Wednesday, 20 November 2013

breathing space

Since I last posted on this blog, I've moved out of my home of the last 6 years, relocated and changed one of my supervisors, following the first year of my PhD. Significant changes, enough to justify radio silence you might think?  So perhaps I don't need to mention the fact that having taken a break for a couple of weeks in the summer, I returned to 'work' and immediately felt saturated with blogs/twitter/ the extent that I just decided not to engage again until I felt I had something to say. Amazingly, life carried on regardless.

I suspect that another reason I haven't posted is that I had become aware of a degree of self-censorship about my PhD supervisory issues, wasn't happy about it but didn't know quite how else to proceed.  And I haven't had a lightbulb moment, I'm still unsure.  But I think that in itself is worth saying.

Good stuff is happening now.  Into the second year and the primary research phase of my PhD.  More confidence in my abilities to research my topic.  Opportunities offered by both a new location and a new supervisor.  About to head off to no doubt freezing Sweden to give a paper.  Breathing spaces are valuable.  Perspectives change.

Monday, 16 September 2013

the self-storage principle

I'm in the process of relocating (really not to be advised during a PhD, but life carries on regardless).  As part of this process I'm putting some of my stuff into storage.  This is raising the 'if you can do without this for 6 months, why do you need it at all? type of question, not to mention the 'what the heck is in all the cupboards/spaces behind those brightly coloured doors?  Who is storing stuff here and why? What's going on in those people's lives, that they need to put stuff somewhere and pay for it while they go somewhere else/do something else? type of questions? No doubt those questions have something to do with the fact I'm wrestling with Draft 807 of Chapter 1 of my thesis on quite another subject and welcome any distraction.

I had mini 'light bulb' moment yesterday, when neatly arranging another 3 boxes, two chairs and a tube of posters I just can't seem to send to recycling.  There are some similarities here to the way I'm storing information as part of my doctoral study.   I looked at the 10+ boxes I'd carefully packed and stored two weeks ago and thought - what the hell is in those boxes?!  Then I looked more closely at the cryptic label I'd scribbled on the box and thought, ah, yes....I remember - that box contains the crockery I'm not yet ready to dispose of/the diaries I wasted two hours reading/the photo albums I just don't have the time or energy to digitise. Probably because I'm on draft 807 of my chapter, I'm keenly aware that there's a mass, a partially-digested mass, of information, literature and theory, that my mind is simply too miniscule to keep hold of.  I access it through my (pretty excellent) filing system, or by riffling through the tower of books next to my desk, or by sitting very still and trying to channel that particular author...(not always successful)...

The point I'm trying to make is that it's all there somewhere, a year's effort, even if I've forgotten it's there.  I may not need it now but I might need it later. It's ok to put it in storage. I may never need it, but I don't know yet, so it's ok to put it in storage.  There will no doubt come a time when I collect and sort out my boxes and send half of the contents to recycling/Freecycle/the tip/the bottom of the cupboard.  But the other half I'll unwrap and be surprised and delighted by and know immediately how that particular item (spatula, cushion, DIY manual) fits into my life at that point.  

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

on pencil sharpening and swimming

Along with the definite whiff of autumn in the air comes that 'back to school' feeling as September approaches.  I'm tidying my desk and sharpening my pencils in readiness for my second year as a PhD student.  In fact, pencils really have become an important part of my toolkit - during my first year of doctoral study I rediscovered my love of stationery: pens, pencils, notebooks.  By the end of these three years there will be a stack of once beautiful but dogeared notebooks full of lists, ideas and scribbled references, tracing the halting and haphazard journey through my PhD.  

During my first year, those physical tools of writing offered a welcome alternative to the sea of virtual wordage which seeped onto my screen on a daily basis, threatening sometimes, to overwhelm me. Earlier this summer Charlie Booker wrote a Guardian article entitled 'Too much talk for one planet' in which he bemoaned the 'vast cloud of blah ... events and noise, events and noise' to which he had been contributing and from which he had decided to take a break. I was ready for a break myself  - from the 'events and noise' associated with PhD study (journals, papers, books, updates, alerts, blogs, twitter...).  I spent two weeks living in minimalist fashion in a tent in the South of France.  It took twenty minutes to make a cup of tea (I'm British, of course I make tea in the South of France!) and I developed a new appreciation for the minor miracle that is a chair.  

Since my return, it's taken almost two weeks to reluctantly dip a toe back into that sea of words.  But the new year is upon me and I need to get swimming again. On that note, enough of this reflective blah, time to dive in..!   

Thursday, 18 July 2013

damn good all over

I've just emerged from a six week writing bubble, working on drafts of my first two thesis chapters. They were submitted to deadline and I've re-entered regular life - temporarily at least.  Drafting each chapter was challenging in different ways. I find writing about themes and ideas comes more naturally than writing about numbers and facts so at times, the context chapter felt dry as dust.  But while writing the theory chapter flowed more easily, I was continuously assailed by the fear I was only scratching the theoretical surface.  

The day after submitting the drafts, I was rewarded with two stimulating posts on different blogs: Pat Thomson on emotional research and Arlene Stein on intellectual craftsmanship.  Both spoke to different aspects of my recent writing experience.

