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The differences are more than US versus UK. It's more US versus Europe.

I spent a semester in Ph.D. school in Denmark, and I noticed what you describe: 4 years guaranteed funding with a boot at the end.

What this means is that at the end of four years, a student has to staple all the papers they wrote, back-solve for a unifying "thesis" and then defend. No matter what.

In general, this is why Europeans Ph.D.s tend to need a postdoc, whereas American Ph.D.s can (usually) transition directly to faculty jobs.

The US Ph.D. student is encouraged to hang on and continue publishing with their advisor while they're on a hot streak and for as long as the grant funding lasts.

This allows US profs to turn the last couple years of their Ph.D. students into postdocs paid at grad student wages.

> whereas American Ph.D.s can (usually) transition directly to faculty jobs

In physics, going straight from grad student to professor is extremely rare these days.

In the biological and biomedical sciences, it is literally impossible.

I think the OPs comment was about computer science in particular, but even there things are changing somewhat. Partially it's because of the weak economy and scarcity of faculty jobs, but getting into the top-tier places almost requires a postdoc these days.

I don't know if the "boot at the end" thing is standard even in Europe. Many places simply stop giving you money and your advisor won't be able to help you as much, but you're free to hang around until you're done. My girlfriend for example recently finished her PhD (on time), and there where a couple of PhD students hanging around her department who had been there for close to a decade.

This is not true for all countries. In Sweden you get kicked out with no PhD if you haven't finished in eight years. And that is clock years. (You can get on or two extra years for childbirth and military service I seem to remember)

Depending on the school grad students are not necessarily cheaper to a professor than Postdocs due to the overhead/fees paid for students versus that paid for postdocs. Also the current academic job market in the US is bad. Taking a postdoc for 1,2,3 years has been very common in Computer Science for people seeking faculty positions in the last couple of years.

The same is true in math -- it is rare for mathematicians to move directly from a Ph.D. to a tenure-track faculty position.

Agreed. In fact I wonder what discipline it is not true in at the moment.

I've heard that it's possible (not easy) for statistics Ph.D.s to jump directly to faculty positions, but I think this is becoming less common. I think that economics Ph.D.s also often jump directly to faculty positions.

The tenure system is also completely different in Europe.

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