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PhD/DPhil in Defense/International Security Studies

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  • View Poll Results: Which offer to choose?
    King's College London (PhD in War Studies)
    11
    68.75%
    Oxford University (DPhil in International Relations)
    3
    18.75%
    London School of Economics (PhD in International Relations)
    2
    12.50%

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    Please give a bit of feedback on which of these three offers you would choose. I've listed each course along with some points for consideration. My primary interest is in defense/international security strategy and policy. My long-term goal is to publish/teach while working on defense/security policy with a governmental organization/think tank in the United States.

    King's College London (PhD in War Studies): Offers one of the best War Studies departments in the world. On the whole, the university is considered reputable. My potential supervisor is a perfect fit for my research topic. London location offers a wealth of academic resources and professional opportunities.

    Oxford University (DPhil in International Relations): Offers a very solid International Relations department, though with little emphasis on defense/security. On the whole, the university is considered world class. My potential supervisor is somewhat of a fit for my research topic. Oxford location offers a wealth of academic resources, but rather limited professional opportunities.

    London School of Economics (PhD in International Relations): Offers one of the best International Relations departments in the world, though with less emphasis on defense/security than King's College London. On the whole, the university is considered world class. My potential supervisor is somewhat of a fit for my research topic. London location offers a wealth of academic resources and professional opportunities.
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    (Original post by War and Peace)
    My primary interest is in defense/international security strategy and policy. My long-term goal is to publish/teach while working on defense/security policy with a governmental organization/think tank in the United States.
    Haven't you really answered your own question? If that's what you really think, then only one of your three specialises in this area. Say Hello to Wyn Bowen for me....
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    (Original post by War and Peace)
    Please give a bit of feedback on which of these three offers you would choose. I've listed each course along with some points for consideration. My primary interest is in defense/international security strategy and policy. My long-term goal is to publish/teach while working on defense/security policy with a governmental organization/think tank in the United States.

    King's College London (PhD in War Studies): Offers one of the best War Studies departments in the world. On the whole, the university is considered reputable. My potential supervisor is a perfect fit for my research topic. London location offers a wealth of academic resources and professional opportunities.

    Oxford University (DPhil in International Relations): Offers a very solid International Relations department, though with little emphasis on defense/security. On the whole, the university is considered world class. My potential supervisor is somewhat of a fit for my research topic. Oxford location offers a wealth of academic resources, but rather limited professional opportunities.

    London School of Economics (PhD in International Relations): Offers one of the best International Relations departments in the world, though with less emphasis on defense/security than King's College London. On the whole, the university is considered world class. My potential supervisor is somewhat of a fit for my research topic. London location offers a wealth of academic resources and professional opportunities.
    Have you had a look at Cranfield?
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    (Original post by Cora Lindsay)
    Haven't you really answered your own question? If that's what you really think, then only one of your three specialises in this area. Say Hello to Wyn Bowen for me....
    Thanks for your reply. King's offers a specialized program that has a great reputation within the defense/security community. LSE and Oxford offer broader, slightly less applicable programs with outstanding reputations across many communities.

    I suppose for me the question is one of specialization v. general reputation. I think finding a department that's a "good fit" is very important. However, I've also seen people out of brand name universities end up with more opportunities than those from great departments (like War Studies) at lesser universities.
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    (Original post by apotoftea)
    Have you had a look at Cranfield?
    Yes. However, I excluded it for two reasons: 1) my work is more strategic/theoretical and Cranfield seems to have more of a technical focus and 2) few people outside the United Kingdom seem to know of Cranfield.
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    (Original post by War and Peace)
    Thanks for your reply. King's offers a specialized program that has a great reputation within the defense/security community. LSE and Oxford offer broader, slightly less applicable programs with outstanding reputations across many communities.

    I suppose for me the question is one of specialization v. general reputation. I think finding a department that's a "good fit" is very important. However, I've also seen people out of brand name universities end up with more opportunities than those from great departments (like War Studies) at lesser universities.
    I think employers are more discerning post-PhD, especially for specialist topics, and are well aware that 'OK' universities may host world-leading expertise in specific areas. I am very much on the technical side of things but I do occasionally get involved in policy- and security-related discussions and have come across people from King's War Studies there (and very impressive they are). I have yet to encounter anyone from LSE or Oxford in those fora.

    Have you considered the Mountbatten Centre at Southampton?
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    (Original post by Cora Lindsay)
    Have you considered the Mountbatten Centre at Southampton?
    No, I've never heard of the Mountbatten Centre at Southampton.
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    (Original post by War and Peace)
    No, I've never heard of the Mountbatten Centre at Southampton.
    http://www.mcis.soton.ac.uk/index.php
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    (Original post by War and Peace)
    Please give a bit of feedback on which of these three offers you would choose. I've listed each course along with some points for consideration. My primary interest is in defense/international security strategy and policy. My long-term goal is to publish/teach while working on defense/security policy with a governmental organization/think tank in the United States.
    ...
    Have you had a look at the websites of the types of organizations you are thinking of? Some of them have bios of their employees - it might be worth a look to get an idea of whether they go for department or university name brand. I hear what Cora is saying, but I also hear a lot of people say that employers outside the UK often don't know unis outside the top few - in trying to figure out reality vs hearsay, seeing where employees are 'sourced' from might help?
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    (Original post by sj27)
    Have you had a look at the websites of the types of organizations you are thinking of? Some of them have bios of their employees - it might be worth a look to get an idea of whether they go for department or university name brand. I hear what Cora is saying, but I also hear a lot of people say that employers outside the UK often don't know unis outside the top few - in trying to figure out reality vs hearsay, seeing where employees are 'sourced' from might help?
    Good point

    C
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    Of your 3, I'd pick Kings, but that's just me. Have you looked at St Andrews? My interest is terrorism and that's where I'd pick first.

