PhD advice welcome here please!

(159 Posts)
Katkins1 Sat 05-Apr-14 18:24:22

I'm an undergrad in the arts. Just been offered a conditional offer of 2.1 on a PhD (to skip masters). If I can get a career development loan and p/t job, will start this year. If not, then next and go for AHRC. Or get put in for AHRC next year.

I'm quite excited about it- it's my absolute dream, and thrilled to be skipping MA (if I get the grades- which I'm scared about, a LOT). I'm being a realist, single Mum so I know will be hard (have to work, pay my own way), but I'm so happy about it. I really want to be a lecturer and it's so exciting.

I'm determined to it; so can anyone give me practical advice- where to look for academic jobs and so on? And what to expect , please? I'm prepared to wait until next year to do it, though I'd like to start this year if I can. Considering part time too.

OP’s posts: |
kritur Sat 05-Apr-14 19:39:31 is the place to look for academic jobs. My PhD is in Chemistry though so I don't know much else about your field.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Sat 05-Apr-14 19:44:18

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Paintyfingers Sat 05-Apr-14 19:47:37

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Parietal Sat 05-Apr-14 19:56:35

Very exciting, but do proceed with caution. These days, only around 10% of science PhDs get a lectureship afterwards (probably less in arts). To get a lecturership, you need (1) to be at a top uni (2) to have an excellent supervisor (academically good AND nice & supportive) (3) to be very smart and work very hard (4) to have good luck along the way. It is very hard to get a good job at the end of PhD these days, so don't take out loans to get there. If you can get AHRC funding, then go for it.

Also, check out your supervisor well - how many previous PhDs have they supervised? did those people finish on time & happy? can you speak to previous students of the same supervisor? what other support does the dept offer.

I don't want to be negative but I have seen many students have a miserable time in their PhD because they jumped straight for a topic / supervisor / place etc that turned out to be wrong.

For jobs, again, look at there will also probably be subject-specific email lists and conferences that have job adverts - ask your supervisor where to look.

Katkins1 Sat 05-Apr-14 19:59:25

Buffy, yes to topic and supervisor. Got interviewed on my proposal by supervisor and professor (was scary!). I know permanent jobs in the arts are so hard, painty, I should expect it's going to be a huge uphill struggle just to find a p/t job once I graduate from my Undergrad (finish May 29th) and get a carer development loan, so it might not happen this year. Thanks for the recommendations for jobs- will look

OP’s posts: |
UptheChimney Sat 05-Apr-14 21:35:47

I'd be quite suspect about a university that offers a student with just a 2.1 to go straight into a PhD. I'd suspect that they're a bit desperate. What sort of advanced research training will you have?


UptheChimney Sat 05-Apr-14 21:42:27

And jobs -- do you read the THE each week? That & is where UK academic jobs are advertised. You'll get a sense of the market from that. Most entry-level full-time lectureships at a decent university in the arts/humanities attract between 40 and 200 applicants (yes, I've ploughed through shortlisting of 200 applicants).

For an entry level job in my field (arts, Russell Group, regularly top 5 in the discipline) we'd be looking at:
First Class UG
Distinction at Masters
PhD completed

REF Eligible:
Publication: a book contract and/or start of a research/publication trajectory; conference papers at good/competitive conferences

Teaching experience, and in my field that would have to be both practice & theoretical, but in other arts/hums fields just theoretical can be sufficient. At my place, generally new lecturers have had 2 or 3 years' teaching experience as a Teaching Fellow, or at a post-92 university

Evidence of ability to attract external funding, including for example, a PhD studentship from the AHRC

Katkins1 Sat 05-Apr-14 22:31:33

I'm on a first, the offer is minimum 2.1; it's because my marks are often above the 80's mark that they have offered in that way. Their current cohort is full, so I suspect they could have said no. My current supervisor did hers there, too (similar field),and my prospective supervisor is a specialist in the field- I think I was having a lucky day to be honest. Although, the supervisor didn't tell her professor I was undergrad until the interview. I might not even go until next year, they know this too.

But I don't know enough of this high level academia, so thanks for pointing that out. I was quite excited, and it is best to be cautious. My biggest fear is the advanced research; you are right. I have advanced training at the beginning.

Because I got offered a Masters at an RG with the same condition I could still do the MA if I wanted. The RG there said with my marks and my project they'd supervise me. I was offered a supervisor there, but wasn't quite the field I wanted to specialise in.

I thought that about entry level jobs, I'm doing some teaching stuff (experience, unpaid) at a non RG at the moment, and they tell me the it's fiercely competitive.

I think I'm looking at jobs other than academia to pay my way, until I can gain experience and probably do a Pgcert.

