PhD programs offered to foreigners?
December 9, 2008 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Are there any respected PhD (or advanced research) programs offered from anywhere in the world that can be undertaken outside the country of the University that is offering it?

I am mostly interested in law or legal history but am eager to hear about any line of study offered out of any country. I am also interested in the opportunity to travel.
posted by zaebiz to Education (10 answers total)
Some universities offer online PhD programs - so they can be taken out of country. Be careful about accreditation, however.

The Concord Law School is part of Kaplan, and Kaplan is accredited.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:20 PM on December 9, 2008

Response by poster: dances_with_sneetches: "Be careful about accreditation, however. "

Thanks for your answer. What does accreditation entail? Is it a United Stated initiative?
posted by zaebiz at 2:09 PM on December 9, 2008

Accreditation means that a nominally disinterested third party -- an association of colleges and universities, or a government ministry -- has looked at the school and the relevant program and concluded that graduates of that program meet a set of minimal requirements that boil down to "What reasonable people mean when they 'PhD'" or whatever the degree is.

Accreditation is not normally difficult. It is a minimal standard. In the US, being unaccredited normally means that the program is grossly deficient in some objective, unambiguous way.

If a program is not accredited or ministry-certified you should assume that the purpose of this program is to extract money from you, full stop.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:41 PM on December 9, 2008

Further to that:

Getting through an unaccredited program means that at the end, you have a piece of paper with "Master of Arts" or "Doctor of Philosophy" or whatever on it, but nobody except that school will recognize it as a legitimate degree. Further, you could conceivably be fired, sued, or prosecuted for fraud if you list it as a legitimate credential; this actually happens with the most glaring bogus schools.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:45 PM on December 9, 2008

Accreditation is the process by which educational institutions are certified to be worth a damn. There are various accreditation agencies, some national, some regional (but no international ones as far as I'm aware) and they set standards that colleges and universities must meet to get the official seal of approval. An unaccredited school hasn't met these standards for some reason, and as a result, many people, including employers, often choose not to treat degrees from those schools as "real." Like if you go to an unaccredited law school you usually can't sit for the bar, or if you get a degree in education from an unaccredited school, you can't get a teaching certificate.

Accredited law schools almost universally require residence, especially full-time programs. I'm not aware of a single, full-time, accredited distance learning law school. If there is such a thing, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it's bound to suck. As in be completely unranked. As in your job prospects are slightly better than zero, but not by all that much. Stay away like the plague.

Concord Law School, mentioned above, is a four-year part-time distance learning program, but it will only enable you to sit for the bar in California, as it isn't actually accredited by the ABA.

That being said, there are many outstanding graduate and professional programs that offer the opportunity to travel. My law school offers a summer or a year in London, Temple Law School offers a year in Asia somewhere, etc. Many traditional graduate programs have exchange agreements with foreign universities to enable their students to research overseas, which can be incredibly important for fields like history. But as for doing the bulk of your study while not on campus, you can basically forget it for most non-masters graduate programs worth doing.

Sounds to me like you're not from the US. I'd also venture a guess that English may not be your first language. If that's the case, note that going to law school in the US will only enable you to practice law in the US. This is true pretty much everywhere: you want to practice law in country x, you go to law school in country x. There are a few exceptions (mostly in the British Commonwealth), and you can sometimes transfer your practice if you've been in the workforce for a few decades, but in general, it's just Not Done.

Ph.D. programs, on the other hand, are pretty universal. A Ph.D. from any major university will be good at any other major university, regardless of the country of origin.
posted by valkyryn at 2:51 PM on December 9, 2008

Online courses are normally targeted towards older students who want some specific degree for professional reasons, meaning little or no history. If you want to live abroad, why not go to school abroad?

Law degrees are often tied to one specific country. If you are Australian, then I'd suggest that you stay within the Commonwealth's legal system, so look for British schools.

p.s. ">Accreditation means some government approved academic organization has verified that the school meets some minimal academic criteria, but does not mean the institution is respected. You can find some dodgy ass accredited schools well before hitting the diploma mills. You might also beware accreditation mills.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:12 PM on December 9, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for your replies. To answer some questions - I'm Australian, English is my first language, I'm interested in European (especially French and Russian) law but have most experience in Australian and US law. I don't have an LLB (long story) but will soon have an LLM. Mainly interested in commercial law - consumer law, law of electronic commerce, competition (antitrust) law. I'm a little over 40 and I don't want to move overseas but guess I could for a few months at a time if necessary.
posted by zaebiz at 3:41 PM on December 9, 2008

The Open University is highly regarded and offers a range of Postgraduate degrees, including Ph.Ds. Here's a link to their research degrees which includes doctorates and some Master's programs. I think some of the degrees are available completely via distance learning, but you can poke around the web site.
posted by cushie at 5:13 PM on December 9, 2008

If you're in Australia, why don't you look at CSU and UNE. University of Sydney also has a small number of online offerings.
posted by wingless_angel at 6:46 PM on December 9, 2008

I'm going to take the keyword in your question as being 'respected.' So, respected by whom? By your acquaintances, who will be impressed by the simple fact of a Ph.D.? Maybe, sure. But respected by anyone who knows anything about academia? Not a chance with a 'distance learning' Ph.D. You won't get an academic job -- given the market, you won't even get an interview. You have to be at the university, training with the scholars, being an active part of a research community, to get a 'respected' Ph.D. Sorry -- it's just the way it works. If you're not interested in moving to pursue it, why not look into local programs?
posted by amelioration at 9:10 AM on December 10, 2008

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