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Would it ever occur, historically, that a PhD student could not obtain his degree from a university due to the high costs of publishing his thesis, such that he would have to publish it at another university and get his degree there instead?

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    Do any universities charge for the publication of the PhD thesis? May 2, 2014 at 18:31
  • @Tobias at many US universities at least, as far as I know, the costs associated with printing the thesis are borne by the student, and there may also be a fee of some kind required by the university to accept the thesis as fulfillment of graduation requirements. I'm not sure if you'd count it as a publication cost exactly, but this can add up to a few hundred dollars of thesis-related expenses.
    – David Z
    May 2, 2014 at 18:48
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    @TobiasKildetoft: In some countries, the tradition is that you have several hundred copies of your thesis professionally printed and bound. (I think there have been some past questions on this.) That has a significant cost, which the university may or may not help defray. May 2, 2014 at 18:59
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    @TobiasKildetoft: Believe it or not, yes. See this answer. (Several of the commenters shared your incredulity.) I have experienced this indirectly; a Swedish friend gave me one of his hundreds of copies. I probably still have it here somewhere. May 2, 2014 at 19:04
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    @Tobias in my experience, no, US universities do not offer free printing of manuscripts for students. (Of course one can always print things from a computer, but I'm not talking about that.) Then again my experience does not extend to cases where any more than about 4 printed copies of a thesis are expected.
    – David Z
    May 2, 2014 at 19:45

2 Answers 2

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Emphatically, I don't see how this could happen in any subject in the U.S., nor, to my knowledge, in Europe, though I understand that there, in some cases, the actual work can be viewed as somewhat disconnected from a university.

But the point is that, in most subjects in the U.S., for example, one is not required to "publish" one's thesis in any fashion that would incur great expense. A handful of required copies, often printed nearly-for-free, and everything else is optional. Not "page costs" to journals, for example.

Further, in the U.S., it would be essentially impossible to "change universities" for any reason whatsoever, without re-doing many required activities, time-in-residency, and such. So whatever other advantages, there'd be something like a two-year delay, tuition, other things.

I really think that the question's hypotheses are iffy, possibly due to a misunderstanding of how things work. Certainly in the U.S., most likely in Europe, and I'd be surprised to hear that the questions implicit assumptions made sense anywhere in the world (though I'd certainly be interested to hear about such a thing).

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When my parents were students in Germany (1930's and 40's) and probably for a long time before that, doctoral theses had to be published, either privately at the student's expense or in a journal. Because of the cost of private publication, students had a strong incentive to write a thesis good enough to be accepted by a journal. (And there were far fewer journals in those days.)

That information came from my parents. I don't think they mentioned how many copies would be required in the case of private publication, but I'd expect it would be enough copies for quite a few libraries. Journal publication was not associated with a university, so there was nothing to be gained by changing universities.

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