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  • Sophie Minihold

Doing a Joint-PhD: The Pros and Cons of a Dual Degree Adventure

Are you considering pursuing a Joint-PhD program, or you’re just curious to know what it is? Then this blogpost is perfect for you! I will tell you about this (mostly) exciting graduate school experience, and some of its challenges.

A Joint-PhD program is offered by two or more universities in partnership. This means that students will have the opportunity to work with faculty and resources from multiple institutions, often in different countries. My PhD program is split between The University of Amsterdam (UvA) and the University of Vienna (Univie). This means I spend some time at both universities. This switching between multiple institutions during your PhD is a great way to gain a diverse perspective on your research and make valuable connections in the academic community. The bureaucracy that comes with it, however, is challenging.

Having said that, let's dive more into the pros of a Joint-PhD program.

  1. Increased networking opportunities: By being part of a Joint-PhD program, you'll have the chance to connect with a wider community of scholars and researchers. This can be extremely valuable as you build your professional network and develop your career. Personally, I am most grateful for this specific benefit of the joint-PhD. I got to connect with many brilliant PhD students and faculty staff and feel at home at both universities.

  2. Access to a wider range of resources and expertise: With two universities involved in your program, you'll have access to a greater variety of resources - both in terms of material (e.g., funding) and human resources (e.g., team support). This can be especially valuable if you're working in an interdisciplinary field or have specific research needs as I did: my PhD is in the Political Communication domain but I got a lot of theoretical input from the colleagues of the Persuasive Communication Department at the UvA.

  3. Exposure to different research cultures and methodologies: Being part of a Joint-PhD program shows you different approaches to research and academic cultures. What might be super straightforward at one university might be unimaginable at another. To bridge the best of both worlds, I tried to bring some of Univie’s relaxedness (“schau’ ma mal”, in Austrian) to the UvA PhDs, while they showed me how engaging and fun their PhD Club sessions can be.

A Joint-PhD program is, however, not only sunshine and rainbows. There are also some potential downsides to consider, just like with every program you follow.

  1. Increased complexity and coordination: Joint-PhD programs can be more complex to navigate than traditional PhD programs, as you'll be working with multiple institutions and faculty members, and different administrative systems. It took many, many forms and signatures, much waiting, and filling out more forms before I was officially enrolled. Everything takes so much longer. This can lead to delays or additional challenges in completing the program.

  2. Moving is exhausting: In my case, I moved from Amsterdam to Vienna, from Vienna to Amsterdam, and just recently back to Vienna. This is expensive, mentally exhausting, and distracts you from your actual PhD work. I wholeheartedly suggest discussing the funding needed for moving during your joint-PhD degree already before you sign a contract or hope for (financially) supportive supervisors.

All in all, a Joint-PhD program can be an amazing opportunity. For me, it is both: a curse and a blessing at the same time.

About the author: Sophie Minihold is part of the NORFACE DATADRIVEN Project. Her PhD project is titled “Digital Campaign Competence: The role of voters in data-driven election campaigns”

You can find out more about her project here.


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