Cowan: PhD in four a matter of priority not possibility

The PhD students quoted in your story about doctoral candidates at Western (“Funding beyond year four?” June 23) implied two things that warrant being challenged. They wrongly implied:

  1. All international PhD students cannot finish their doctorate in the four years in which Western guarantees funding; and
  2. All international PhD students deserve to have their funding period extended past the current designated four funded years—giving them special treatment not afforded domestic doctoral candidates.

One doctoral candidate, Saad Anis from Pakistan, was quoted as saying “the program is not finishable in four years.” In fact, completing a doctorate at Western for any domestic or international student can be done in four years or less, depending on various factors, including the nature of the doctoral work, English language abilities, availability of the supervisor, working relationship between the supervisor and student, family commitments, non-academic work schedule, time off and other vacations instead of working on the doctorate, willingness to devote evenings, weekends and holidays to doctoral work, among other things.

As one who completed my PhD (education studies, 2006) in just under three years, I know it’s possible to finish a doctorate in the four funded years. When I did my doctorate, some international colleagues and other domestic doctoral candidates in my program with me, who had more family responsibilities than I did, also finished within the four funded years.

Can it be done? Yes.

Thomas (Tim) James Michael Cowan