My employer is considering contracting part of a research project to a university and I'm currently the project leader. I found that I might use this opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. degree and talked to the management of my company. They agreed for me to do a Ph.D. using this funding (I will still have to commit other affairs in my current company but that will only be part-time). We also found a professor willing to supervise me provided that the funding will be available from my employer

So my question is, would the admission committee consider this approach problematic? As I'm the representative of the industry funding provider of my Ph.D. research, if I'm admitted to the program. Also, just to be selfish, how do I gently let the department know that I will not (at least within my influence for this particular project) fund other student for this project?

  • That should be specified in the contract between your company and the university.
    – mkennedy
    Oct 14, 2015 at 23:12
  • We do not have a contract as for now. But my company did send the department a letter stating the interests and particularly mentioned they want to support me. Oct 14, 2015 at 23:20
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    A PhD in USA requires course work. Has your company agreed to fund you in your first year, when you are not actually doing any research but just pass courses? Are they aware of that?
    – Alexandros
    Oct 15, 2015 at 9:07
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    They are aware of the course work. The research project is not really urgent but more of a fundamental research (that's also why I have the impression it can be used for a Ph.D. thesis) so the company is willing to delay it for a year Oct 19, 2015 at 20:52
  • Would you kindly rewrite "So my question is, would the admission committee consider this approach problematic? As I'm the representative of the industry funding provider of my Ph.D. research, if I'm admitted to the program. " As it stands it's vague as to what you fear the university academic committee might object to.
    – Trunk
    Mar 4, 2022 at 15:20

2 Answers 2


Two things came to my mind:

  1. Self-Finance and End Results: First thing first, broadcasting to a department that you have the money and you need a PhD position might not be a good idea. This is because just spending the money does not give you the PhD at the end. You need a good supervisor and research group to do the research. Throwing money at situation works in business, and might work in academia in other situations (e.g., buying equipment); however for your own PhD I would suggest to carefully pick and choose. You might spend the money and not getting the results at the end.

  2. Guidance from supervisor: Your target is to do a PhD (with a one supervisor or two) with your company's funding. There are some issues here, for example, who is actually doing your implementation work (e.g., your coding if you are in a computing field) if you have a team behind you? I would suggest to find an academic first, and talk to him/her about this situation. Also, this way you don't go under the university's pressure and some non academic management to throw money at the research, because this will be hopefully sorted and guided by your supervisor(s).

  • Thank you very much for the detailed answer. Those questions are very good and need very careful consideration. Oct 19, 2015 at 20:50

The question of the research project being academically adequate should be already answered if you and your employer have discussed it and exchanged memos.

If your concern is that your are "buying your way into a Formula 1 drive" within this technology, well don't worry too much about that. Industry uses academia and vice-versa. It's been like that for a while, not least regarding PhD programmes. In the UK in the 1980s there was the Teaching Company Scheme for technology transfer between universities and industry. More modern versions exist today.

The problem from your end is likely to be:

(a) your motivation for making this project a PhD rather than a research project within a tight team in a private company; and

(b) your own compatibility within the socio-professional environment of academia.

Love of your own research won't compensate for the human isolation and - often mad - social hierarchies existing within the university workplace. And, as pointed out by Alexandros, once you start the PhD you will have coursework and a list of departmental duties, undergraduate lab supervision/teaching assistance, etc to do in all weathers and all moods, up or down.

Throughout all this you are still an employee of your current company and have to be a share of everything to them that you already are . . .

So, I see no serious academic committee problem but you have to feel better around academics than in industry to make your plan a success.

Buona fortuna.

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