Top 10 International Distance Doctoral Programs

TOP-10-INTERNATIONAL-DISTANCE-DOCTORAL-PROGRAMSOur top 10 list of international distance doctorates is a broad ranking which takes into account rankings from U.S. News and World Report (when available), QS Top Universities which ranks worldwide universities, accessibility to students in the United States, and delivery in English. Schools with highly prestigious histories, rankings and name recognition were given top places on our list.

Many universities in different countries charge varying tuition fees based on majors because of how the Europeans structure their colleges within the context of a single institution. Therefore, it behooves the reader to check on tuition and fees for individual programs and to send letters/e-mails of inquiry to each program to make sure they know what is expected of them both in terms of qualifications as well as cost. We give here in our list general approximations for tuition and fees for most of the institutions, especially those with a broad number of variations in their charges across colleges and majors. Further, contacting and interacting with supervisors is of utmost importance at most of the following institutions. On the institutional webpages there are usually links to the various supervisors available to work with at this advanced research level. Be mindful of your choices in this regard and do not hesitation to send correspondence asking for details, availability and other questions that you might have concerning distance doctorates.

Lastly, distance doctorates from prestigious institutions throughout Europe in particular are being phased out in various departments and schools. What we have listed here are what remains of schools who remain active in a long tradition of working with doctoral candidates from afar. We did consider distance doctorates from other countries and not just Europe. It just so happens that these top 10 outranked those from places such as China since those institutions are rather young. It may be that they soon become academic powerhouses in regards to distance doctorates in the near future.

1. University of Oxford (England) Oxford

Without a doubt, the name “Oxford” elicits thoughts of quality, expertise, and the best British higher education has to offer. Oxford offers a number of D.Phil. degrees (the U.S. equivalent of a Ph.D.) in a number of fields that can be taken at a distance. Part-time students usually take six to eight years to complete their program while the minimum amount of time one has to spend in the program is four years. Like many European programs, there are no required courses but rather a thesis and an oral examination called a viva voce. The viva voce consists of a thesis defense as well as an oral examination of the candidate’s subject of inquiry.

Distance students are often required to be on campus for 30 days a year and must meet with their supervisor once a term. Programs such as Art History and Design, Counselling and Psychotherapy, History, Human Rights Law, Literature, Maths, Computing and Data Science, Political Economy and Business and Sustainable Urban Development are available through the oxford research program. While there are dedicated subjects that one can take at a distance, a student can apply to participate in a D.Phil. program by inquiring about the availability of supervision in said subject area.

U.S. News and World Report ranks University of Oxford #1 among British Universities and #5 globally. Tuition, however, is difficult to summarize because different departments may charge different levels of tuition.  As an example, the Department of Classics charges overseas D.Phil. students £15,295 per year while the Department of Anthropology charges £18,770. One can find the course rate calculations for tuition here. Looking at various institutions abroad, Oxford easily rises to the top of the available institutions for advance degrees in a number of areas.

2. King’s College London (England) Kings College

King’s College London is a public research university in London, England and is a constituent college of University of London. The college boasts 22,080 students overall with 36% of the student population being postgraduate students.  49% of those post graduate students are international. The Arts and Humanities college is ranked at #23 worldwide by QS Top Worldwide Universities. The University leads the world in research and has been the center of major advances such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that lead to the development of the radio, television, mobile phones and radar.

King’s College London offers various distance learning D.Phil. degrees (equivalent to a U.S. Ph.D.) in various fields. Much of the program is from a distance but there are a few on campus requirements for students.  Enrollment and induction into programs often requires the student to be on site.  For some degrees, this is the only requirement as no residency requirements are enforced beyond induction into the program. However, the departments often encourage students to be on campus for various activities that might involve other Ph.D. students.

Again, different departments and colleges have different requirements. For example, the Ph.D. in War Studies is targeted at mid-career professionals who are unable to leave their place of residence for any period of time and, therefore, are exempt from any residency requirements. This may not be the case with other degrees in other departments. For example, the department of Political Economics gives more vague and flexible instructions in their residency requirements because they wish the student personally to work it out with the department.  Like at University of Oxford, tuition varies between departments. U.S. News and World Report ranks King’s College London #7 among British Universities and #61 Globally.  QS World University Rankings places King’s College London at #19 in their top global universities.

3. University of Manchester (England)Manchester

University of Manchester is a public research university in Manchester, England. Manchester University was formed in 2004 when the University of Manchester Institute of Science and technology merged with the Victoria University of Manchester. The universities boasts 34,470 students with 26% of the student population being postgraduate students. 43% of those postgraduate students are international. The Social Science and Management college is ranked #35 by QS Top Universities. University of Manchester boasts accomplishments in research such as the birth of modern computer, the splitting of the atom, and advancements in the principles of modern economics.

