One of my Iranian friends wants to apply for a PhD program in computer science to a US university. He can't speak fluently even in our native language at all, but in the other side he has a relatively strong background:

  • Good GPA in both MSc. and BSc. (> 18 out of 20)
  • First rank in BSc.
  • Graduated from most prominent university in Iran (Sharif Univ. of Tech.)

Question: is there any chance for his application to be approved and for him to get funded?

Note that my question is a little general. I'm not considering a particular university. What I am looking for is how much is it possible for a PhD student to not participate in presentations, lectures, team works, typically all works in which he should speak.

In the other hand, I've listed below what he can do perfectly.

  • Teacher assistant for lower level students (designing exams, assignments, marking exams/quizzes papers, but not presenting at classroom)
  • Review scholarly articles/papers
  • Generally all regular jobs that a normal PhD student can do (excluding speech presentations and such assignments)
  • 2
    I guess one issue would be that many U.S. universities require the TOEFL; he'll have to make sure that they actually read his application and don't summarily reject him for low/missing TOEFL scores. I wonder how best to achieve this? – Nate Eldredge Feb 27 '15 at 14:08
  • @NateEldredge Thanks for your comment, Yes you're right, he should pass TOEFL, but I as far as I know ETS organization have some options for disability accommodations. Maybe it's possible to customize his TOEFL test. – frogatto Feb 27 '15 at 14:17

Provided he is fluent in written English, I cannot see how his application could legitimately (or legally) be discriminated against. If he can listen to a spoken conversation without problems, that will hugely decrease the concessions needed to accommodate his disability.

Provided he can listen to spoken English without a problem, I do not see why even giving presentations is an unreasonable expectation either. Why not do so in the style of Stephen Hawking, setting to the presentation slides a pre-prepared monologue that is read out by a speech synthesizer? If he is a reasonably fast typist, responding to questions should not be a significant problem either.

This style of communication could even be extended to taking tutorial classes, networking at conferences, etc. Sure, it's a bit awkward and people may take a little while to adjust. But it certainly seems doable.

Perhaps this is relevant reading: Is it possible for people with a stutter to have a career in academia?

  • Thanks for your answer!, I've already read that question you've pointed to, but I think my question is a bit more specific than that one. Yes his listening skill, in my opinion, is very good. – frogatto Feb 27 '15 at 14:10
  • Stephen Hawking is a very well known cosmologist, who suffers from motor neurone disease. He lost his ability to speak a few decades ago, and now communicates with one cheek muscle. – Moriarty Feb 27 '15 at 14:26
  • 1
    I cannot see how his application could legitimately (or legally) be discriminated againstI can. My university requires a TOEFL speaking score of 24 for any international student to be a teaching assistant, and my department requires all PhD students to hold a TAship before they graduate. As a result, we very rarely admit anyone with a TOEFL speaking score below 20, and all such students are expected to raise their score to at least 24 within their first year. (1/2) – JeffE Feb 27 '15 at 15:24
  • 3
    All that said, if the applicant revealed their speech disability and their record was otherwise strong, I assume we would admit them and provide accommodation. (The department where I got my PhD, which also had a TA requirement, made similar accommodations for a fellow PhD student with severe cerebral palsy.) (2/2) – JeffE Feb 27 '15 at 15:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.