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I just scrolled through the student list of my university and found a person who is a “double PhD candidate”. Since I have never heard of that, I tried to find some information. The best link that I found is “Joint-PhDs: A Guide” at Find a PhD.

However, the only explanation given is that,

[...] universities offering double degrees rather than jointly-awarded degrees is often practical in nature, for example one country’s legislation does not allow joint-degrees.

I expected something like research in two research areas by one person. But giving two PhDs because of legislation seems odd to me. Can someone tell me more about this?

  • Bureaucracy. They may have students from a specific country (that make them lots of money) and they want to accommodate their requests. – Saeid Alami Feb 25 '16 at 13:29
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    There is nothing odd about not breaking the law. Sometimes, especially when dealing with multiple countries and thus multiple laws, you just have to do things to make it work in all these countries simultaneously. Avoiding such international collaborations would be a worse outcome. – Maarten Buis Feb 25 '16 at 14:12
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I think the site where you found the information was pretty crystal clear:

Joint-PhDs are doctorates which are done at two degree-awarding institutions. This type of doctorate, also called split-site PhDs, does not mean that you are simply supervised by one supervisor in one university with another advising you on an informal basis. Joint-PhDs mean that you are fully registered in two universities, having to comply with admission requirements and assessment regulations at both institutions and that it will result either in two PhD degrees (double PhD) or one jointly-awarded PhD (one diploma with the two university logos). The reason universities offering double degrees rather than jointly-awarded degrees is often practical in nature, for example one countrys [sic] legislation does not allow joint-degrees.

I'm not sure which part of this is unclear. Often it's easier for two institutions to each grant a PhD (i.e., double PhD) than it is for them to create a hybrid entity that would grant a singular degree or for the creation of the institutional apparatus and coordination necessary for a joint degree program.

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    We have a joint PhD in physics here with a neighbouring university, as none on their own have the breadth and depth to comply with the (more or less arbitrary) requirements for funding students. – vonbrand Feb 26 '16 at 0:34
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    @RoboKaren what isn't clear is why they would grant a double PhD rather than decide which of the two institutions should grant a PhD, with the student simply having an external co-supervisor (and possibly visiting student status) at the other institution. – Significance Feb 26 '16 at 2:15
  • Because when one is in an interdisciplinary field, it would be nice to have the recognition of both disciplines -- as well as the name value of both institutions. – RoboKaren Feb 26 '16 at 2:18
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    @RoboKaren It would be nice, yes, but it seems unfair to other students. An interdisciplinary PhD is not twice as much work or twice as great an achievement as any other PhD. – Significance Feb 26 '16 at 4:07
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    @Significance: In your comment you assume that PhD degrees are quantities that can be added up. I disagree with this assumption. – Danny Ruijters Feb 26 '16 at 10:58

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