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I have applied to five different universities. Four of them are in the UK and the last one elsewhere in Europe. Based on initial discussions, two of the UK universities consider me a competitive applicant (they encouraged me to apply after informal inquiries). Given my impressive publication record, I think I am the best applicant for the position which is not located in the UK.

Most probably, I will get an offer from the non-UK university quite soon. However, I would not like to accept the offer before hearing anything from the UK universities. Suppose I am also the best candidate for the UK institutions. How fast will they decide? The places are single-slot, so would it be rude to ask one week after the application period closes?

I would only email the UK institutions if the non-UK institution says yes, and write something along the lines

Sorry for contacting you so soon after application period has ended, but I have been offered a position in [some place] already at this time. I understand that you probably have received many good applications, and may not decide yet who to offer the position first. However, I thought you might be able to tell if others' applications were much stronger than mine. I would prefer to study with you, which is the reason I am sending this email.

I would then decline the non-UK offer only if the response was very positive sounding one.

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    A very positive response is NOT the same as acceptance. – StrongBad Jan 3 '16 at 15:37
  • I agree with @StrongBad. Many times, when I am approached by a candidate, I let him know whether he is eligible to apply. This doesn't mean he is the best candidate. I cannot know that or even if I did know there is a better candidate than him/her, I cannot discourage him from applying. Nevertheless, if you are offered the EU position, you should contact the UK universities and ask about it. At that point they should be able to tell you at least if you have a chance at getting the position in UK or not. – electrique Jan 4 '16 at 13:47
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It can depend on the time of year. At my old UK university,the standard PhD admissions process would take over a month. If the timing worked out, we would generally lump single slot applications in with everyone else so that interviews and decisions happened at the same time. If the timing did not work, we would do them individually. This meant it was really down to how fast the PI wanted things to go. The PI would do all the leg work, screening, and interviewing, and then put a single candidate forward to the admissions committee. A week would generally be very quick, but a month would be on the long side.

  • My experience is that a month would be quick, although perhaps I haven't experienced the exact situation here. – Jessica B Jan 3 '16 at 18:21
  • A month sounds a relatively long time. It may well take that time but why @JessicaB? For a single-slot position, only one student at a time can be made an offer, so time is very precious. Waiting to hear back from a given student may result in losing other good applicants. – mmh Jan 3 '16 at 18:55
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    @mmh Because people have other things that need doing. Because there might be other factors in play (eg some resources might be needed that another position might use up instead). Because someone else has been made an offer but hasn't replied yet. Because someone is sick, or has a child/parent who is and it got overlooked. Because some bit of paperwork didn't get filed in the right place at the right time. Because...stuff. But as I said, it may be that the cases I've come across were different. – Jessica B Jan 3 '16 at 19:04
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    @mmh Also, if there are interviews then it's very unlikely they'd be organised and done within a week from the application deadline. First the applications need reading to decide who to interview, then there needs to be a suitable space in people's diaries. – Jessica B Jan 3 '16 at 19:07
  • @JessicaB in the UK the interview date is often announced at the time of application which can speed things up. – StrongBad Jan 3 '16 at 22:00

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