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What are advantages and drawbacks of starting a computer science PhD funded both by the university and a company, compared to a PhD fully funded by the university?

I can provide more details about the context pointing out some hypotheses that I have done so far.

A company:

  • will provide proprietary data;
  • will stimulate about solutions for current issues;
  • will impose constraints on PhD topic (it could be slightly modified, but no more);
  • will impose some constraints about publications, e.g. they would delay publications until new outcomes are started in the company production line.

On the other hand, without a company:

  • no proprietary data;
  • less stimulating scenario compared to issues coming from a real scenario (?);
  • free management of PhD topic (you could modify significantly during the 3-year research);
  • no problem about publications;
  • more "theoretical" research.

I will appreciate any experiences, especially computer science area.

  • If your research interest is theoretical, companies which would be willing to sponsor your PhD would be much less. – scaaahu Oct 1 '16 at 10:01
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    The biggest advantage I can think of, which trumps in my opinion pretty much all disadvantages, is that typically in sponsored degrees the funding is better (and more secure). There may also be other perks, such as equipment, data (as you point out in your post), people, and other resources. And if you plan to afterwards work in industry, I suppose sponsored degrees look better on your CV. – 101010111100 Oct 1 '16 at 10:02
  • I know a couple of PhDs who were on sponsored degrees, and I think both of them enjoyed their time. In fact, without the sponsorship (of one of the IT giants), their research would not be possible (at least in the PhD time frame). – 101010111100 Oct 1 '16 at 10:04
  • It might be worth investigating the specific company (or even the specific group within the company). I know a few people doing PhDs at company that looks very rigid and secretive from the outside (in the defense industry, with security clearance and everything!) but actually lets them very free to publish, go to conferences or steer their research in whatever direction they feel like so the constraints are not necessarily the ones you imagine. – Relaxed Oct 4 '16 at 19:40
  • The main drawback is that they also have to work on more mundane company projects, which takes time and slows their own research down (none of them hopes to complete the PhD in 3 years…) – Relaxed Oct 4 '16 at 19:42
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You seem to have a pretty good understanding of the some of the major advantages and disadvantages, but there are a couple more issues you probably should consider. To note, some of these issues may be particular to a degree and a career in the United States.

The first is your plans after you graduate. If you are committed to academia, the limitations on publications the company may impose could be an overwhelming disadvantage. You may be unable to participate fully in conferences; conference papers are often more highly regarded than journal papers in computer science, and provide important networking opportunities. You need a strong publication history to be considered for an assistant professor position, which you may not have after you graduate. This will all depend on the particular agreement you have with the sponsoring company, but I would be wary of an undefined delay which, at its worst, could become indefinite.

This is much less of a concern if you are not interested in an academic position. An industry sponsorship will give you immediate connections in the work force, possibly more marketable skills that can be employed after graduation, and guaranteed funding. University funding is not always ensured for your entire degree and may have its own conditions. While more theoretical work may be possible when university sponsored, you still may be pushed onto or moved between projects dependent upon which grants/collaborations your advisor has in place.

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As I was observing this in Academia it works like "get as much clear funding as you can work out"? With a decent funding, you can diminish all stated problems; inversed move is much harder. That concerns from a side looked like you're already at a peak with a solid financial foundation and choosing from a huge amount of options. Maybe, the situation differs, but recheck the reality, just for sure.

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