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I am doing a Ph.D. in a university in New Zealand. I started 3 months ago and am about two years away from finishing. Since they do not issue visas (due to the pandemic), I had to start online and paid one year of tuition. For the next year, it looks like I will have to do the same thing.

Now I got admission to a different PhD program in a slightly different subject in Europe with funding. Can I study for two PhDs at the same time? I am confident I can handle the workload (already finished much of the work for the NZ program). I am not asking whether this is a good idea, just whether it is allowed / legal.

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    Some places do not accept students who have a PhD. Not sure what happens if the PhD at location 2 is obtained during PhD at location 1. Presumably, you won't be fired from the program, but make sure not to get studentships or contracts from both sides at the same time without checking this does not violate the conditions of your PhD program. – Captain Emacs Jun 12 at 22:07
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    I had a PhD student in my group who started and completed two PhDs simultaneously. I think it was a combined program that was approved on an individual basis. I'm not sure if the submitted theses were different or the same. In principle, I think what you are talking about is possible, even if the PhDs are in separate topics. – Jake Jun 12 at 22:14
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    If you want to know their policy in details, contact both universities. Only they can help you know if they allow that. I guess you could call them or email them and ask. If you are afraid that contacting them can cause you problems do so with a different email than your usual or don't identify yourself over the phone. Also, if you have already finished your thesis, just submit it, get a PhD, and apply for postdoc positions. You get a better wage and some freedom to research your own projects. – jDAQ Jun 13 at 19:51
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    I edited some information from the comment chain into the post itself -- Turkan, feel free to make further edits if I botched anything. – cag51 Jun 14 at 17:49
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    Yes sir I got...Thanks – Turkan Jun 14 at 17:54
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It is unlikely that any law would restrict your earning two doctorates simultaneously. That doesn't seem like something any law would be concerned with.

However, the funding from the European institution might well come with restrictions about what sorts of outside activities you can pursue while accepting the funds. In particular they might regard the funding support as "full time" and thus disallow some other activities. You can explore that with them.

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    Yes sir the only rule about the scholarship in europe is that you should not hold phd. – Turkan Jun 13 at 5:12
  • And even here they could not prove someone has phd or not unless she tells them. – Turkan Jun 13 at 5:13
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    @Turkan Saying that "... they could not prove someone has phd or not unless she tells them" is hinting at unethical behavior at best. Eventually you will publish some papers right? One of the advisors might notice all that cross-hemisphere collaboration. – jDAQ Jun 13 at 5:25
  • Yes I know. I did not do that – Turkan Jun 13 at 7:39
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    "the only rule about the scholarship in europe [...]", I'm fairly sure this isn't a European regulation as such and will vary across countries and even depend on the funding body within that country or specific institution. – Bruno Jun 13 at 11:55
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Short answer: Read the PhD candidature rules for those two institutions; at best, they might allow you to go part-time at each institution. A better option would be to apply for suspension of candidature in NZ.


Longer answer: Most PhD programs have a set of rules for students that set out rules/expectations for the amount of hours the student will commit to the program each week. In cases where this is specified, usually the stipulated hours will be commensurate with a job ---i.e., a full-time candidature would be approx 36-40 hours per week and a part-time candidature less. Usually there are specific rules for taking leave from the program, and you get about the same amount of leave as in a job. In some cases, approval will be required for outside study or work that impacts on the student's ability to meet the required time commitment. Even if specific approval is not required, it would usually be considered to be a breach of the rules if a student does not put in the stipulated hours when they are not on approved leave.

If such rules are present in one or both of these programs then it is difficult to see how you could do both programs full-time. You might be able to apply for part-time candidature at one or both of the institutions in order to cut down the hours, but it would probably be difficult to get approval for this.

In view of your circumstances, let me offer an alternative. Since you are prevented from attending the university in New Zealand, your best bet here would be to apply for a suspension of your candidature for one year, so that you don't have to pay tuition for that year. Suspension of candidature means that you do not lose your place in the program, but you take a temporary break with the expectation that you will return to candidature afterwards. In present circumstances, where the pandemic is preventing you entering the country, such an application would probably be viewed favourably, and I suspect it would be granted. A one-year suspension of candidature would allow you to attend the other university for a year and see which you prefer. If you decide you prefer the program in Europe you can then apply for withdrawal from your university in New Zealand.

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  • Thank you so much sir. You know the corona changes the meaning of full time and part time. In normal situation of course I was in New Zealand and I did not think about an alternative but now... – Turkan Jun 13 at 5:10

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