I joined my current university (in a South Asian country) as a PhD student in mathematics last year (August 2016). My first year was spent doing coursework mostly, apart from doing reading projects in my areas of interest. My relationship with my advisor is excellent. However i want to transfer to a PhD program in Europe (more specifically Germany or Switzerland) as there are more people working in that area ,it's much easier to attend conferences (usually limited support offered by organizers is usually not enough to travel from my country) and I feel it will better for my career to do a phd from a more prestigious university.

How feasible are my chances or is it frowned upon in academia?

  • 2
    Which country are you currently in?
    – user2768
    Jun 13, 2017 at 14:42
  • does it matter? some country in south asia
    – user74728
    Jun 13, 2017 at 15:39
  • 2
    usually in Europe (unlike in US) as far as i know there is no coursework, one is expected to start research right away. Like i said my first year was spent in learning math rather than doing research. starting anew is fine by me , though
    – user74728
    Jun 13, 2017 at 16:04
  • 1
    Not true, most UK universities require research students (e.g. PhD students) to take a certain number of modules in their first year. This requirement can be waived in some cases, e.g. for studens with Master's, on your supervisor's discretion, due to time constraints. Jun 13, 2017 at 16:51
  • 3
    Even though my experience is entirely in the U.S., I think the notion that one can "transfer" at will (apart from any stigma or lack) is not accurate. I would wager that one "re-competes" for spots in PhD programs (rather than simply meeting some thresh-hold and therefore being accepted... especially if funding of any sort is necessary). That is, it's not so much that it is or isn't "frowned upon", but that it simply may not be possible. I think that is the baseline. Jun 13, 2017 at 23:49

1 Answer 1


I think that definitely it is possible to do a "transfer", although that probably would imply some extra overhead to deal with the requirement fulfilling of your destination university.

I started my PhD in a European university, to move to a US one. I said this because I was in a similar situation and I think that talking openly to your advisor is a key thing. You said:

My relationship with my advisor is excellent.

I think that if this is really the case, you should openly talk to him for the following reasons:

  1. If your Prof. is reasonable (I am sure he is given your words) he will understand your willingness and ambition and will be able to recommend you what is the best thing to do. Present to him the reasons as honestly as you are doing in here, he for sure is aware of situation.
  2. He will hopefully help you through the process with strong recommendation letters and with recommendations to european colleges that he knows, increasing heavily your chances of landing in a good program.
  3. Offer to keep him involved. If you consider this is a good opportunity for you, it may involve being a good opportunity for him too. Try to keep him in the loop -- maybe he can be your PhD co-supervisor?
  4. Talking to him, if you do it carefully, does not mean burning your boats of staying in your current institution. Once again, assuming he is a reasonable and wise person, if you tell him that this thing is going in your head, that this idea came to your mind and ask for his opinion he will most likely do not consider it disrespectful (in fact you are being honest with him) and he will in my opinion do not prevent you from staying if at the end things do not work out.

Best of lucks!

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