Have I messed up my chances of PhD study?

(23 Posts)
MercedesDeMonteChristo Fri 23-Nov-18 18:23:28

I’ve been encouraged by various academics across my university time (BA/MA) to pursue PhD study. I’ve had some productive conversations with potential supervisors and am producing a draft proposal now. One has said he will supervise and is supportive of funding applications and the other was my MA supervisor so marked my work and kindly offered to read a draft proposal whilst on research leave though hasn’t committed to further supervision.

However, my MA dissertation arrived back this week and whilst it’s a decent grade (high merit) it isn’t the distinction I was hoping for (all other grades are borderline or are distinctions). A distinction in the dissertation is normally necessary so I am now worried that I have messed up my opportunity. My supervisor obviously marked it and knew my mark but has it discouraged me. I have a First from my BA and my MA was funded. In these circumstances would you still consider supervising or is the merit going to blight me?

I am clear how I ended up here, work and family really took over and I prioritised work when I should have prioritised my degree so I ended up researching and writing in a very short space of time.

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MercedesDeMonteChristo Fri 23-Nov-18 19:30:29

Has not discouraged me that should say.

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impostersyndrome Fri 23-Nov-18 22:01:07

It wouldn’t worry me as a potential supervisor, so long as your research proposal is stellar, but unfortunately it may mean you won’t get shortlisted for studentships, as they’re so competitive.

And if, as you imply, you have a young family too, then good for you!

kalidasa Fri 23-Nov-18 22:15:45

It wouldn't put me off if the coursework was of strong distinction standard and I knew the student could / should have done much better. A lot of people misjudge MA dissertations in various ways and underperform, and sometimes good 'PhD-facing' topics don't make for great MA theses but have obvious strong research potential. Main thing at this stage for me would be my sense of your research potential. Agree it could be a prob for funding though. (Am a v experienced PhD supervisor in the humanities.)

MercedesDeMonteChristo Fri 23-Nov-18 22:30:41

Thanks. Not getting funding will present some logistical problems though I could self fund if I completed it part time. But having worked (and yes youngish family) throughout my BA and MA I just want to focus on this now. 7 years is a long time though and having reread the dissertation feedback there is a lot I can come back to post PhD in this work. I think I’ll just have to apply, pursue a couple of contingencies I have in mind and hope I’ve done enough.

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impostersyndrome Sat 24-Nov-18 07:11:15

Forgive me for the unsolicited advice, but you might want to bear in mind that a PhD, self funded or not, is no a guarantee of an academic career. Academia is one of the most precarious forms of employment; even more so if you’re not in a position to move every three years.

Orchiddingme Sat 24-Nov-18 11:55:47

Has the dissertation mark brought the whole Masters mark down?

I would possibly take a student with a Merit if everything else was stellar and there was a justification for it, but in terms of paid funded PhDs these are highly competitive and you will be up against people with Distinctions plus (e.g. dissertation marks in high 70's to 90's) in my social science field anyway, I've worked with a few students recently and this is their type of profile.

Something that would make a difference is if your job was relevant to the PhD subject, I once had a student with a high 2:1 get a funded Masters and PhD with a lot of relevant experience in the applied field.

I don't want to be discouraging- and I know it's really hard when you have a young family, I wouldn't probably pursue a PhD unless I honestly felt I absolutely had to be an academic as it doesn't really lead into anything else, and it is quite hard to find permanent jobs.

MercedesDeMonteChristo Sat 24-Nov-18 12:41:13

I am aware of the precariousness of working as an academic post PhD - I lurk here quite a lot so under no illusions. There are a number of reasons really. One is that I would like to try for an academic career or a career that allows me to engage with my discipline in some way. Another less pressing is that it rightly or wrongly (and totally irrationally) feels like something that I need to do. I have a back up career plan which was the original purpose to going back to university in the first place but this is a process I want to engage in. I am sure it is misguided in some way but I don’t want to disengage. I could do another MA maybe a research masters.

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Orchiddingme Sat 24-Nov-18 12:42:16

I take that back- if you are doing a PhD in science or a PhD in maths there are other opportunities that are better with a PhD, although they can also be accessed without one. For my social science subject, most people want to be academics, some do research in another capacity- but you wouldn't have to have a PhD say to work for a think tank or local government research.

