UPDATE: Moving to the front from March 9; this has been a very high quality, and extremely interesting, discussion; if you've missed it, check it out. Thanks to all the participants.
An aspiring graduate student in philosophy writes:
I'm hoping that you and some of the contributors to your fine blog might be able to help me on a few points of academic etiquette. I have a serious dilemma.
I'm currently sitting on Ph.D. offers from perhaps the two best philosophy departments in my field of study. I won't name them, but one is in the USA and one in England. Herein lies my problem.
As anyone familiar with UK AHRB funding knows, decisions are not made about who receives funding until July at the earliest and September at worst. On top of this, securing funding is something of a lottery. I know my application is strong, but there are no guarantees. By contrast, my American suitor has offered me full funding now - but they want a decision in the next month.
Of my two options, I would rather stay in the UK than decamp to the States. However, I'm terrified of being without any funded Ph.D. place come September (I've already taken one year out), and don't feel comfortable rejecting my US offer until I have guaranteed UK funding.
Given that, I'd rather hold onto my US offer and pull out of it only if/when I receive UK funding in the summer.
The ethics of this disturb me. I don't want to burn any bridges with my US department (my field is small and I'd hope to work with them
again) and, more than that, I just don't want to screw over those who've shown faith in me. At the same time, I have to look out for myself...
Given all of the above, what strategy should I pursue? Am I likely to offend anyone by pulling out of an offer at the last minute, or is it something that US departments would understand?
Any insights or advice would be very much appreciated.
I imagine other students considering programs in the U.K. and outside the U.K. confront this problem. Comments are open, for those who have advice.