I have some publications in top NLP (Computer science field) conferences and a few will be published soon. I worked under not fully academic project but results include publication in the same NLP field and as I understand, it should be enough for getting Phd.
PS: NLP - Natural Language Processing

Is it possible to get a PhD in some UK universities (or maybe in some other country) without enrolling into a full PhD program and wasting my time for courses, etc?

  • 2
    What does "NLP" stand for, and is it relevant to the question?
    – J..y B..y
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 9:37
  • Are you sure that "endothermic country" is the term you want to use here? (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endothermic_process)
    – J..y B..y
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 9:38
  • 3
    @J..yB..y "NLP" is short for natural language processing. It's a specialist machine learning term, involving making the computer able to read natural language. "Endothermic" is almost surely the wrong word, though.
    – Allure
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 10:52
  • Did you reach out and state your offer ? Lots of negotiation could take place behind the scene given enough financial , reputational incentive and gray areas in policies ...
    – Egami
    Commented Sep 1, 2022 at 15:40
  • 2
    The courses might not be a waste of time. They might be useful.
    – Oliver882
    Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 7:55

4 Answers 4



No, being a co-author of various articles published in top peer-reviewed conferences or journals is not a sufficient condition for "getting a PhD", mostly because coauthorship does not show independence. It might be considered a necessary condition in some institutions, which often confuses students in believing it is also a sufficient one.

Being the main author or single author of various such articles might be enough to be allowed to defend a PhD thesis at some institutions, but I suspect that a "defense" would still be required to insure that the author understands the content of their publication, that they have a central thesis in those publications, and understand what a proper research process consists in.


According to Wikipedia, those studying for a Doctor of Philosophy degree are required to

  1. produce original research that expands the boundaries of knowledge, normally in the form of a dissertation, and
  2. defend their work before a panel of other experts in the field.

Developing the first point, a Doctor of Philosophy (someone who "got a PhD" for short) should be able to do their own research independently from others, which implies 1) having a good knowledge of the state of the art in some area, 2) being able to define and choose "good" research hypothesis, 3) knowing how to setup and implement research experiments or work to validate or invalidate such hypothesis, 4) being able to communicate clearly their work to the research community. Merely contributing to such research is enough to earn co-authorship in publications, but does not indicate an ability to fulfill all those roles independently from others. As an example, co-authorship is sometimes given to students who are making a minor (but real) contribution to the article (e.g. implementing and describing in the article a piece of software used in the experiment), but played no active role in some other parts (e.g. choosing the hypothesis, defining the experimental protocol, etc.). Such a student completely deserves authorship (see the ACM Policy on Authorship for an example), and will learn a lot about performing and describing research, but did not prove their ability to perform all the tasks required from a researcher.

In some institutions, being the main author of a number (e.g. two at my institution) of articles in peer reviewed venues might be a necessary condition for being allowed to defend one's PhD (not for just "getting a PhD"), but this should not be confused with a sufficient condition (which many students do). Note that it would allow to "defend", but not grant the diploma automatically: the PhD candidate would still be required to 1) compile the research from their various publication into a single document, with a central research theme and hypothesis, and to 2) defend it orally in front of a jury in a way convincing them that they have the skills to make an independent and ethical researcher.

I hope it helps!

  • 1
    It appears this answer does not factor in PhD by Publication (retrospective route) which might be available to OP in the UK. However, OP will face an uphill struggle with conference output only. The rigour/quality criteria in @J..y-B..y remains applicable though. Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 20:14

Well, although publications are certainly a requirement for a Ph.D. degree these days, a portfolio of publications does not necessarily lead to a Ph.D. In fact, many MSc. have dozens of publications and still do not hold it. For a Ph.D., your research must reflect your ability to do independent, innovative research, that will eventually take you to a leadership position in a few years. With that being told, your best bet will be the "Ph.D. by publication portfolio". You can do that in the UK. You have to attend for 1 year, tipically, but you can use your existing publications. You don't have your Ph.D. 100% certain, for now. Just work towards it.

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    Publications are not a requirement in my Ph.D. program, nor many others I know of Commented Sep 2, 2022 at 4:35

Is it possible to get a PhD in some UK universities (or maybe in some other country) without enrolling into a full PhD program ...

Yes, it is possible in the UK under the PhD by Publication (retrospective route).
The retrospective route is based on prior publications (published work), unlike the prospective route that allows a Thesis to be written based on Publications during the doctoral tenancy.

In OP's case, the answer is No based on

I have some publications in top NLP (Computer science field) conferences and a few will be published soon

Most UK universities will not admit to the PhD by Publication (retrospective route) based on Conference only output.

I'll recommend to publish in top NLP/AI journals (at least two) to supplement your top tier conference publications.

Below is from previous posts (You might want to note this as well):
... formalise your 'research' by pursuing your doctorate through the PhD by Publication (retrospective) route. Though the prospective route is common (or integrated into traditional PhD), the retrospective isn't in certain parts of the world. From my (ongoing) research (of 90 UK universities), there are more than 16 universities offering PhD by Publication to all. A large number offer to their staff only or to their staff and alumni, and rest extends to those having close research association with them.

NB: for PhD by Publication, you'll need to show rigour, theme (golden thread) and coherence through a commentary/critical analysis ...


Many UK universities have "PhD by publication" programs that are designed to award a PhD based on work the applicant has already published rather than based on work the applicant does while at the University. These are usually not well-advertised and many universities restrict them to people who already have some sort of ties to the University in question but I believe there are one or two that are open to outsiders.

These will usually require registration and fees of some sort but the time enrolled and hence the total fees paid will be much lower than with a conventional PhD.

AIUI if accepted for such a programme you will normally be required to write an introduction and conclusion that ties your papers together and then to go through the assesment viva process in the normal way.

  • 1
    if such a thing is indeed possible that would just confirm the demise of (some) UK universities and the degree they offer. Research is only one component of the PhD, as attested by the common statement that a thesis is often submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a degree. Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 0:41
  • @ZeroTheHero A quick look online shows coventry.ac.uk/research/research-opportunities/…
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 2:36
  • @ZeroTheHero However, it does seem that the terminology "PhD by publication" admits different interpretations; I am finding some commentary online which sees this as "submitting a PhD which is an assembly of publications of work done while at the university", a format that seems to be quite well established in e.g. Scandinavian universities. That seems different from what Peter Green is referring to.
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 2:40
  • @YemonChoi I know of “thesis by publication” but the thesis is only part of the requirements for the degree. Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 12:36
  • This is close to OP question. I've done documentary analysis of around 97 UK universities regarding PhD by Publication with interesting findings. Indeed, many are not advertised or well advertised Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 20:19

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