All of my friends in the sciences skipped MA and went straight to PhD; but I know it's rarer in the arts. Although, AHRC funding is scare for either, the requirements for lots of changing. At an AHRC meeting, we were told they are looking favourably on people skipping MA- with good proposals.

I'm thinking lots of things at once right now, so your advice is really valued. Thank you.

OP’s posts: |
creamteas Sun 06-Apr-14 13:09:41

I would also caution against going straight into a PhD.

This used to be allowed at a university I used to work at, but a significant proportion of students who tried this failed their first year upgrade. Of those that did make it through into the second year, those without a Masters were less likely to complete.

I also struggle to believe that the AHRC is encouraging people to skip Masters. There are far more good proposals than money every year, and the awards will then most likely go to people with a better academic pedigree. This will be those with distinction at Masters (and quite often a publication arising from their Masters dissertation).

I also don't know any university arts dept that have quotas for PhD students. My university does have a limit as to how many students each supervisor can have, although this number is quite big and I would struggle to actually supervise that many. So if it is true that you are in addition to the cohort, I would be asking some serious questions about the level of supervision you will receive.

I understand why you are excite, but before you take out expensive loans, I think you need to ask some serious questions. I would start with:

How many students without Masters completed in the last 3 years?
How many students without Masters were successful in getting funding in the dept?
How many PhDs has your supervisor successfully supervised to completion?
If none, is this because they are new to supervision or not? (Universities usually have arrangements to ensure new supervisors are mentored)
How many other PhD students does your supervisor supervise?

Katkins1 Sun 06-Apr-14 14:08:26

We had a talk from the scholarships/ new scheme head at an RG open day. She suggested that the AHRC were going by the same criteria; marks, dissertation and so on - but that priority would go to students with an MA.

You have understood my concerns here- its a huge commitment and it's my actual money (and time) which I'd been wasting if I didn't/ couldn't complete. The University are taking a risk in letting me in, I think; and I am taking a risk in doing it- but I don't want it to be a jump/step too far for me.

I'd also put myself through a great deal of unnecessary heartache in the process, which worries me. I am of course, excited and it has helped my confidence (very, very under confident person), but if I am going to do this I need to think long and hard about the potential problems, and the amount of work I need to do. Your advice is greatly appreciated, very much so, as I'm new to all of this.

I'd be part of the cohort,with the same level of supervision, and expected to complete the same mandatory hours of study- although I have been given the option of full or part time as they know its dependant on many other things. My supervisor has an expansive list of both her own practice, and practice based research that she has supervised to completion- it's impressive and daunting. She currently supervises 6 other students in this area. My current dissertation supervisor was also supervised to completion in this area.

Funding without MA, they say, depend on many things, and it's fiercely competitive. It may be that I wait a year. It is quite a difficult position to be in, not having finished Undergrad yet, and having nothing set out for certain yet (as with most undergrads). I

If nothing else, having two PG offers (Masters and a PhD offer, one RG) has given me options I never dreamed of before. I've been applying for jobs in the field I'm interested in, rather than just any job for the sake of it, and thinking that it's possible I can do other things with my life than has been programmed in to me since I was little. I think this might be more of a personal 'I wanted to see if I could do it' rather than 'I will definitely do it right now'.

It's all tangled up in my past- long story of abuse, neglect, horrific past, and me trying to overcome that, really. The people who know me well are saying that my personal qualities mean I will do it if I am determined, but of course, they know lots of my story.

It is really, really helpful to have an objective and useful set of things to consider, and a range of experiences. Thank you to everyone who has replied so far.

OP’s posts: |
LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 06-Apr-14 14:41:10

This sounds brilliant, congratulations!

I'm sorry if you've heard it too much - but I'm confused about the funding too. Do your supervisors realize that you would need funding, that you wouldn't do an unfunded PhD (I'm assuming that's the case)? I know quite a lot of people who did start into projects not funded by the AHRC, with enthusiastic supervisors. One or two cobbled together other sources of funding and made it work, but you have to be fantastically determined and quite lucky. Realistically, I think your supervisors are kidding themselves than marks in the 80s would be enough to get you AHRC funding without a masters, unless there is something else going on. Plenty of people with those marks at undergrad and a distinction at Masters don't get funding, and the AHRC doesn't include high marks at BA level as one of the criteria that might allow you to be eligible without a Masters.This is their current doc, btw:

Sorry, you probably don't want to hear that. But your supervisors may not be thinking about your finances as much as you'd wish they would.

Can you maybe go to them and ask what happens if you don't get funding (you'll presumably be too late to do a Masters that year?). What happens if you start without funding in place - will they require you to prove you have the loan, and do they actually have ideas in place to fund years 2, 3 (and maybe 4)? I'd be worried if they're of the 'oh, something will turn up' persuasion.

