Advice for Applicants
Advice and Information for Ph.D. Applicants
I'm happy to supervise excellent Ph.D. students in the areas of asset pricing and corporate finance if I have spare capacity.
Having said that, I receive a lot of not-so-great e-mails from students interested in becoming my Ph.D. students. As a result, I thought it would be wise to say a couple of general words, to save myself from answering all those e-mails.
The University of Manchester requires an M.Sc. (or equivalent) degree in Finance (or some related subject) with distinction (or the equivalent) for you to be considered suitable to start a Ph.D. degree here. There are no exceptions. If you did your PG studies in (e.g.) engineering, we can't take you on board. If you did it with merit, we also can't take you on board. Importantly - and a lot of you don't seem to understand that: I have zero authority here. I can't grant you an exception even if I wanted to (and I don't want to).
Relatedly, the above are minimum standards. I usually have little interest in taking on students who just managed to achieve a distinction degree. I'm also irritated by students who ask me: "Will a 69.231 in my former degree be considered as a distinction by the University of Manchester?" [Note: A distinction is a mark above 70 in the UK.] I am interested in supervising students aiming for the sky, not the floor. My three most recent PhD students both have average MSc marks way above 80, not close to 70.
First impressions matter: I am tired of students unable to correctly spell my surname. My surname is A-R-E-T-Z. If you decide to call me Artez, Arens, Aris, etc., I won't take you on board. Sorry. I will also not take you on board if your first e-mail to me is full of spelling and grammar errors; doesn't use punctuation; sounds like you're a gangster rapper ("becoZ..."); switches between different font types and sizes without meaningful purpose; does not include the attachments promised in the e-mail, etc., etc. Put yourself into my shoes. Why would I want to supervise a student who can't even write a professional e-mail when it's super-important to do so?
I'm also irritated by all those e-mails finishing with: "looking forward to a positive reply," "eagerly awaiting your acceptance," and similar phrases implicitly telling me that you already consider yourself to be recruited. I receive an average of 10-20 e-mails every week from students interested in starting a Ph.D. under my supervision. Now go to the section titled "My PhD students" on this website here, and count how many students I have supervised over the last couple of years. You get my point??? If you use the phrases above, you come across as someone who has no clue what they are up against. My capacity is limited.
If you decide to compliment me on one or more of my papers, telling me how much you enjoyed reading them, you should have better carefully read AND understood those papers. My experience is that, in many cases, students can't even summarize the main message of the papers they claim to have read, let alone show me that they understood them. That's so bad. Everyone knows that talk is cheap, and as a result I always ask students what they thought was so great about these papers. If you can't answer, I won't take you on board. I'm sorry but that's not just stupid but a total absolute no-go. That's game over then.
Relatedly, if you tell me that you think I have done excellent asset pricing, corporate finance, forecasting, and/or econometrics work, making me uniquely suitable to supervise your Ph.D. studies, but you then send a research proposal on accruals management, the latest banking crisis, or market maker inventory cost models, I feel like you're taking the Michael. For me to be a good supervisor, I need have knowledge from my own research about the area that you want to work in. I can't believe that I need to say that. And btw: Yes, I have worked in corporate risk management, forecasting, and linear factor models. But that's centuries ago - just look at the publication years of those studies on this website here. I'm more interested in other areas in finance nowadays.
I'm not a theoretical researcher, but I generally use simple (often stochastic discount factor and/or real options) models to motivate my empirical work. Given that, you should ideally have some mathematical knowledge. Not a lot, but some... Or at the very least, you should be happy to acquire that knowledge during your Ph.D. years. I don't do purely empirical work nowadays.
As a final point: I've recently become interested in the effects of technology and innovation on asset pricing and corporate finance, as you can see from two of my recent working papers. I'd like to continue in that direction. I'd also love to work on environmental project, but don't have an idea which would be worthwhile to pursue. I'm also always interested in unique data.