Assuming I got a PhD in Computer Science from Oxford or Cambridge University, how would that affect my chances at becoming a professor at a top US university versus getting a PhD from a top US institution? Assuming also that I had US citizenship?

  • 8
    Career development all the way to tenure is not a given fact, just because you got a PhD. Let alone a professorship at a "top" uni. If I were in your shoes I'd be more worried with put the hours in, doing the hard work... then when you have a solid profile, don't let people use where you come from or where you got your PhD as an excuse to come in between you and your career goals.
    – posdef
    Nov 13, 2013 at 23:19
  • 3
    In what (sub)field?
    – JeffE
    Nov 14, 2013 at 1:42
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    This is a bit orthogonal to the OP's real question, but going from the US to the UK for a Ph.D. is a often a terrible idea unless you get a masters first. The US and UK systems are not set up to be compatible; typically British schools expect students to get Ph.D.s much faster than in the US in a way that US BA's don't prepare students for (and from anecdotal evidence, British BA's often don't either). Nov 15, 2013 at 3:22
  • Sound advice from @BenWebster, I concur. I also think it's a terrible idea to go from the UK to the US for postgraduate study, in general. Not only are the two systems virtually incompatible, but there's a lot of mutual ignorance between the two. (Sadly, even more ignorance of the British system in the US, I would say.)
    – Noldorin
    Apr 24, 2014 at 22:13

3 Answers 3


I am an American who earned a Ph.D. at Cambridge University. A degree from Cambridge or Oxford is well-respected in the US - I was warned to avoid other UK universities as they are not as well known in the States. The one caveat is that all of your network for post-docs and jobs will be in the UK, not in the US. It was an amazing experience though so I would not want to discourage you!

  • 7
    I would like to add that the two specific universities mentioned are largely regarded in the US as on par with the Ivy League. Nov 14, 2013 at 17:27
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    Upper Ivy league, that is (Harvard, Yale, Princeton). The converse is more or less true as well.
    – Noldorin
    Apr 24, 2014 at 22:13

In mathematics, I would say that British Ph.D.s are very well respected in the U.S.A. Probably more so than many US universities. The US citizenship is a plus, because it means that the university can avoid the hassle of H1 visas and Green Cards. But a major research university will probably not reject you if you don't have US Citizenship.

  • 1
    Just wanted to point out since no one else has yet. US PhDs are about 5 years, and UK ones are 3-3.5. Given this factor alone, US PhD holders are slightly more likely to have more publications and more teaching experience, which can make them competitive in the UK market. Inversely, a UK PhD holder may (depending on their work) have less papers/less teaching experience than the [presumably American] competitors for US postdocs. Again it depends on the person and the university, but it is a factor. Feb 7, 2016 at 21:24

My guess is that it the effect on academic employment would be relatively small compared to other factors, as pedigree is typically neither necessary nor sufficient for obtaining employment. Arguably, department reputation will matter more, but what you do while you are there will matter far more than that.

It might be helpful to your decision to note that several UK universities are very well respected in the US and elsewhere: Imperial, UCL, KCL, Edinburgh, Manchester, Sheffield, to name a few. Are Oxford and Cambridge the only UK institutions with respected CS departments?

  • 6
    I think this depends a lot on your field; in math, I think Imperial would be seen as comparable to Oxford and Cambridge, but obviously, that's quite different in the humanities where Imperial doesn't even have programs. The others you listed I wouldn't put up with the top US schools, but would look better on the CV than plenty of respectable US schools. Nov 15, 2013 at 3:19
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    For CS, Imperial tends to be seen as somewhat better than Oxford. But generally the name Oxford and Cambridge will sound better than any other UK University irrespective of the actual course.
    – Jonathan.
    Dec 7, 2013 at 9:03
  • In 2001, when I was applying to do a post-career PhD in the US, one of the professors who read my CV commented on my 1970 bachelor's degree in mathematics from Imperial as a point in my favor. Jul 5, 2017 at 17:32

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