This blog roundtable is part of a series about graduate school – why do it, what is it like, and what to do afterwards. I encourage you to give your own opinions in the comments section, and if you disagree with a point made by the panel, voice your opinion! This is something a lot of my readers can relate to, so I’m hoping to hear from all of you. Note that these are the opinions of those involved, and do not reflect our institutions or departments in any way. For a full list of the questions, read the first post.

One advantage of staying at one place: Your degrees all match.

One issue that people face when deciding whether or not to go to Graduate School, after picking potential supervisors, is whether or not to stay at their current university or not. There are advantages to staying: along with comfort, you probably know more about the program and the supervisors (maybe even having them as lecturers in Undergrad) than another university. There are disadvantages as well: staying in one place reduces your exposure and the varied experiences you get from working with different people.

Of all the questions, this is the one that had the most variability within the panel. While for other questions there were common themes, but with this one, there was very little agreement.

Lets hear from the panel!

EpiGrad (twitter, website):

For undergrad/Masters/PhD, I can’t really answer that question.

For Masters/PhD, the Masters degree is a common enough degree to give graduate students “mid-stream” in a PhD program, or to have Masters students promoted to the PhD track if they show interest and promise, so I can’t imagine there will be a really strong bias against having a Masters and PhD from the same university.

Penny Deck (twitter, website):

I think this depends. I’m presently working towards my PhD at the same school and in the same department that I did my MSc, but with a different supervisor. So far I haven’t encountered any prejudice in this regard. I’ve sat on search committees that are hiring new faculty members, and at least for our department, this has not been an issue for the candidates we’ve chosen to interview.

Travis Saunders (twitterwebsite):

If you are doing a PhD and plan to stay in academia then I would strongly urge people to attend at least 2 separate universities, and possibly 3.  I switched schools for each degree, and I’ve learned very valuable skills at each institution.  It has helped me to decide what I like/dislike about teaching, research, administration, etc, and I would have missed out on most of that if I had done all of my schooling in one place.  However, if you aren’t interested in academia, or are planning to only do an MSc, then I think this is probably much less of a concern.

Morgan Craig-Broadwith (twitter, website):

I don’t think so. If you like what you’re doing, stick around. If you want to learn new material and techniques try something else out. It’s about what you want out of the experience. I will say this – the experience gained by working with new people is priceless. Why? You gain new insight and perspective which, in my opinion is crucial to your evolution as a human being, not just a graduate student.

Tim Brown (twitter, websiteLinkedIn, Material Physics Group Website):

Masters and PhD at same school: Not frowned upon. This happens frequently. You work on a project in your Masters, and there may be something you wish to pursue more in-depth for your PhD.

Undergrad and graduate studies: This one I firmly believe one should try a different university for graduate studies. You really need a different perspective from your undergrad university. Diversity is good for you.

Day 360, Shaving Cream
Nothing in my undergrad education prepared me for the furor of the Queen's Engineering Frosh Week (photo courtesy Asad Chishti)

Megan Carter (twitterwebsite):

I think doing all three in the same university is frowned upon, especially if you plan to stay in academia. I did my masters and PhD in the same university, with the same supervisor. If I do a post-doc, it will definitely be elsewhere. Universities, potentially hiring you as a professor, like to see that you have been immersed in different teaching environments and had different academic experiences. If your university career is spent only at one university, this may narrow your overall academic and even world view.

Atif (me!) (twitter):

There are many schools of thought here. I think if your supervisor is one of the leaders in the field, or one of the few places that does what you want to do, then there is no sense in moving. The advantage of moving is that you learn how many different institutions function, and how many different people work. I think you have to really think about what’s best for you, and what makes sense for your research career.

This was an interesting post just based on the various opinions the panel has. Professionally, there are reasons to stay at one institutions, and there are reasons to change. I don’t think there is a right answer here, and it will come down to your situation. For those of you who stayed at the same place – why did you stay? For those who switched – why did you switch? Do either of you regret your decisions or advise people to do it/to not do it?

Check back Monday for our penultimate post: What has surprised you so far about the grad school experience? In which cases did it meet your expectations and when did it fail to do so? (i.e. How is graduate school life different to undergraduate life?

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