How to Apply for a PhD Abroad

Updated on 05 May, 2023

Career planning is one of the most crucial activities students engage in after completing their education, especially after earning a master’s. On many occasions, there is still a lot one can learn about the chosen field by doing a PhD. It is the best option for those who want to explore novel areas of study and education in-depth. But how to apply for a PhD in foreign university is the one topic that is constantly on a student’s mind.

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Why is PhD important and how to apply for a PhD abroad?

A wide range of career options, both in India and abroad, can be unlocked by finishing your PhD. Choosing an international university to do your PhD has several advantages. Some of the well-known benefits of obtaining a PhD overseas are listed below:

  1. Students can look out for fresh possibilities and novel experiences.
  2. They can also apply for scholarships, which will reduce their tuition costs.
  3. Students have the choice of learning about the culture of the new nation.
  4. Additionally, it facilitates networking.
  5. It helps students learn from the top professors in the world.
  6. It offers a selection of various research packages for the user to choose from.
  7. A PhD from a university with international renown improves job prospects.

A guide on how to apply for a PhD in foreign universities is provided below.

Which 5 PhD Streams are Most Popular?

There are no restrictions on the disciplines in which a student can pursue a PhD. Some streams pay better and are in higher demand than others. Here are the top 5 PhD streams to take into account as you decide to apply for a PhD abroad:

  1. Political Science 
  2. Economics
  3. Physical Therapy 
  4. Chemistry
  5. Psychology

Top 5 Countries to Apply for PhD

United States of America

The USA is the best country to apply to for a PhD because of the high quality of education there. In addition, the USA provides a wide range of subject options, exposing overseas students to numerous research initiatives. Gaining expertise in the specialized subject of study can be facilitated by a PhD from the United States.

The top 5 US universities and their most popular PhD programs are:

Sno.Name of the UniversityPopular PhD programFeesRanking (QS 2023)
1.Harvard UniversityPolitical Science (Doctor of Philosophy)$52,4565
2.Stanford UniversityElementary Education$564873
3.Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyBehavioral and Policy Sciences$28795 per semester1
4.California Institute of TechnologyDoctor of Philosophy$97886+6
5.Yale UniversityArts and Science$4690018

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German universities offer top-notch facilities to international students, making them a center for higher education. Renowned German universities and colleges also provide thesis-based research degrees. Every year, Germany awards more than 29,000 PhD degrees to international students. The top 5 German universities that grant PhDs are shown below:

Sno.Name of the UniversityPopular PhD programFeesRanking (THE 2023)
1.Technical University of MunichDoctorate in TechnoScience StudiesNo fee30
2.Ludwig-Maximilians-UniversityDoctoral Program Environment and SocietyNo fee33
3.Heidelberg UniversityHumanities, Social Science and LawEURO 1500 per semester43
4.Charité – Universitätsmedizin BerlinMedicine315,64 €73
5.Humboldt University BerlinBerlin-Brandenburg School for Regenerative TherapiesNo fee86

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United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is well known for its elite educational system and a broad range of degree programs. Several of the top universities in the world are located in the UK, which makes it popular with students from other countries. The top 5 institutions where international students can pursue a Ph.D. are as follows:

Sno.Name of the UniversityPopular PhD programFeesRanking (THE 2023)
1.University of OxfordAncient History – DPhil£28,0201
2.University of CambridgePhD in Aerosol Science£53,3413
3.Imperial College LondonEngineering£ 27,50010
4.UCLCentre for Multidisciplinary and Intercultural Inquiry, Research Degree£22,23022
5.University of EdinburghAccounting (PHD) £24,80029

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A Canadian PhD entails training and research with some of the top academics. Like the United States, Canada is renowned for its cutting-edge educational facilities for international students. A student can take advantage of several internship possibilities and post-study work visa programs shortly after completing their studies. The top 5 Canadian universities offering PhD programs are as follows:

Sno.Name of the UniversityPopular PhD programFeesRanking (THE 2023)
1.University of TorontoArts and Science$8,735.9918
2.University of British ColumbiaDoctor of Education in Educational Leadership$3,130.70 (installment based)40
3.McGill UniversityDoctor of Philosophy$2845 per semester46
4.McMaster UniversityDoctor of Business$6307 per year85
5.University of MontrealCommunication$7304 per year111

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Australia is one of the best options for research-based programs for any PhD student. The country also offers a variety of scholarships for international students and boasts world-class infrastructure with the highest completion rates for PhDs. Additionally, students at Australian universities can choose to pursue PhD in some of the most offbeat and innovative fields. Some of the top universities offering PhD programs are as follows:

Sno.Name of the UniversityPopular PhD programFeesRanking (THE 2023)
1.University of MelbourneDoctor of PhilosophyAUD$206,88634
2.Monash UniversityBusiness$33700 44
3.University of QueenslandArchitecture$37,48053
4.University of SydneyDoctor of Philosophy$51,000 54
5.Australian National UniversityDoctor of Medicine and Surgery$87,590.0062

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How to apply in foreign universities for a PhD?

Here is a list of the paperwork students must provide to apply to one of the overseas universities. The paperwork would vary from country to country and from university to university.

  1. A master’s degree earned from a recognized university.
  2. GRE scores (For courses/ universities that require GRE, a score above 310+ is considered to be good, although the minimum score for different sections may differ for each program/ university)
  3. IELTS proficiency test results (an IELTS score of 6.5 overall is generally required, with at least 6.0 in each of the four components).
  4. Letter of recommendation
  5. Transcripts (of secondary school education, undergraduate degree, and graduate degree)
  6. Statement of Purpos

How to apply for a PhD abroad with a scholarship?

The top 5 scholarships for Indian students interested in pursuing a PhD at a foreign university are listed below:

Sno.Name of the ScholarshipEligibilityAmount CoveredDuration
1.Destination Australia ProgramStudying at a regional institute in AustraliaUp to $15,000 per year4 years
2.Vanier Canada Graduate ScholarshipsExceptional academic merits, research potential, and leadership skills.CAD 50,0003 years
3.Friedrich Naumann Foundation for International StudentsAcademic merit and relevance of the research proposal800 to €1200 per monthUp to 3 years
4.AAUW International Women’s FellowshipWomen scholars of non-US citizenship who intend to return to their home country.$20,000–$50,000 a year1 year
5.DAAD Scholarship GermanyTwo years of work experience, academic merit, and german language requirementsCurrently, € 1,200
(It includes  monthly scholarship payment and travel allowance. It might also include health, accident, and personal liability insurance)
1 year

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A Ph.D.  is an exceptional qualification that requires a lot of attention on the part of the students and guidance from an excellent university that values research. Therefore, students need to understand how to get admission in PhD abroad at some top universities. The facts in this post will help you determine which nation will be the best and why.

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How to get admission in PhD abroad?

Along with other necessary paperwork from the university, a student needs a master’s degree from an accredited institution to study PhD abroad.




Is there a test to get a PhD abroad?

Some of the most popular entrance examinations needed for studying PhD abroad include IELTS, TOEFL, the GRE, the GMAT, and the SAT.








upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team

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