Orchiddingme Sat 24-Nov-18 13:23:30

I don't think it's misguided unless you are looking for it to deliver as a main wage earner in the family in the short to medium term. If you feel propelled forward, that's a good thing!

You can fund yourself for a PhD now I think through the similar way as the UG is financed, but I would be reluctant to take on such a student myself.

You could try 1+3 route, the competition is fierce, but there are also PhDs advertised on specific projects, try jobs.ac.uk

MercedesDeMonteChristo Sat 24-Nov-18 13:56:04

1+3 would actually be perfect in so many ways. It’s a real shame, though I understand there needs to be a culling process when it is so competitive that my previous firsts/distinctions and the fact that I secured competitive funding for the MA is going to count for little. It of course does make sense that you would be judged on your last output. I’m going to push forward and see what happens and since I love being at uni, researching and producing the work if I have to do a second Masters then I guess that’s what I have to do.

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Orchiddingme Sat 24-Nov-18 14:50:06

I would ask your supervisor whether to make a 1 + 3 application at their institution, the deadlines at ours are quite soon, so you need to move fairly quickly. If you already have a proposal, I'd make an application anyway. I have had them succeed and I've had them fail...I'm a big believer in having a go and if you have lots of firsts/distinctions on your transcripts, you may be ok. The supervisor has to write a few statements about the novelty/value/likely impact of your work, so if they are very convincing, this will help. Other 1+3's are advertised right now.

MercedesDeMonteChristo Sat 24-Nov-18 14:55:48

Thanks, yes the plan in our discussion was to meet internal deadlines for early December. I’ll plough on and see what happens. If I fail I fail, but I feel I have to try.

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happysinglemum20 Thu 29-Nov-18 19:38:42

I have PhD funding with a 2:1 BA and no MA (social sciences). I had a good proposal and relevant work experiences. But everyone told me it was impossible.

I'm not sure if this applies to you, but I have friends who are brilliant, but only applied to Oxbridge/ London research council scholarships - these are crazy competitive and they didn't manage to get funding. My advice would be to also look for departmental studentships, and be aware that for some reason, some universities seem to have a lot more than others, and they're not always the ones you'd expect - (eg the fairly decent London uni where I did my BA barely has any internal funding, but some 1994 universities have quite a bit). If you're flexible with moving, just apply to everything you can.

Re self-funding - There are new PhD loans, but you should work out the affordability of the repayments on an average salary combined with your undergrad loan - it might not be too bad depending on what plan for undergrad you're on. Self-funding might give you more flexibility on where to live (as long as you're able to commute to supervisor meetings ect).

I was prepared to self-fund personally, though it would have been a massive struggle. I would have kept working part time in my job where a PhD would be considered an asset - (not a huge asset, but still...grin). So you might want to consider if a PhD might help you in your career outside academia/ something else you might want to move in to.

Best of luck and keep updated flowers

MercedesDeMonteChristo Mon 14-Jan-19 21:34:51

Just reporting back that I haven’t messed up my chances of a PhD as I have today been offered a place on my preferred university.

Funding obviously still pending but I feel much better about it all even if it doesn’t work out.

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bibliomania Tue 15-Jan-19 14:10:59


Orchiddingme Thu 17-Jan-19 22:26:46

Great news! Fingers crossed.

happysinglemum20 Fri 18-Jan-19 21:42:20


MercedesDeMonteChristo Thu 28-Mar-19 18:27:18

Eek, I've been shortlisted for a funding stream but it requires an interview (humanities). Any top tips?

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MercedesDeMonteChristo Wed 08-May-19 10:49:21

For any future applicants who might be disappointed and be worried about this, I had my interview and was awarded funding. It is not research council but is external and administered by the university. It's perfect for me as the remit is close to my research interests so will present good networking opportunities.

Thank you so much for all the advice on this thread (and this entire forum to be honest).

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downcasteyes Thu 09-May-19 07:33:15


greenandsilverflowers Thu 09-May-19 07:51:52


Springisallaround Thu 09-May-19 16:40:54

Great news!

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