Does a Ph.D. done by paying tuition fees have the same gravity as a Ph.D. done on stipend when it comes to an academic career?
When does it really make any sense to pursue a Ph.D. by paying tuition fees?
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The answers above say that no one will ever know how you funded your PhD. I somehow disagree with it. At least in social science where self-funded PhDs are not so uncommon and PhD programs often ask if you anticipate you can attend the program without any financial aids provided, the prospective hiring committees can learn how your studies was funded from your CVs. It is reasonable that you don't mention any information about your funding source if you are self-funded, but keep in mind that other PhD candidates on the job market would mention theirs if they received a grant. So if you don't mention this, it implies you don't have any grant. THEY WILL KNOW.
Tips for you is to find some CVs of PhD candidates in your subject/field to see how frequently they clearly state it.
Besides, how good is your dissertation significantly overweighs how your PhD is funded. This is of course true but not to everyone. The rejection rates of a postdoc position in a reputable research group or a faculty position are quite high nowadays. Once you're on a shortlist, you are faced with a cohort of candidates whose profiles are almost equally interesting to the hiring committees. Various factors play a role in the final decisions and usually the hiring committees will have deliberation unless someone is obviously much better than others. The grant you received in your PhDs is a signal. The signal tells them either that your past merits are not fully matching the reputation of your university (means if you request for fellowship, you're very likely to be not admitted to the university you're in but a much less reputable one) OR you're not that good among your peers (assume if you again fail to secure funding in your later years of PhDs unless you can prove that there is a convention in your program for PhD students to be self-funded). It's a negative signal even when other candidates and you are equally matched.
My conclusion is unless you assure you can do a great job achieving a good record of publication under the supervision of your advisor OR the universities you're going to self-fund are extremely excellent (as even your work there is mediocre, at least the title of you university can send you to a well-paid position in industry), let's say Oxford or Cambridge as what has been discussed above, self-funding is never recommended.
Nobody will ever know. In fact, nobody will likely ever ask you about this.
At the end of the day, for an academic career, what matters is that you have a PhD and have shown an ability to do independent research. Who paid for the PhD never enters these sorts of considerations: You may have been funded on grants and only done research, or you may have been a teaching assistant to get a salary and have tuition paid, or you may have paid for the tuition yourself. It really doesn't matter, and nobody will care. What people do care about are your qualifications.
Agree with the other answers saying no one will ever know how you funded your PhD. But, I don't see anyone addressing this:
When does it really make any sense to pursue a Ph.D. by paying tuition fees?
Blunt answer: very rarely.
But I usually don't recommend taking an unfunded position, especially in thu US, because:
In France, paying tuition fees is not the same as paying for your PhD. This is just a technicality in terminology, but I think it's good to have this information for completeness.
PhD students in France are in a really odd sort of limbo -- French academic system is organised into institutes which work closely with Universities. The institutes provide the Professors for the courses at the University, and in exchange the University acts as a primary pool to get students in for summer projects, internships and finally PhD programmes; and also serves as a host institution for PhD students. This means that a PhD candidate in France is, at the same time, an employee of the institute, and a student at the University.
A funded PhD in France therefore means the following:
An external body (e.g. the French government, a foriegn government, or a company) will sponsor the PhD, ensure the funds for 3 years of (gross) salary, publication and travel costs, i.e. they cover the employment of the PhD candidate and expenses one is expected to incur during this time.
I'm not sure if equipment is something provided through this funding, or by the host institute. I think there's a good chance this funding might cover any visa or other immigration expenses, or the institute might, if you ask nicely.
The PhD candidate pays for yearly student tuition fees to the host University themselves. This is often a hidden cost which nobody remembers to warn you about.
Fortunately, this is a minimal cost: when I was doing my PhD, it was around €400 a year. Not a pleasant surprise when you're on a measly PhD salary, but definitely affordable, and unfortunately unavoidable.
