How to secure a PhD abroad independently: Finding host and supervisor

Following graduation from undergrad, students are frequently presented with a variety of job options. Many choose to pursue postgraduate degrees, such as PhD or MPhil, where they fully commit to carrying out specialised research.

Students often have the desire to pursue these degrees overseas. But they frequently discover that they are unable to navigate this process with the right assistance. Many turn to paying agencies or agents for help, which has the danger of coming across dishonest behaviour.

It is still quite possible to pursue a PhD or fellowship overseas on your own, though. A thorough roadmap to accomplishing this objective is provided in this article.

secure a PhD abroad independently

Step 1: Selecting the Subject of Your PhD Study

Choose a study topic that is relevant to your area of expertise and interests first. For example, there are several specialised branches of chemistry within its larger field. For my part, I find myself drawn to the field of organic chemistry and especially interested in learning more about the synthesis of natural products.

Selecting a research topic that aligns with your strengths and competencies is crucial for guaranteeing that you possess the necessary tools to carry out exhaustive and significant research in your preferred field of study.

Step 2: Selecting Specific Study countries

Make a list of the nations you want to study for your PhD. The decision is totally up to you. Make use of internet resources to evaluate various countries' academic strengths. Take into account the following factors when shortlisting the countries:

  • Language Barrier: Determine if the places you plan to study in have language obstacles.
  • Cost of Living: Make sure your budget can support the cost of living in each country by researching its average.
  • Academic Reputation: Evaluate each nation's universities and research centres in terms of their academic standing.
  • Visa Application Process: Research the requirements for obtaining a visa in each of the nations on your list.
  • Security and Lifestyle: Take into account aspects like general lifestyle quality, safety, and security in each nation.

Recall that in this endeavour, you could have to rely on your own abilities. Consult with people in your network who have worked or lived overseas to gain perspective. Use blogs and YouTube as additional internet resources to obtain a variety of viewpoints and views.

Step 3. Make a list of possible supervisors

Finding possible supervisors that share your research interests is crucial when pursuing a PhD. Here's how you can do this successfully:

1. Request Recommendations

To obtain recommendations for possible supervisors overseas, first speak with your project supervisors or postgraduate instructors. Their recommendations can greatly improve your chances of landing a PhD programme.

2. Use Research Papers

Make the most of your knowledge of the subject matter you have selected for your study. Make a list of the subtopics that fall within your speciality.

Proceed to Google Scholar, type your topic in search bar and apply filters to research papers by entering publication years or other relevant parameters.

Determine the corresponding author, who are probably supervisors, and make a note of the universities and nations they are affiliated with. This method gives you information about possible supervisors' research projects in addition to assisting you in finding them.

secure PhD abroad independently find host

3. Examine University Websites

To get a list of universities in the nation of interest, use internet tools such as ChatGPT. Check out the faculty members' biographies on these universities' websites. Numerous academic staff members have specialised websites that highlight their fields of study. Furthermore, contact information for faculty members to indicate interest in joining their research groups can be found on institution websites.

Using these techniques, you can create an extensive list of possible supervisors and their contact details. By taking a proactive stance, you can connect with supervisors whose research interests and ambitions match your own.

Step 4: Sending Emails to Supervisors to Establish Contact

It's time to get in touch with possible supervisors for your PhD study once you've found them. Here's how to make a good first impression:

1. Get the application materials ready

  • Write a strong cover letter outlining how eager you are to join their research team. Give a brief summary of your educational history, any prior research experiences you may have had, and your particular interest in the topic of study. Cite their published work to show that you are familiar with it and to emphasise how you can help them with their research.
  • Make a thorough CV that highlights your accomplishments, educational background, and career goals.
  • Make arrangements for the contact details of three instructors from your postsecondary education to serve as references, attesting to your academic qualifications and appropriateness for the PhD programme.

2. Contact by Email

  • To make your email easily recognised, use a clear and succinct subject line like "Application for PhD Position" or "Inquiry Regarding PhD Position."
  • Put a copy of your well-written cover letter in the email's body.
  • Send the email after attaching your resume and letters of recommendation.

Wait for their reply. They are probably going to say yes if they think your profile fits in and they have openings in their lab. If there are financial opportunities, they might even present them. If they want you to work in their lab but don't have the money, they might advise you to apply for certain fellowships. They may graciously decline or not answer if your profile doesn't meet their qualifications or if they aren't taking on any new students.

Step 5. Obtaining an Acceptance Letter

  • The supervisor may interview you to determine your qualifications if they have fellowship assistance available. They will provide you a formal letter of acceptance once you are qualified. For verification, they could also ask to see copies of your academic credentials.
  • The supervisor might suggest that you apply for a particular fellowship if there isn't funding for it. In this case, they will provide complete support during the application procedure.
  • A study proposal could also be asked for by certain supervisors. To meet this requirement, consult the tips for crafting a compelling research proposal.

Step 6: Apply for a Visa

After getting your acceptance letter, collect all required paperwork and get in touch with the Embassy to start the visa application process.

Remember that even though it might not be an easy procedure, if you follow these steps to the letter, your chances of landing a fellowship-supported post overseas will increase. Finding a supervisor who will allow you to work in their research lab is the hardest part. Three to nine months may pass during the entire process. For this reason, it is best to start the application process in your final semester of graduate school.

You can get in touch by leaving a remark if you need help or have any questions.


I hold a doctorate in chemistry and have expertise in the intersection of organic and medicinal chemistry. My work primarily revolves around developing bioactive molecules with medicinal potential.

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