    Most of the advice I've been given is to prefer supervisor over institution brand and that seems sound to me. Though I must say I've been nosying through bios of academics I respect and a lot of them mention Oxford, at least at undergrad. I used to work with a guy who went to Oxbridge, and he said you're a fool to pass up a place there simply for the networking- future world leaders went there while he was there. I think I'd still privilege supervisor though- any of those 3 institutions would be prestigious so no loss.
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    (Original post by Inkslick)
    Of your 3, I'd pick Kings, but that's just me. Have you looked at St Andrews? My interest is terrorism and that's where I'd pick first.

    Most of the advice I've been given is to prefer supervisor over institution brand and that seems sound to me. Though I must say I've been nosying through bios of academics I respect and a lot of them mention Oxford, at least at undergrad. I used to work with a guy who went to Oxbridge, and he said you're a fool to pass up a place there simply for the networking- future world leaders went there while he was there. I think I'd still privilege supervisor though- any of those 3 institutions would be prestigious so no loss.
    I actually hold degrees from St Andrews and the LSE. I think St Andrews, especially for terrorism studies, is very strong. However, I don't want to spend three more years in a remote (though beautiful) part of Scotland where professional opportunities are limited. I think the LSE is the place to go if you want to meet future world leaders and aspiring power brokers.

    I tend to agree with prioritizing supervisor over institution. King's lack of name recognition in the US is what concerns me a bit. If my plan was to be a full-time academic then this would matter less, but the policy world can be very political. Branding and connections are very important if you aim for an appointed position within government or other advisory roles. Based on my observation, the only UK universities with strong brands in the US are Oxbridge, the LSE, and St Andrews. King's is very strong in War Studies, but I'm not sure it would offer the branding and connections necessary to keep all doors open.
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    How about impressing future employers with good marks, personality and knowledge instead of "brand name"? Yes, London Met would set you back, but King's is very reputable overall and I doubt anyone would choose an average Oxbridge graduate over a highly interested, talented King's graduate. Those institution and Think Tanks in the US who specialise on what you want to do will know the best schools for this specific field, even though the average American might not have heard about King's.
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    (Original post by Sir Fox)
    How about impressing future employers with good marks, personality and knowledge instead of "brand name"? Yes, London Met would set you back, but King's is very reputable overall and I doubt anyone would choose an average Oxbridge graduate over a highly interested, talented King's graduate. Those institution and Think Tanks in the US who specialise on what you want to do will know the best schools for this specific field, even though the average American might not have heard about King's.
    Thanks for your reply. Of course good marks, personality, and knowledge are important, but most people in serious contention for top positions have these traits. King's is very reputable overall and many of their alumni do outshine those from Oxbridge/LSE. However, like a large proportion of appointed political figures in the UK come from Oxbridge/LSE, a large proportion of these types of people in the US come from a handful of top US universities. I'd already be somewhat limited by holding UK rather than US credentials. I'm concerned that if Oxbridge/LSE are considered on par with top universities in the US, and King's is not viewed as comparable (read as politically and socially acceptable) with Oxbridge/LSE, then this limitation will be severe.
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    Would there br any possibility of acquiring a PhD from Oxford (for the reputation), then joining King's staff as a postdoc for a couple of years and THEN progressing to the US?
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    (Original post by Sir Fox)
    Would there br any possibility of acquiring a PhD from Oxford (for the reputation), then joining King's staff as a postdoc for a couple of years and THEN progressing to the US?
    Sure. Alternatively, one could do the KCL PhD (for the content) and then an Oxford postdoc/fellowship. I'm not sure that would have the desired branding impact, though.
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    (Original post by War and Peace)
    Sure. Alternatively, one could do the KCL PhD (for the content) and then an Oxford postdoc/fellowship. I'm not sure that would have the desired branding impact, though.
    I don't have any experience about that, but to me working at Oxbridge seems much more difficult and therefore reputable than studying. They accept hundreds of Master and PhD students a year but how many people join their staff? Far less I bet.

    In the end it's course against reputation and no one can help you on that. Btw, why don't you do your PhD in the US? Fees?
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    (Original post by Sir Fox)
    Btw, why don't you do your PhD in the US? Fees?
    Mostly time and technique -- fees are covered in the US. I already hold a graduate degree, but this would not reduce my time of study (5 to 7 years) for a PhD in the US. UK programs take only 3 years. I'm not all that interested in quantitative work, which is practically a must for US PhD programs.
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    (Original post by Sir Fox)
    I don't have any experience about that, but to me working at Oxbridge seems much more difficult and therefore reputable than studying. They accept hundreds of Master and PhD students a year but how many people join their staff? Far less I bet.
    Yes, but he holds a PhD offer from Oxford. There is no certainty of being able to get a post-doc position there though.
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    I would suggest you go for the topic that you REALLY want to do, regardless of location. You're more likely to produce excellent work if the topic is something you feel passionate about, and the quality of that work will outweigh any intangible cost associated with a less 'prestigious' institution. Better to be the best PhD coming out of War Studies in King's, rather than middle of the pack coming out of Oxford in my view.

    I'm also not really convinced by 'the Americans haven't heard of King's War Studies'- my impression is there is a lot of exchange and interaction between the relevant communities on both sides of the Atlantic.

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