University of Manchester offers a distance PhD to international students in Nursing. While distance learning is indeed an option, it does entail some on campus time during induction week to meet your supervisor and fellow students. The research methods course which is mandatory for all students has been converted into an online course for students learning at a distance. Supervisors meet with their students through teleconferencing throughout the program. Tuition is approximately £14,000 per year (this number is based on the number given for funding to EU students and is not a direct number from a tuition database on the U.Manchester site). While students from the EU get full funding, it is unclear what funding there is for international students outside of the EU. Individual students should inquire about exact tuition and funding when looking into the program. The program offers a number of emphases including Midwifery (PhD), Nursing (PhD), and Social Work (PhD).

U.S News and World Report ranks University of Manchester #11 globally and at #6 within Britain. QS World University Rankings places University of Manchester at #33 in their top global universities.

4. University of Birmingham (England)Birmingham

University of Birmingham is a public research university located in Edgbaston, Birmingham in the country of England. University of Birmingham has a student population of 25,826 with 31% of the student population being postgraduate students. Further, 31% of the academic staff are international as well. 61% of those postgraduate students are international. The university’s Arts and Humanities school is ranked #63 worldwide by QS World University Rankings.

The University of Birmingham offers a large number of distance Ph.D’s in many different fields. Distance Learning Ph.D.’s include those in African Studies, Archaeology, Classics and Ancient History, English Literature, History of Art, Russian Studies, Sexuality and Gender Studies, among many others.  Tuition is £13,680 for a year for full-time, overseas students. If one takes a full-time approach to the degree, it takes about three years while part-time tracks take about six years. Birmingham provides access to distance learning mentors who are students in the program available to answer questions one might have about the program in general and how they cope with being far away from their home campus.  The program is meant to provide a way for people in the work place or for those who do not wish to or are unable to uproot their families to pursue research work in a field of their choice at the highest levels.

U.S. News and World Report ranks University of Birmingham #122 globally, #43 among European universities, while the university ranks #11 among universities in Great Britain.  QS World University Ranking ranks University of Birmingham at #76 among global universities.

5. University of Liverpool (England)

liverpoolUniversity of Liverpool is a public university in Liverpool, England. University of Liverpool provides that largest group of 100% online degree courses in Europe with about 7,000 students taking such courses. There are 19,639 students at University of Liverpool with 18% of the student population being postgraduate. 30% of the postgraduate student population is made up of international students. The Research Excellence Framework (a group which assesses the value of and ranking of British institutions and their research) ranks University of Liverpool in the top 10 in the UK for research in Chemistry, Computer Science, General Engineering, Archaeology, Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science, Architecture, Clinical Medicine, and English.

University of Liverpool offers fully online Ph.D.’s in both business and education with an optional residency. They provide both a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) and a Doctor of Education – Higher Education (EdD). The purpose of the programs is to bring together senior professionals who wish to further their careers and the knowledge within their respective subjects through advanced research. The online Doctor of Business Administration is accredited by the University of Liverpool Management School’s AACSB Accreditation, which is awarded to only 5% of business schools worldwide.  The online Doctor of Education is focused on leadership within the context of higher education in a global context. While both degrees are considered to be professional degrees, they are equivalent to Ph.D.’s throughout the European Union. If you are in the U.S., seek advice from specialists in the field to get information about equivalence in the states.

Tuition for the Doctor of Business Administration is listed on Liverpool’s site to be $85,750 for the entire program with options for reductions in cost depending on how the student pays. Tuition for the Doctor of education is $58,650 for the entire degree with options for reductions in cost depending on how the student pays. U.S. News and World Report ranks University of Liverpool at #155 globally, #61 among European institutions, and #15 within Great Britain.  QS World University Ranking ranks University of Liverpool at #151 worldwide.

6. McGill University (Canada)McGill

McGill University is based in Montreal, Canada. The university boasts 250 specialized Master’s and Doctoral degree programs, placing it among the best research universities in North America. McGill has a student population of 29,100 people with 24% of the student population being postgraduate. 34% of those postgraduate students are international students. QS World University Ranking ranks McGill University’s Life Sciences and Medical school at #34 globally.

McGill University is located in Quebec, Canada and allows students wanting to earn a Ph.D. in Nursing to do so from a distance. However, this is not a distance degree that can be done entirely at a distance. Intensive summer courses will be a part of the curriculum and will have to be taken on site as well as meetings with supervisors. It is unclear whether the program takes advantage of Skype type technologies for meetings with supervisors and other individuals within the program to limit travel. Some students elect to spend a year in Montreal while taking the coursework (which can be completed in this time) and then spend the remaining years away. What one can take away from the information concerning the program is that it is incredibly flexible and the faculty and staff are willing to work with various student situations and needs. Further, there is no need to know French.

Part time registration (usually how one approaches a distance Ph.D.) comes in at approximately $4,989.27 (CAN) per semester for tuition and fees. U.S. News and World Report ranks McGill University at #53 internationally. QS World University Ranking ranks McGill University at #24 globally. The only reason this university is not higher on the list is simply the offerings. There is really only one degree, to our knowledge, that has distance learning available.