Some students can afford PhDs unfunded and sometimes supervisors are going to get mixed up about who can afford it and who can't.

Katkins1 Sun 06-Apr-14 15:06:48

I'm thinking a lot about my finances, one of my biggest concerns! They said AHRC was very competive, and knowing this, my idea was to take out a carer development loan for tuition fees, as I'd need that for master's anyway (It's pretty much the same price)

If I couldn't do it this year, I'd just defer until I could either get funding or save enough up. I need a job first though- lots of applications for jobs have just gone in! They said if I started without funding, I could go for AHRC for subsequent years. I'd have to prove I have the loan, yes. It's an incredible amount of sacrifice though, and right now, depends on so much: funding, jobs, grades. Most of my friends are in the same position.

I take heart from knowing several people currently doing both funded and un-funded PhDS and making it work for them. A friend of mine pays in monthly instalments for her tuition- which I think would be a workable option.

I think I'd be kidding myself if I thought this was going to be easy, and after Undergrad, I could still get a job and work for a bit and do what I wanted/ RELAX for a year- I don't need to rush it.

If they want me, they can't wait for me for an academic year. If they don't- it's not right for me. I could always take my proposal elsewhere. It's quite hard, thinking about everything, really struggling to get everything done for my DD and get my assignments done.

I'm actually really quite scared that I will fail my undergrad right now, as I've not finished my dissertation draft and can't do it until DD is in bed because I need to sort the uniforms and everything first. I feel pulled in so many different directions, and as usual, like I'm not working hard enough or am somehow not good enough/ won't meet the grades.

As I said, very under confident.

OP’s posts: |
Katkins1 Sun 06-Apr-14 15:13:12

Just to add- I made it clear I'm a single Mum, I can't afford to just pay for it like that he he! I think they know I'm determined, but making huge steps. I'm so overwhelmed though!

OP’s posts: |
LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 06-Apr-14 15:13:54

'They said if I started without funding, I could go for AHRC for subsequent years.'

Yes, see, that is what worries me. I know you can do this and I know one person who I think might have got it (I know she started off unfunded and then got funding but she applied for so many things I lost track). I just think that is a worrying attitude for a supervisor to have. What reason have they got for not wanting you to do a Masters?

The last thing it sounds as if you need to worry about is failing your masters! You sound as if you're doing really well. I just think - no offence intended to academics on this thread - that sometimes supervisors can forget that all the things that are obvious to them aren't obvious to students starting out. They may think you know how likely/unlikely funding is and have made peace with it.

(Btw, this is totally personal, but I had a year out after my BA and before my Masters, and it was a horrible year personally but the best thing I could have done academically. It really kept me together. So I completely see your point that if you did end up re-applying another year it would not matter.)

Katkins1 Sun 06-Apr-14 16:43:05

Yes, I was thinking I might not get it in subsequent years either, so I'd have to prepare myself to be self-funded for the long haul. Which terrifies me; I was think p/t. I'm quite aware that I might not get funding.

There's nothing against me doing a master's- I have an offer, could do if I wanted. It's just that my supervisor now said I should apply (based on my dissertation), and then at the MA open day, the tutor for that said I should apply for a PhD too. I think I just thought 'yeah why not?' at the time, and never in a million years thought I'd get in.

This is why I have asked for ideas and views. I would really like to do it, but there are a lot of things to consider and it's a very, very big step for me. I did say at the interview if I can't do it this year can I defer; and they said yes- that's an option.

I'm just considering everything. It was only a few days ago, so I'm a bit all over the place still. Thank you so much for your feedback, it's helping to talk it out.

OP’s posts: |
Chacha23 Sun 06-Apr-14 16:55:36

Another word of caution from me - I'm in a humanities subject with a PhD from Oxbridge, postdoc experience, a lot of teaching experience and a book contract, still finding it hard to find a job. Last year there were exactly 3 permanent jobs I could apply for (in the UK). And hundreds upon hundreds of applicants.

Many of my friends and colleagues are now looking at alternative careers and taking on very low-paid jobs and internships, after having invested almost 10 years in some cases in postgrad studies and postdocs.

I don't mean to discourage you, because if you are passionate about your research it's definitely worth giving it a go. You just have to be realistic about your career prospects, and ideally have a plan B in case things don't pan out. And as someone said above, also be realistic about what exactly it takes to get a job, and start ticking the boxes asap.

JanineStHubbins Sun 06-Apr-14 16:58:27

I think you need to think v carefully about this if your main motivation is to get an academic post at the end of this. How flexible are you in regard to location? Are you prepared to move city every year for three to four years for post docs/temporary lectureships? How compatible is that win your lifestyle (you said you were a single mother - would you be prepared to move your child to a new school more than once)? That, sadly, is the reality for new-minted PhDs currently - as pointed out up thread, 3-4 years of temporary posts before most get a sniff of a permanent job. And those are the lucky ones, who actually secure post docs and temp lectureship a.

