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Self funding PHD

(21 Posts)
schmalex Mon 22-May-17 11:56:38

Hello all
I have recently gone back to uni as a mature student studying an MA in an arts subject. I absolutely love studying again and really want to do a PhD afterwards. However, it seems that funding is very thin on the ground for my subject.
I do plan to apply for funding and if I don't get it I can self-fund. I can afford to do this, but my worry is that a self-funded PhD might not be taken as seriously.
Is this the case and would I be better off waiting if I'm not successful in getting a funded place?
When you applied, did you choose a topic you really wanted to do or something you thought would be more likely to attract funding?

japanesegarden Mon 22-May-17 13:22:34

I'm a mature student currently doing a PhD after an MA, in an arts subject, for which I was lucky enough to get funding (I self funded the MA.) I know several other mature students, who are all self funded. In terms of treatment within the department, there is no difference, except perhaps that the senior academics don't expect mature self funded students to turn up for everything on the timetable as much as they would for the younger ones. But the academic expectations are the same. Externally, I think people do take me more seriously when they hear about the funding, but they are perfectly helpful even when they don't know. Either way, getting a job afterwards is very problematic, I think. And funding may be very hard to get - I was fortunate to fit a particular funding opportunity that wouldn't apply to most people. If you are wanting to choose your own topic, it may be harder. I do know of some PhD opportunities within my department that are still without students to do them, so depending on your field it is possible you might be able to find something to apply for, maybe. Doing a PhD is hard, though. I love it, but it's a step up from the MA!

japanesegarden Mon 22-May-17 13:23:51

Oh, and I did a topic I really wanted to do. I'm 52, I'm too old to immerse myself this deeply in something I'm not already very interested in. It would. E too hard to motivate myself!

schmalex Mon 22-May-17 17:40:41

Thank you japanesegarden.

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Mon 22-May-17 20:02:18

Taken seriously by whom?

In general, getting a competitive PhD from a funding body or a department will look good on your CV if you want to continue in academia, just because they are competitive and that's a marker of quality if you got one.

In terms of supervisor interaction/institutional support, it should be very similar indeed, I supervise all my PhDs the same however they are funded. I also do know people who self-funded later in life and have gone on to work in research, not at high levels as quite late starters, but have enjoyed their career shift nevertheless.

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Mon 22-May-17 20:04:07

There are not many jobs though as a humanities lecturer and it is ultra-competitive, there's been a lot of posts on this lately of people finding it hard to move from PhD to permanent posts, so I do think you need to have an idea of whether you want to continue or not and that might affect where you seek funding.

GoatsFeet Mon 22-May-17 20:19:12

Sadly, public funding from the AHRC is diminishing, as are universities' own funding, IME. So if you're looking for an academic job after your PhD (also a shrinking field), having an AHRC studentship is evidence of your ability to attract external funding for your research.

But a PhD is a PhD. If you go to a good Department, with a supervisor who's committed to her PhD students, then you'll be taken seriously. IF you do the work in the way that's required, of course! Doing a PhD is a huge step up from an MA, so be aware of that.

Ask around current PhD students (at research seminars and so on) to find out about supervisors in your field. Tough is good, "Doesn't suffer fools" is good - as long as that is matched with commitment. That is, that your supervisor will read work in a reasonable time frame (I usually ask for at least a week to read a chapter, and a month to review the thesis as a whole), and is able to meet regularly with you: about once every 3 to 4 weeks during term-time is what I aim for with mine.

The main caution that humanities university departments have with self-funding is that students tend to take too long, or drop out, or not finish. Be aware of the stringent standards we are held to: completion within 4 years full-time, or the part-time equivalent (which isn't always twice the time of full-time, BTW). Departments are sanctioned if completion rates drop below something around 70-80% (the idea is that we kick our students along - "robust" supervisory practices).

schmalex Tue 23-May-17 10:52:09

Thank you, that's all very useful. I suppose there is more temptation to drop out when the going gets tough if there is no external pressure to complete. It's good to be aware of that.
I suppose that my concern is that if a lecturer role came up afterwards (and I know they are rare, particularly in the field I'm interested in), that a self-funded PhD might be looked on as inferior and I should perhaps hold out to get funding even if it means waiting a couple of years. I am already working in the field but not in an academic context.

Parietal Tue 23-May-17 22:26:40

as a supervisor (not arts), I won't take on self-funded students because the risk of the student dropping out is too high. If a project is worth doing, it should be able to attract some kind of funding.