7. Australian National University (Australia)Australian National

Australian National University is a research university located in Canberra, Australia. The university is consistently ranked among the top 50 research universities in the world. Australian National University boasts a student body of 13,328 people with 39% of the population being post graduate. Of these postgraduate students, 60% of them are international students. QS World University Ranking ranks Australian National University’s Anthropology department at #7 and Arts and Humanities school at #12 globally.

Australian National University is typically offers on-campus, residential degrees but does make exceptions for distance learners. If an exemption for distance learning is granted, then the student is required to be in residence, not consecutively, for four weeks of the academic year. There are various degrees offered at the PhD level on the campus of Australian National University. For example, the College of Arts and Social Sciences  offers degrees in Anthropology, History, Literary Studies and many more. Again, one must apply to study within any given field from a distance and get permission to have a limited residency for the Ph.D. in your field. Each college and major has their own tuition and fees which apply. Please see the individual degree programs and send an inquiry as to cost for international students learning at a distance.

U.S. News and World Report ranks Australian National University #4 among Australian institutions of high learning and #80 among global institutions. QS World University Ranking ranks Australian National University at #19 globally. This disparity between U.S. News and QS is interesting but is centered in their various research parameters and caused us to place Australian National University further down the list. In spite of this being the case, the university is in our top 10 and definitely should be in consideration for a distance PhD if you are looking to apply.

8. University of Calgary (Canada)Calgary

University of Calgary is a research university located in Calgary, Alberta in Canada. The university has 14 faculties and over 85 research institutes and centers. University of Calgary has a student population of 28,601 with 19% of the student body being postgraduates. 38% of postgraduates are international students. The university consistently ranks within the top 10 among Canadian universities. University of Calgary boasts 77 Canada Research Chairs.

University of Calgary provides a Doctor of Education with a blended delivery. There are online courses with some face-to-face meetings that occur throughout the program. One of the major admission requirements is practical experience in the field of education along with a portfolio of work which can include a thesis (MA), curriculum documents, articles, research grants, and so forth. If one does not have the relevant degree background for the Ph.D., life experience can be utilized for admission with proof such as work experience, continuing education efforts, work related products such as handbooks or reports, and a number of other related documents. The program is a three-year cohort based curriculum with two years of course work and one year of writing the dissertation.  The maximum a student can take in the program is six years, making the extended time the equivalent of doing the program as a part-time student. Graduate tuition is $12,695.88 per year for international students.

U.S. News and World Report ranks University of Calgary at #194 globally and #6 within Canada. QS World University Ranking ranks University of Calgary at #204 globally.

9. Sabi University (France)SABI-UNIVERSITY-Logo

Sabi University, unlike those who make our list in our top 8 above, is a private university located in Paris, France. Also different from the above institutions is Sabi University’s focus. Sabi University is a university dedicated to the fields of business and public administration. Sabi University attempts to develop leaders and citizens who are part of a global environment which emphasizes diversity, competition, environmental respect, cultural understand, and technological advancement.

Sabi University is an online degree granting university which is located in Paris, France. The university offers a Doctor of Business Administration. The research done within the context of Sabi’s program centers on the novel application of theory within business practices rather than on the creation and testing of theory. The target student for this degree are professional students and not necessarily those who wish to work in the field of academics. Those who participate in the program are expected to integrate their new knowledge into their current working environments. The program utilizes a number of ways to learn including pre- recorded lectures, flipped interactive classroom discussions, case studies, assignments, seminars, additional reading materials and through active research using appropriate quantitative and qualitative methods.

All courses, seminars and workshops must be completed within the first 20 weeks of the program which are followed by a Grand Final Exam (equivalent to graduate exams in U.S. programs). The program is concluded with a thesis.  Tuition is $90 per credit hour with the program being 120 credits in length.

10. Monarch University (Switzerland)monarch

Monarch University is located in Zug, Switzerland. Like Sabi University, Monarch is a specialized university concentrating in applied education and research in management. The programs at Monarch are accredited by the Swiss Federation of Private Business Schools. The student body at Monarch is represented by 33 nationalities and the university encourages learning and growth in cross-cultural engagement.

Monarch University in Switzerland offers a number of distance Doctoral programs centered on Business.  They offer doctorates in Management, Finance, Economics, Business Philosophy, and Business Administration. Like many of the schools in our list, students in the distance doctoral programs must complete their own research and be independent in their working habits. The school hopes that all students who are accepted at the university will get to know their supervisors as well as the international faculty that are available to them.  The target students for theses degrees are primarily those who are going into academia or wish to work in consulting firms as theorists and specialists.

When a student completes the first three chapters of their dissertation, they are awarded the Master of Philosophy Degree. Therefore, the program is a dual degree program with a Master’s Degree built into the sequence of study.  Students are allowed to attend symposiums which are conducted at the Rapperswil Castle on the shore of Lake Zurich. Further, the university conducts workshops which candidates are allowed to attend. These workshops have been conducted in Dubai, Spain, Switzerland and other international locations.  Tuition costs 5,000 euros per year plus fees.