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Is this immoral? what would you do?


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Long story short I received 2 offers for PhD programs. One fully funded program in Canada and one non-funded program in Canada. The Canadian offer came very early in the cycle, the UK acceptance was almost in the summer. I accepted both but the UK program is my top choice.

The UK school gave me a deferral for up to 1 year so I can organize my move, apply for scholarships and sell some property. My plan is to start the program in Canada but to leave after the first year if 1) I do not become enamored with the program 2) still think it is financially viable to study in the UK. Is this completely immoral

I could theoretically ask for a deferral from the Canadian school but it is quite late and I don't know if I would get it...I can't exactly tell them I am waiting for my top choice to fall through.

What are your thoughts on this?

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In my opinion, starting a program with the intention of leaving it after 1 year for another program is immoral. Also, if a deferral is granted with the expectation that you will commit to that program in some future time, then accepting the deferral with the intention of not honouring that time is also immoral. For your case, I think moral obligations potentially exist for two schools:

For the Canadian school, I do not believe your intentions are going to be immoral. All you are saying is that since you have a deferral from the UK school, you are going to give the Canadian school a try and if you don't like it after 1 year, you'll pursue other options. This is completely fine, and always true. You are not expected to commit to finishing a program once you agree to start it. You just should not already have the intention to quit early when you start.

For the UK school, there is one potential tricky part. Based on the deferral granted, are you allowed to attend another school while on deferral from the UK school? If you are, then everything is great. However, if they are granting you a deferral because they expect you to get ready for their program and begin next fall, then I think you are being a dishonest here by telling them you'll attend next year but you are really just keeping them as a backup plan. Since this is not a funded offer, I don't think you are really obligated to begin next fall by accepting a deferral. However, that reasoning there is, in my opinion, not enough if the deferral was granted with the expectation that you attend next fall. I think the best thing to do is to find out, in some way, whether or not the 1 year deferral is an "option for you to attend next fall, if you'd like" or if it is "okay we wanted you to start the program this fall but since you need to get things in order, we'll expect to see you next fall instead".

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I have found no guidelines from the UK school about conduct during a deferral period. All I have found is the normal "we do not normally consider deferral" blurb that was in my offer letter and online. 

It is not that I do not intend to study at the UK school because I do. My big fear is that I might lose both if I withdraw from the Canadian school then something happens with the UK school.

Ultimately with the UK school the cost is weighing on my mind. In all honesty I can afford it...I have proven to them that I can at least pay for the first year...I worry however what could happen after that. Could the Canadian currency continue to deflate and ultimately make it so I cannot afford the UK school? I also wonder if the investment is worth it in the long run.  

With more time I can build more security. I can sell property to have more money than I will need and I can focus my attention on certain government scholarships. I imagine that my chances of getting those scholarships are greater since I have already been accepted to the program and it is for Oxbridge.  In all honest if I could find a ban that would lend me the money I would be happier. At least then if I can't get a job after I still have the cash!

Anyhow, long story short, I want to start the Canadian school because I fear losing both. It doesn't hurt either that I will make a good chunk of money in the process.

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I guess I might have misunderstood your original post then. When I read your first post, I didn't think that you were still strongly considering the UK program. I thought you said it was your first choice but since you didn't get funding, you are going to attend the Canadian program instead. But, since you got the deferral, you were only going to use the UK program as a backup in the unlikely event that you don't like your Canadian program.

However, now you clarify that you intend to study at the UK school in a year after all. So if you are starting the Canadian program with the intention of enrolling in the UK program in 1 year, then I think you are being dishonest and I would not advise this action. (Assuming that the Canadian program is 2 years long).

I see a lot of people on these forums trying to "have their cake and eat it too". I understand the worry that you will lose both, but when you are granted a deferral, you have to believe in the process that you will get a spot in the following year (otherwise, what is the point of a deferral?).

At this point, I do think you have to commit to one school or the other, in the sense that you need to either choose the Canadian school and enroll with the intention of completing it (sure, if there are no rules from the UK school against it, you can keep the deferral in your back pocket in case you are terribly unhappy at the Canadian school), or withdraw from the Canadian school and plan on enrolling in the UK school in a year. I believe that taking the funded offer from the Canadian school with the intention of completing their program is dishonest and will generally hurt students in general. 

I also understand the worry about investment in the long run and only you can decide whether the UK school is worth the cost. But you need to decide that now. 

If you cannot decide right now for whatever reason, then my opinion is that the proper course of action is to also get a deferral from the Canadian school for a year. Spend the next year selling your property, saving money, and thinking hard about what you really want to do. Then commit to one school or another. Don't attend one school with the intention of leaving it for another.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Decide now. Doing otherwise means you'll be getting the resources at the Canadian school that someone else, who actually intends to complete the program, could be using. If you want to go to the UK school, let the Canadian school know that you have to withdraw immediately. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

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