Summary: Obtaining funding for a PhD programme in France is very competitive. Proceeding without funding would mean you are doing a full-time job for 3 years for no compensation, and since not even your publication costs or travel costs would be covered, I doubt any advisor would accept such a candidate. On the other hand, all the PhD students in France pay their own student tuition fees, which are however very low and affordable.
In the US, all schools that I know of charge tuition and fees. So there is no dichotomy of programs in this sense. Though some schools do not allow students to attend their doctoral program without having funding to pay that tuition/fees, either by a fellowship or from their advisor's grants, or perhaps via industry sponsor. I suspect this is because the faculty don't want to promise any time to advise students when they aren't getting funded for their own lab as part of the deal. The funding source, if there is one, then pays the tuition/fees. Beyond that, "self-funded" students are generally the same as those with fellowships; they can choose their project more freely and are not committing part of their time to being lowly research or teaching assistants. They may well have an industry job instead.
One drawback of course is a student is not a great judge of what is a good direction. Whereas the advisor's dogged pursuit of grants would tend to pull their own projects in the direction of more important problems which are probably better for the student's career. Choosing one's own direction also requires a patient advisor who is willing to continue advising while the student does run off and chases their own interests more freely.
At an opposite extreme is advisors who treat self- (or externally-) funded students the same as if the advisor was providing the funding anyway. I.e. they expect to set tasks and supervise the student, rather than simply advise them. Then you're paying out of pocket to be a research assistant. Which is certainly unfair.
As for whether there is some kind of ranking in the mind of hiring committees or firms down the road, regarding how you were funded, nope. A PhD is a PhD. It's primarily a hazing process anyway. The self-funded student will just be missing that line in the CV regarding your assistantship, which many do not put anyway since it is pre-doctoral.
Unfortunately, self-funded PhD students are often regarded as ipso facto less suitable for an academic career than PhD students funded by a grant.
The reason for this is that, rightly or wrongly, an important criterion for many academic jobs involving research is "grant capture" or "research income". For an early-career academic applying for a job, grants obtained for/during PhD studies are valuable in demonstrating to a hiring panel that the candidate has a track-record of obtaining grants.
On the other hand, self-funded PhD students in the UK tend to end up with more teaching work, and it is arguable that having lots of teaching experience is more relevant than "research income" for an early-career academic, since a lot of early-career academic jobs in the UK are "teaching-only". Many universities are wont to informally discriminate in favour of self-funded students when it comes to allocating teaching work (by the way, this practice is probably illegal, and is morally wrong, since funded PhD students still need lots of teaching experience if they are to be taken seriously by the academic profession these days, so I would argue that the allocation of teaching work to PhD students should be determined solely on the basis of who would do the best job for a given topic/module/course [declaration of interest: I am a fully funded PhD student, permitted to do up to six hours' teaching per week under the terms of my funding, but have been given more like six hours per term, despite being far better qualified for many topics than the self-funded students who got allocated teaching work on such topics])
All PhDs charge tuition fees, the question is not whether they are charged, but who pays. In those "competitive" cases you posted above a 3rd party research funder will be paying the fees.
You'll also note that to get one of the funded places "you must either be eligible for employment in the Netherlands or obtain a knowledge worker visa to qualify for a paid PhD position". This goes for the UK as well - a student must be British, or an EU citizen usually resident in the UK (and this will stop at the end fo this year). One of the most common reasons for people to do self funded PhDs, at least in the sciences, is because they are not eligable for a funded position, usually due to nationality.
Thus, being a self-funded student brings no judgement - all universities accept both funded and unfunded students, and many unfunded students are unfunded simply because they were barred from apply for funded positions. In the end, a CV will not say either way whether your PhD was funded or unfunded.
A 4-year self-funded PhD will set you back about 120,000 - 150,000 euros, including about 15,000 a year to living expenses.
Why do you want a PhD? I can think of three reasons: