I know that PhD is not like other degrees which ends in a span of 2-4 years. Also, one cannot control the span of the program which entirely depends on topic and guides.

But I heard from some where that some universities offer PhD within 3-4 years and there is no minimum journal requirements.

I would like to know if such universities really exist and a comment on the university will be highly appreciated.

  • 20
    So you want to get a PHD with minimum or none publications. Why?
    – Alexandros
    Nov 21, 2014 at 10:44
  • 5
    In (Continental) Europe, PhD typically lasts 3-4 years. Journal requirement - usually it is up to a professor. Nov 21, 2014 at 17:24
  • United States Data: nsf.gov/statistics/srvydoctorates Less than 5 years is unusual. Typically publications are not formally required. Nov 22, 2014 at 5:34
  • In the UK (or at least in my Uni) now one MUST finish his PhD before 4 years. Nov 22, 2014 at 19:57

6 Answers 6


In Europe a Phd normally last from 2 to 4 years. But to be admitted to it you must have a Master degree. The American and the European system are pretty different I think.

check this link about education in Europe: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bologna_Process

  • I have Masters already.
    – DSAK
    Nov 21, 2014 at 10:23
  • 6
    If you have funding for your PhD, it will usually have a fixed duration of 3 or 4 years.
    – Moriarty
    Nov 21, 2014 at 10:33
  • 8
    Where is Europe is a two-year PhD normal? Nov 21, 2014 at 10:36
  • 2
    In Germany, some students require up to 6 years from diploma or Masters to PhD, although many do it in 3 - 5.
    – silvado
    Nov 21, 2014 at 11:19
  • 3
    @BiA: Not sure if this is universally applicable to all European universities. In some unis at Germany for example, foreign Masters degrees (esp. from Asian countries) are first evaluated. If the candidate is not suitable to start a PhD immediately, he/she needs to attend a few courses and give a test (normally after an year of enrollment).
    – jayann
    Nov 21, 2014 at 11:31

This seems to be a trick question. Are there universities which will "give you a PhD" in a short time? Well, yes. If you work hard enough to "earn a PhD" in a short time.

That said, it is quite common in continental Europe for PhD positions to be offered for a period of 3 years. That's nice if your Masters degree has already prepared you with the relevant graduate-level concepts. You will still have to find a PhD topic and complete your investigations in the stipulated time.

On the down side, PhD supervisors (who may even be a Postdoc or a researcher with individual grant) usually find it difficult to arrange for additional funding if you are unable to produce satisfactory results within 3 years. At good universities, and in well-funded disciplines, this is usually not a problem. But this really happens, and if you do not come from a first-world country, it may get difficult to sustain yourself.

Publication limit? It again depends upon your field. In theoretical fields, like pure mathematics, theoretical physics, some branches of computer science, etc. it is difficult to publish, so you may get a PhD with one or two papers. But in experimental fields, it is difficult to put a number. That shouldn't bother you though, because your supervisor is usually there to help you out.

And PhD is after all a training in becoming an individual researcher. So why bother about number of publications already? What you should worry about is, do you really want a PhD? There, your query suggests only a superficial motivation.

  • 1
    Is there anywhere in Europe where you PhD supervisor might be a postdoc? I don't want to speak for all disciplines in a whole continent but I've not heard of that happening in the UK in computer science. Nov 21, 2014 at 21:55
  • 1
    Also, in terms of papers, the usual deal (again, in the UK) is "By the time you're ready to submit a thesis, you'll probably have submitted about X number of papers," where X varies by field. It's not a causation or a requirement but a correlation. Nov 21, 2014 at 21:57
  • Okay, I didn't mean someone who's currently pursuing their first Postdoc, but someone who has completed one (or two Postdocs) and is not a professor yet. Such people are usually employed as Researchers but sometimes also as Postdocs. In Germany, it suffices if they have been granted their own funding by a funding agency. They may then supervise a PhD student. Although I am not sure whether or not they are also allowed to be the official "first evaluators" of the thesis. Nov 22, 2014 at 17:01

In the UK, it is common to go straight from a Bachelors degree (3-4 years) to a PhD (minimum 3 years). Not many complete their PhD in 3 years, but in that time you are expected to reach independent research level and have published papers. Certainly I and my colleagues followed this path and published papers in that timescale, although some of us took a lot longer to finally finish.

At our university, you start technically on an MPhil (Masters) course, and there is a review around 12-18 months in; if your work is on course for PhD grade (i.e. you have published or are soon to publish), you are switched to the PhD. If it is not going so well you can just finish the Masters and move on.

The best option in the UK is to get a sponsored studentship with a company; they will pay a lot of cost of the degree (we got a bursary whichever way) and usually assist with materials, funds, direction during the course itself.

  • AIUI in the UK it's required for the work to be of a publishable standard but it's not actually required to turn it into a journal/conference publication. Feb 27, 2016 at 1:00

In the Netherlands, PhD programs are usually salaried four-year programs (though typically requiring 3-4 journal publications to get the degree in the end). For example, good universities for engineering are located in Delft and Eindhoven.


In France the average length of a PhD in engineering is ~3.5 years

Source 1:

Dans le domaine des « sciences dures », la durée moyenne des thèses est de 42 mois (3,5 années). Le taux d’abandon est de 5%. Le taux d’insertion professionnelle est de 90 %

Source 2:

une durée moyenne de thèse de 41 mois

In the US, in most places it is hard to be complete the PhD in less than 4 years.


In Cambridge University in the UK it is (well, was, in the '80s) not uncommon for students to do most of the work for their PhD in 3 or 4 years - but nobody "gives" you a PhD, you have to work for it (quite hard), and earn it.

A PhD, in the end, is a piece of paper that testifies you have a "license to learn on your own". You are expected to have developed the skills needed to be a successful researcher; while it is important to develop your ability to document your work and write coherently about it, I don't think it should be necessary to have first-author publications to graduate.

Skeptically, one might suspect that organizations that demand publications may be more concerned about their own publication rates, than about the careers of their students (but see below)...

Having said that - if you want to get a job as a postdoc, it is advisable to have some publications under your belt. This may be less important if you want to work in industry - not an unlikely course of action with an advanced engineering degree. And given the salary jump from student to industrial engineer, you may want to "get it over with" quickly.

In summary, you need to take a look at your own career aspirations before choosing a program based on their graduation requirements. The piece of paper is just that - but whether you will have, at graduation, the demonstrated skills needed for the next step is something only you know.

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