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Should I do a PhD in Computer Science at КАUST (Saudi Arabia)?


Solaire2991843

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Greetings,

I have recently been accepted to an MS/PhD program at КАUST and am trying to decide if I should go there.

The professor and the group's research look great to me, they moved there very recently from a top 20 uni (their motivation was that КАUST provides much better funding, they don't have to apply to any grants and have nearly unlimited travel funds, more time and freedom for research, etc.). Judging by the current PhD students and a discussion with the professor, I think there are great prospects to do some amazing research and publish in top conferences during my PhD with the group.

The position would likely be my top choice ever, if it were in a more well-known western place. I am mainly concerned about my career opportunities in competitive places in the US/Europe after getting that PhD. I have seen some quite radical opinions that it is nearly impossible to get a good position in academia in the US with a PhD from a non-western institution (e.g. "Is obtaining a PhD from an Asian country really a career suicide?"). I am also not sure about prospects of getting research positions/internships in tech companies (e.g. machine learning teams in Google, FB, etc.), since it seems they already have lots of qualified candidates from the US and it may be a problem to get through HR screen in the first place. The professor surely has some connections that would be helpful, but it still seems like a huge risk to me.

The offered scholarship is pretty good, but not extraordinary: similar yearly salary to what a PhD would get in the US + free housing/no taxes (cost of living is not much lower than in the US). I am OK with the location and its advantages/disadvantages, I'd say I am really excited to explore a place like that for some time (e.g. a year), but not super excited about spending next 4-5 years there (but that is a less important factor for me).

I didn't apply to any other PhD programs this year. Getting a 3-year BS from a not so highly ranked uni in Europe (with great GPA though), with average recommendation letters, without substantial research experience, I intended to first get a masters and more research experience and try my chances at PhD applications later. At the moment, my other option is an MS program in a top Swiss uni. Although it is somewhat questionable what are my chances of getting a comparably good PhD after that Swiss program, since the MS program here is more oriented on taking courses and there is not much time for doing research, only in summer and in the MS thesis (but that is not my main question here).

TL;DR: Should I do a PhD in a not widely known non-western institution, but in a great group with great funding? Should I be concerned about my career prospects in western countries, or is the institution's reputation nearly irrelevant compared to my research output? Should I rather aim to find a PhD in a well-known top place, if that is what matters for me?

Thank you for your opinions.

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KAUST vision is to be on top 5 schools around the world in the coming 5 years 

 

also you have mentioned a concern

Should I do a PhD in a not widely known non-western institution, but in a great group with great funding? Should I be concerned about my career prospects in western countries, or is the institution's reputation nearly irrelevant compared to my research output? Should I rather aim to find a PhD in a well-known top place, if that is what matters for me?"

 

let me echo this for you as you are heading toward academia 

 

it's not about what institution you graduated from

 

it's about what you publish and provide to the scientific community 

 

if i were you , i would choose KAUST with a blind eye . they will take a good care of you

 

and you will end up making money also !

 

besides . the region is heavily growing into the new silicon valley and technology hub of the MENA region 

 

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