it due to the uncertanity in the research or individual learning speed. – alha hu Mar 29 '18 at 18:30
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    Research ... no telling how long it takes to solve a problem. Unlike the problems you have been given before, where they have been solved before, and the person posing it to you knows about how hard it is. – GEdgar Mar 29 '18 at 19:25
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    @alhahu I'm saying there are many factors, but often it just comes down to individual circumstances. – Thomas Mar 29 '18 at 19:47
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    I'm not sure if you are asking about the default time that the PhD studies should be finished (e.g., see here), or the actual time (i.e., including possible prolongations) that a particular candidate takes to finish their research. – user68958 Mar 30 '18 at 10:19

Many factors that vary systematically between countries may affect time to graduation.

Here is an incomplete list:

  • In the U.S., grad school starts with studying for an MA degree; in Europe, an MA is a prerequisite to joining grad school
  • whether or not PhD studies include classes
  • availability, generosity and length of funding, vs. necessity to earn a living while working on the PhD
  • incentives to delay graduation vs. incentives and opportunities to join the labor market as soon as possible
  • quality of supervision and extent of leeway to pursue own interests and potential dead ends.

I'm not aware of any empirical studies testing each factor's relevance.

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    I'd add that it varies a lot by field, as well, not just country. For example, in the biological sciences there is almost never a PhD that takes fewer than 4 years in the U.S. in part because masters degrees are not required for entry, whereas in engineering it is quite common to have a brief PhD if you already have a masters degree. – Bryan Krause Mar 29 '18 at 21:32
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    @Bryan Krause by country, by university, and by person! – henning -- reinstate Monica Mar 30 '18 at 4:55
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    In the UK you can go BSc -> PhD directly, without a Masters degree. In the UK, many (all?) Masters take 1 year, while on the rest of the European Continent they take 2. – DetlevCM Mar 30 '18 at 7:11
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    "In the U.S., grad school starts with studying for an MA degree" Maybe sometimes, but often the student gets a PhD but does not receive a Master's degree. And it could be called an MS. – Anonymous Physicist Mar 30 '18 at 8:50
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    It is not even true that all PhD students in the US automatically qualify for a master’s degree if they drop out early. My department’s PhD program has significantly lighter course requirements than our MS program. – JeffE Mar 30 '18 at 13:43

Just to add a few cents to henning's answer with a background of computer science in Germany:

  • In the US, a PhD is more regulated then e.g. in Germany. You are more focussed on one topic. In Germany, you often start in a broad range of topics and you'll have to find your specific topic in your first year.
  • You often have other assignments like project management, writing grant applications or supporting grant applications, giving lectures, etc. This distracts you from your thesis, but will give you many management skills you'll need in your post-doc phase or in industry.
  • Sometimes you are a victim of circumstances, e.g. partners not delivering stuff, sickness, family issues, ...
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  • In Germany, you often start in a broad range of topics and you'll have to find your specific topic in your first year. — This is also true for many PhD programs in the US (including mine!) – JeffE Apr 2 '18 at 23:08

Why does a PhD take a longer time in some countries?

The most important factor is funding agency policy or lack thereof. Some funding agencies provide funds that cover a fixed period of time. Some issue penalties when a student exceeds the time limit. Local traditions are a secondary factor. Students often take as long as their funding situation permits them to take, even if they would earn more by graduating sooner.

Does it affect the research quality?

It definitely affects the research quantity. A longer PhD leads to more results. Students who take a long time and do not have a lot of results might not have received the degree if they had less time. Research quality is a matter of opinion, but quality probably increases a bit with time.

My advice: get the shortest PhD that will get you where you want to be at the end of the PhD.

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    At least in some countries/fields/universities (like mine/mine/mine), PhD students are not tied to specific grants (or to grants at all), so funding acency policies are utterly irrelevant. – JeffE Mar 30 '18 at 13:46
  • I don't think a longer PhD necessarily leads to more results. All else equal, perhaps, but I know people who do phds in my field who have to teach a 2-2 load as the instructor of record and others whose universities fund then such that they don't have to teach. The teaching load alone could add a year or two to any program without actually affecting the dissertation's depth or quality. – user0721090601 Mar 30 '18 at 22:07
  • @JeffE And that's why US PhDs (in funded fields) last so long. I would say funding agency negligence is an essential factor in degree duration in the US. – Anonymous Physicist Mar 31 '18 at 10:52
  • @guifa You are right, my answer does not account for part-time enrolment or the equivalent. – Anonymous Physicist Mar 31 '18 at 10:54
  • @AnonymousPhysicist "Negligence"? Really? Why should funding agencies dictate how universities run their degree programs? – JeffE Mar 31 '18 at 14:50

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