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I had applied to some PhD programs to start the upcoming fall semester. I have got two offers. Tomorrow, April 15th, is the deadline for accepting or declining admission offers. I accepted one of the offers. Some people wrote on online forums that their offers of admissions have been rescinded due to the coronavirus situation. Now I am afraid that if I decline the other offer, the university whose offer I accepted might rescind it. My question is: how likely is this scenario?

Can a university rescind an offer of admission because of this?

Thank you

  • Yes, but they probably won't. The bigger risk is that they may restrict funding lines (if you're going somewhere that funds grad students with TAships) based on the fall undergraduate enrollment. This is more likely to be a year 2+ problem for you (and everyone else, frankly). – user120011 Apr 14 at 20:03
  • 2+ years is a disaster for me to be honest. This means I will not be able to continue in academia. On what basis do you make this estimate? – mary124 Apr 14 at 20:13
  • I mean it'll probably not affect first-year PhD students and will disproportionately affect people in years 2+. I don't know what effect it will have on you. It'll be field-dependent; biomedical will probably be OK because of the federal money, for example. Other fields may push PhD students out the door with degrees too early so that they can give lines to other students. Other fields may attrition students by just not giving them funding. – user120011 Apr 14 at 20:20
  • People are loosing jobs that they have been in for years so you may well loose a position that you have mot even started yet. – Solar Mike Apr 14 at 22:34
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I don't think any of us here really knows. My best bet is that most universities will choose to honor offers of graduate fellowships and certainly will honor acceptances that come without any financial support.

But it's a legal question that will likely depend on the laws of the country and state the university is in, whether the university is public or private, and a number of other possibilities. It may also depend on the financial position the university is, or will be, in. You're unlikely going to get a definitive answer here, but you can always ask the people at the university that gave you the offer for guidance.

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    Thank you for your answer. Both schools I got admitted to are in the US. One is public and the other is private. I accepted the offer from the private one. So, how likely will private universities rescind offers compared to public ones? – mary124 Apr 14 at 19:42
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    @mary124 Nobody can tell. But it might be helpful to google their endowment/financial situation, as this is the most likely thing to inform whether they may consider rescinding a PhD. – Captain Emacs Apr 14 at 19:53
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Extraordinary things can happen in extraordinary times. But I suspect that any offer would have been rescinded already if it were going to happen. There are no guarantees, especially in universities that answer to governments, for example.

But you should be able to check web sites or do online searches about the universities in question to see if they have put a hiring or acceptance freeze in place as some have. Check them all to gain some assurance.

Universities have a strong incentive to get back to ordinary times. It might be that the situation will simply be that the start of your doctoral studies is disrupted somehow, either put off or done remotely in some fashion. But losing a year would be bad for everyone, including the university.

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