Slightlyperturbedowlagain Tue 23-May-17 22:34:28

I'm in STEM which is slightly different, however I think you are possibly right in suggesting that a funded PhD would be considered more favourably than a self-funded one for a lecturing post, but this would be due to the fact you would then have some sort of track record of attracting funding in your area of expertise, not because the self-funded PhD would be considered inferior.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 23-May-17 23:35:45

I don't have new things to say about funding. But, I notice you say I suppose that my concern is that if a lecturer role came up afterwards (and I know they are rare, particularly in the field I'm interested in), that a self-funded PhD might be looked on as inferior

A lecturer role won't come up after a PhD (or not unless you're one in a million). After a PhD, you do postdocs, which are short term contracts. They might be for as little as 6-9 months and, while some pay reasonably well, others are 'stipendiary' and pay less than minimum wage. It's worth taking this into account if you're budgeting with an eye to the future, as obviously self-funding is going to deplete your savings.

iveburntthetoast Wed 24-May-17 19:57:53

The OP is based in the Arts. Postdocs are very rare. It's most likely that they would start with a fixed term lectureship --maybe a few of them. The difficulty is in making the leap to a permanent contract.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 24-May-17 20:18:29

I'm a postdoc in the Arts.

We're all doing postdocs, trust me! Some of those postdocs are fixed term lectureships, but far more aren't anything like as grand as that.

iveburntthetoast Thu 25-May-17 16:31:10

To be accurate, I'm in the humanities so maybe there's some differences between disciplines. There are Leverhulme postdocs & a few other optsions, but my experience was is that postdocs are far, far less common than fixed term lectureships. It seems they're also much more competitive. I would consider a postdoc to be more prestigious than a fixed term teaching post

Any way--I think that a

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 25-May-17 18:37:18

Oh, ok. Everyone I know uses 'postdoc' as a shortening for 'postdoctoral contract'. A postdoc is someone who has completed their PhD but has not yet got a permanent job. So, postdocs include people with Leverhulmes, people with JRFs, and people doing short term lectureships. Some institutions don't consider positions where you're covering for a permanent lecturer on a temp basis to be postdocs, but rather 'academic-related'.

But I would expect most people in my area of Arts to understand 'postdoc' as referring to a career stage, not to the prestige of a position. For the OP's purposes, the crucial point is that you're not likely to step straight out of a PhD into permanent employment at lecturer pay grade, so you will usually have to budget for some time between jobs and some time working low-paid positions.

verybookish Thu 25-May-17 19:07:15

In my experience there is no difference in treatment between funded and self-funded. Sure it's an element of your CV but other elements are more important: publications, teaching, other sources of funding, impact and if course whether there is a job that fits you after. You also have to consider whether the lack of funding in your specialisation will correlate to a lack of jobs in your area?

You need to make a judgment call considering the extremely dire job market situation whether you can afford (both financially and emotionally) to spend money on something with no guaranteed or even likely good job right after your PhD. For instance, if you want a job on academia would you be able to wait out the market after the PhD? Is this PhD something for you or would you like to work in academia after?

Doing a PhD is tough, the market gets more impossible each year. Don't think about it twice, think about it 10 times.

schmalex Fri 26-May-17 06:09:06

Thank you all for your comments. I think the next step is for me to chat to some potential supervisors and current PhD candidates in my area of study. Lots to think about!

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Fri 26-May-17 08:08:29

For me, I think it would be all about what you want to do after the PhD. It's not easy but it is possible to get PhD funding. Getting a permanent lectureship afterwards is much much harder, and I know plenty of people with the former and not the latter.

I also seem to have quite a few students who 'want to carry on' when asked, but don't really seem to be doing the type of things that would allow them to stand a chance in the very competitive academic marketplace. I've come to the conclusion that although some people are very motivated/understand the requirements, many others drift a little into doing a PhD and then drift on hoping someone will employ them after that, but aren't really invested in making this a career path. Academia is quite nice at some stages, you can often work from home in the social sciences/humanitites, post-docs can be fine if you are working on a reasonable project (teaching fellowships awful) so they think they'd like to carry on...this may not be you OP, but you need to clarify in your mind why you want a PhD.

NImbleJumper Fri 26-May-17 09:38:25

Foureyes I've had a couple of students like that. One of them only just got through the PhD (although was funded), with me pushing like crazy. Lacked any sort of initiative - wanted teaching, but them couldn't tell me what modules they'd be qualified to teach on, because they hadn't thought to look at the course programme. I had said to them when I took them on that I thought their previous work experience & CV meant that it was unlikely they'd get an academic post, but that they'd be ideal for work in public history, museums & galleries. I alternate between feeling responsible & guilty that they still haven't got a job 2 years after graduating, and thinking, well, I'm doing what I can - writing sparkling references & passing on any opportunities I see.

I have another recently graduated PhD (this is all Humanities) who is extremely talented, but is just missing jobs. Being interviewed, getting great feedback, but not the one who is appointed. It's really tough - although no tougher than when I was in the same position.

Except that we are producing more PhDs than ever, I think.

NImbleJumper Fri 26-May-17 09:40:26

PS heard on the grapevine that there are studentships galore in the White Rose DTP (York, Leeds Sheffield, I think), because the universities in that consortium have done a lot of matched funding. Fabulous universities and resources - big libraries &collections. So worth a look. But you've missed the application deadlines for funding to start in September.

schmalex Sat 27-May-17 19:07:07

Thank you nimble! I'd be looking at 2018 entry anyway as my MA is part-time so I still have a year to go.

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