Chacha23 Sun 06-Apr-14 17:03:18

What frustrates me is that the way things are set up, it's not necessarily the best/most qualified people who get jobs, but the people who are most flexible and ready to move to the other end of a country at a moment's notice. (ie, in practice - single people and men with partners happy to follow them.)

JanineStHubbins Sun 06-Apr-14 17:08:37

I'm not single nor did my partner follow me. hmm I did live apart from my now husband for 3 years though. But thanks for the implication that I only got my post because I was prepared to move, not because I am well-published, with lots of teaching experience, successful grant applications and gave a good performance at interview.

Chacha23 Sun 06-Apr-14 17:15:09

I said "not necessarily"! clearly it can still be the case, thankfully smile

It's also a question of priorities, granted - for instance I would not be ready to live apart from my husband for 3 years. I would rather one of us change careers. It does mean I'm not ready to make the personal sacrifices other people are making, but it doesn't mean I'm less qualified than anyone else, or would make a worse lecturer.

MagratGarlik Sun 06-Apr-14 18:36:34

I've heard a lot that Arts PhDs require a masters to get a decent stab at funding. However, I know in science this is not the case (I did my own PhD straight from undergrad at Imperial with the world leading expert in my field) - even for the PhD my supervisor told me there were over 100 applicants, of which he interviewed 6 and I was given a CASE award (part funded by EPSRC, part by industry).

However, competition for permanent posts is even heavier. In sciences, you will be expected to be the best of your PhD cohort, have at least 2 postdoc contracts under your belt, have a solid publication record and possibly been a named researcher on a couple of grants. Still, I know some people who have had that and more and still not found a permanent contract. Once you reach 6 years plus of post docs you will become too expensive, so you only have a fairly narrow window in which to be competitive.

All that said, don't want to put you off. It can be a good career for the right type of person, but I've seen an awful lot of PhD students who think they will walk into an academic position on completing their PhD.

Katkins1 Sun 06-Apr-14 19:11:06

Lots to think about here, and I do wonder if my mind might change during the course of my studies as it has in the course of my Undergrad.

I expect it to be a long slog and lots of challenges-I think I'm ready and mature enough for that (I'm 27). What concerns me is the state of graduate and post-grad jobs at the minute; whatever I chose to do next will be a huge challenge. And it's still very much IF I get the grade- I'm not there yet, so I proceed with a huge amount of caution.

The moving does concern me- I'm not prepared to that with a child (she's 6). I live in the Midlands, though, so many Universities within commutable distance. The uni that has offered me the place is quite a way away- but that's my choice. It's not really far, couple of hours travel. I travel quite far to uni now, so it's no big deal that one.

I do think I have the determination to do it, but I'm not sure I'm clever enough! I'm prepared to make sacrifices, but not at the expense of my DD's well-being or happiness, she comes first. I've been a single Mum for nearly 5 years now, so I'm getting used to it. It's getting easier emotionally.

But what I really want to do is something that will set a good example and lead to a better life for her. I really want to be an academic (quite a lot), because I think it's what I could be good at. So scared I will fail my undergrad though.

I think you can all tell from my posts how determined I am - didn't realise quite how much until I started posting!

How many of you (I'm assuming you all have PhD's and thank you so so much for the advice, really appreciated), but how many of you just got to a point where you thought: I want this, I'm going to do it, whatever it takes?

Silly question, I know! If you did, was it worth the hard work, the lack of leisure time and the risk involved? Has it made you feel better as a person? What are the worst and best bits? Sorry- so new to new and you've all been great on giving me so much advice. All of which I'm listening to!

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LRDtheFeministDragon Sun 06-Apr-14 19:24:20

I don't think you have to be exceptionally clever to do a PhD (though from the sound of your marks you obviously are!).

I've submitted my PhD though I've not graduated yet and might not get it ... I enjoyed it so much, and I would really like to get into academia, though I know there's no sense in saying 'I must do this, there's nothing else' because it is just so hard. And I think from watching others, I need to be aware you have to tell yourself to walk away if it's not working out, rather than get bitter about it.

TBH my Masters was 'harder' in lots of ways. It was such a big jump up.

OTOH I've just thought of one benefit of going in at PhD - if you do find you can't keep going, either financially or because of the pressure of it, you might possibly be able to convert a couple of years' work to an MPhil anyway, so you'd possibly have the qualification. There aren't any guarantees but that's one of the standard things that can be arranged if you can't finish.

Hope that is useful info, dunno.

Paintyfingers Sun 06-Apr-14 19:27:11

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