Suppose a university provides a five-year PhD studentship (i.e., tuition waiver and monthly stipend). What are possible outcomes if the student doesn't complete their PhD in five years?

  • Will the university continue waiving tuition and paying a stipend?

  • Can the student complete their PhD?

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    Country, field? I guess this varies also across universities. – user68958 Apr 15 '18 at 16:46
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    How is this off topic? The help center explicitly says "Life as a graduate student, postdoctoral researcher, university professor" is on-topic, and this question is relevant to graduate students. Too broad maybe, but off-topic doesn't make sense. Voting to reopen. – Allure Apr 15 '18 at 23:23
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    Could we compromise and specify country or at least the part of the world? Hopefully that would narrow it down enough to be reopened. – aparente001 Apr 16 '18 at 5:34
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    @Allure If you had read a little bit more, then you would have seen "The answer to this question strongly depends on individual factors such as a certain person’s preferences, a given institution’s regulations, the exact contents of your work or your personal values. Thus only someone familiar can answer this question and it cannot be generalised to apply to others. (See this discussion for more info.)" If you are not happy that this reason to close is sorted under "off-topic", you need to talk with the SE developers. – user9646 Apr 16 '18 at 8:29
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    @Allure hard to say, sometimes there are questions that are closed due to being too broad to answer even after someone has given a specific and suitable answer. Trigger happiness. – Dr. Thomas C. King Apr 16 '18 at 14:17

When a school makes a funding commitment, it is generally true that the commitment is contingent upon a student making satisfactory progress to the degree, as judged by the department.

What happens when a student can't finish in the stated period depends upon a combination of factors:

  • Where the funding to continue supporting the student will come from
  • If the student is, in fact, making adequate progress and will finish in a reasonable period of time
  • What the regulations of the department or university are with respect to enrollment (that is, is there a limit to how long a student can be enrolled)

So long as a student is making satisfactory progress, and a source (such as PI funding or teaching assistantships) can be found to pay the student, departments are usually not inclined to dismiss a student based on failure to meet an arbitrary timeline. Usually, the student, supervisor, thesis committee, and department will agree on some sort of timeline to finish the degree program as quickly as possible.


Almost everyone who wants a PhD and sticks around long enough ends up getting it.

You can imagine what happens if the student isn't able to complete during the funding period: he or she has to self-fund. If they can't do that, then they have to leave. If they can, then they just go on and on and on until they complete. Here's an example. I quote: In justifying the conferring of doctoral degrees to the Bogdanovs, Sternheimer told the Times, "These guys worked for 10 years without pay. They have the right to have their work recognized with a diploma, which is nothing much these days."

As for whether or not the university will continue waiving the tuition fee: no. Supervision takes time, hence it's only normal that the university charges for it.

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    Yes, one may need to find external grants, on-campus or external jobs, or loans to pay tuition. Though depending on your supervisors and policies, you may not need to be continuously enrolled if coursework or supervision requirements are met, and thus you do not need to pay tuition during that time. Someone on my committee had a student delay revisions for 12 years while working, then enroll for a term to defend and graduate. (There was almost certainly a paperwork hurdle to jump to be reinstated, but it's easier with the prof's support.) – cactus_pardner Apr 22 '18 at 23:27

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