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Those of you who have done or are doing a part-time PhD...(9 Posts)
I am doing a professional doctorate part time and the notional time for that is meant to be 18 hours a week - I certainly don't manage that most weeks but then have bursts of more intense activity. I am a lone parent with a disabled child and between my boy, work (I'm an academic) and doctorate it can be stressful but overall I'm glad that I'm doing it
I think that's totally fine hours. I'm fact I think having shorter hours makes you more productive. Just be prepared for the sheer loneliness and isolation and pressure for such a long period of time. Why do you want to do a PhD?
I’m doing one at the moment with primary school age children, aiming to work 5-6 hours a weekday in term time only. It is hard work but rewarding, though it seems like it will take forever. It helps that I am at Oxbridge with the shorter terms so I really blitz it in the weeks when my children are at school but university term is over so no other seminars/training courses etc.
My travel time in is about 40 mins each way so I do at least two days a week from home (humanities). I also make use of after school clubs to avoid having to rush home for 3.30. The holidays are difficult - particularly the summer - and I do lose the thread of what I am doing which can be hard to pick up again.
I’ve been to a couple of conferences but had to miss other ones for logistical reasons (my DP works away from home in the week so childcare is all down to me). I’ve volunteered for a couple of related study groups and being part time rep etc which helps with the isolation but I’m definitely not getting the full experience that my full time colleagues are. But having another non-university life does help with perspective.
Long term plan uncertain but I came out of a related industry so will probably head back there, hopefully with enhanced earning power. I came out of it partly for more flexibility with the childcare which has worked quite well. I am in my early 40s so assume that getting an academic job would be almost impossible...
I’m not sure 16 hours a week, split over 4 days, possibly term time only would be enough. Would that include traveling time to get to university once a week? What about 9am departmental meetings, compulsory seminars and courses. Plus a monthly supervision meeting and preparing for them could alone use up 3/4 hours a week. Could you stick it for 7 or 8 years? What about funding?
The people I knew who did it part time would spend at least 1 full working day a week in uni and work weekends. Out of the 4 part-timers who started with me 3 dropped out and 8 years later the last one is hoping to submit next year. Isolation was a big problem for some of them as they found it hard to develop an academic support network as they were rarely around.
As others have said, what do you want to achieve? It’s really hard work, the academic job market now is a nightmare and a PhD alone doesn’t guarantee a job anywhere.
I think that would be fine, I'm sure many of my full-time students don't put in hugely more than that in terms of concentrated hours, even if they think they are- it's all about working smarter not harder and really hitting the ground running when you do sit down. Four focused hours on most days of the week would be fine in social science anyway. The slight problem with part-time can be that it takes so long and you lose momentum.
There is the wider issue of why you want a PhD? Just for the satisfaction or do you hope it will lead to an academic career/using it. You would have to do some conference attendance/writing, but again, I don't see this as unrealistic at this stage- what is difficult is translating that into decent job opportunities, there are many more well qualified PhDs than PhD level career positions, depending on your area.
I don’t think you’d manage it working only 16 hours a week, although you could also do some work on the evenings and weekends. What would you do about school holidays? That would decrease your time available quite significantly if you have no other childcare. Why do you want to do a PhD? If you want to go in to academia, you will need to attend conferences and do some teaching, and perhaps also publish.
That's helpful Biblio, thanks!
My current circumstances are such that I work one day per week and the rest of the week have primary-school aged children at school. So I would have 4 days per week 10am-2pm to dedicate to research.
Is this a crazy plan?
Have recently submitted after doing a PhD part-time over 7 years (I originally typed that as "tears", which may be telling). Overall I think I did fewer than the expected hours, but I was building on existing knowledge and professional experience which might have given me a slight head start.
I mostly did fairly intense bursts of work every second weekend (when dd was at her father's house). There were a few times when I was able to dedicate a full week or more (4 research trips plus I twice went on a 2-week research methods training course plus a few times I took annual leave from my day job to dedicate to it), plus the days taken for supervision meetings.
Time spent doing the work was fine - a bigger issue was all the time spent feeling guilty about not being able to work on it. For 7 years, I've had a constant feeling that I should be working whenever I've been doing anything else. To channel Larkin, it's has a been a great toad squatting on my life for a very long time.
One upside is that I did find that ideas were churning away in the back of my mind outside those times, so I'd scribble down notes for myself in between sessions. Coming back to them a few days later ended up being a pretty good filter as to whether there was anything in the idea or not.
...how many hours per week are you expected to dedicate to it?
I'm considering applying at some point in the future and just trying to work out the logistics of fitting it around work/family life.