Jennie Jones, fourth year doctoral researcher in the School of Education, talks about some of the challenges she has faced as a part-time student and invites other part-time students at the University of Brighton to participate in her study.
Part-time PhD students’ learning journeys in UK universities in changing times: exploring the influences of academic, professional and personal relationships and life events
Being a part-time PhD student can be challenging, particularly in the turbulent times that we are now experiencing in higher education. Like other students, I chose to study part-time because of other important responsibilities in my life including my family and my job. Because part-time PhD students often balance different roles in life, their time spent at university is often limited, and many do not experience a sufficient sense of belonging to a peer community (Gardner and Gopaul, 2012). This is what led me to the idea of a PhD study about the experiences of part-time PhD students and how their lives and learning interact during their doctoral journeys. The findings of this research will help contribute to universities’ understanding of part-time PhD students’ experiences.
I started my doctoral journey under difficult circumstances. My mother had recently passed away and my father was seriously ill. He died a year after I started my PhD. My supervisors, colleagues, family and friends all encouraged me to continue although at times I felt overwhelmed. My PhD has been inspiring and fulfilling, but also emotionally and academically challenging. Stages that I have particularly struggled with have been the ethical review process, deciding on my ontological and epistemological positions and completing the first three chapters of my thesis. During supervision, I have sometimes found constructive criticism challenging.
My supervisors and colleagues, some of whom are also studying for doctorates, have been very supportive and given me good advice throughout my journey. Despite the challenges, I have remained resilient and this is partly because of the support and encouragement I have received from other people around me. I have now passed the equivalent of transfer and this has really helped me to feel more confident about my research.
In interviews I am adopting a Narrative Inquiry methodological approach, which provides deep insights into part-time PhD students’ unique experiences. If you are a part-time PhD student and would be interested in taking part in a narrative interview about your doctoral journey, I would be very happy to hear from you. If you would like to participate, then please read my information sheet for details about what an interview would involve. I hope to hear from you soon.
My email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 01273 641920