Pat Thomson's post considers the place of emotion, including anger, in research and how this can motivate the researcher to produce engaging, compelling work.  I feel fortunate, a year into my PhD to be more not less interested in my topic (part-time, mature undergraduate retention).  I'm researching it at a time when part-time enrolments in HE have dropped 40% thanks to the funding reforms.  What's happened has made me pretty angry and especially when I read the words of those writing after Dearing in 1997, who felt hopeful about the potential for the HE system to encompass lifelong and flexible learning.  The sometimes dull, sometimes fascinating work of uncovering the context of my research - and my own industry - has fed my motivation further.

Arlene Stein's post addresses the instrumentalising of intellectual activity, the pressure to 'produce', leading to 'the production of routine work that fails to inspire oneself or others'.  She advocates a return to craftsmanship - an engagement with our work, seeing writing as craft requiring technique and playfulness.  My struggles with sense, flow and even elegance have been part of the crafting process, an engagement with my research, my topic so that others might engage with it too.  

Both posts addressed motivation and engagement - key ingredients in this doctoral process - in different ways. What both made me realise is that whether I'm writing about numbers, facts, themes or ideas, compelling, well crafted writing is absolutely necessary because both chapters are doing the same thing: telling the story of my research for a purpose.  Arlene Stein quotes C. Wright Mills' from The Sociological Imagination  - and perhaps I'll put this up on my wall:  'I am trying to make it damm good all over'.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

life on campus

For the last three days I've been cocooned within the leafy surroundings of one of England's 'plate-glass' campus universities, a product of the Robbins era and very much a major player in the contemporary higher education scene.  The campus was devoid of undergraduate students but teeming with the people that make the university business model work...conference delegates.

Conferences are changing...these days at least 50% of delegates have their heads in their iPads during keynotes and presentations, another 25% are checking their phones as if their sanity depended on it.  Are we bored, lonely, curious, or simply unable to leave the office? This conference had live tweets beamed onto the big screen during the introductory speeches.  It provided a distraction when the speeches flagged or disappointed, but really, is this polite?  

The best thing about the last three days has been reconnecting with the other students on my scholarship scheme.  We're based at institutions around the UK and last met in November at an induction event. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and it was good to catch up, eat together, drink together (some more than others!), compare notes, share woes, welcome new members.  We're all on the same track, deadlines biting at our heels, juggling study, work, personal lives.  There's something to be said for a bit of group solidarity now and then. Keep it up guys!

Related posts

Campus what campus


Friday, 21 June 2013

Temporary remedies for worker-ants

Earlier this week, Nick Hopwood posted 10 things you should know about a PhD but may not have been told.  On reading the post I located myself somewhere between 1. (you and your work are crucial to the future of humanity and the world); 2. (you're in an astonishing position of privilege); 5. (yes it is hard) and 6. (you will continue to feel like a fraud).  It hasn't been a comfortable position to be in!  So in the spirit of Nick's '10 things' here are a paltry three I've come up with as a remedy for my current discomfort:

1. Scale down.  Getting limited satisfaction from small stuff can gradually ease the sense of disappointment and impending panic (what's the point?  I've wasted six months reading the wrong things? etc).  A week of small stuff means my desk's tidier, I've got my references up to date AND I've managed to work on small tasks which will, at some point, contribute towards the whole: drafting small sections in timed sessions; checking out bang up to date journal articles on my topic....If I haven't done what I'd ideally like to have done this week, I have, at least done something.

2. Let some air in. The atmosphere between you and your supervisor(s) can become very rarified.  Allow yourself and your ideas to breathe.  Get fresh air circulating.   Talk to others in your field whose opinion you respect, absorb the implications of different perspectives, rehearse your ideas in different circles.  Freshen your thinking and your conviction about your research and your right to do it may well strengthen.  And there's nothing better than literally taking some air.  Get outside and walk.  

3. Get off the beaten track.  If your confusion and sense of inadequacy are becoming entrenched, try a detour.  Cross discipline, read someone/something new, go and hear someone speak/sing/play and enjoy their competence in what they do.  Sometimes detours give us unexpected views of the roads we were travelling on or remind us why we chose that route in the first place.  

I'll let you know how it goes....

Thursday, 13 June 2013

seventy steps of shame

My PhD supervisor's office is on the third floor of an old building without a lift.  I counted the other day - there are 70 steps up, with a particularly steep flight of stairs between the second and third floors.  I've developed a habit of pausing, twice, on my way up so as not to arrive breathless and sweaty in their office - I'm sure they're heartily sick of visitors' complaints!  I suspect however, that my stair-climbing routine is not only for their comfort, but also something to do with the complex, tacit and occasionally uncomfortable powerplay at work in the supervisory relationship.  After all, if I arrive literally unable to speak, my voice can't be heard.  

Developing my own voice within my writing has been something I've been working on this year - and the work continues!  Ensuring my voice is heard in the shaping of my empirical research is a whole new - and quite honestly - unexpected - project and I have a feeling I'm just at the start of it!  As with many things 'PhD', these territorial scuffles are a part of the journey for which the directions are imprecise, everyone will have their version of the 'right' way to get from A-B. 

Back to that staircase....I may have a strategy for going up those stairs, but going down them can be a different matter.  Last week, they became the 70 steps of shame after a bruising supervisory session.  Bruising you understand, only to a fledgling academic intellect and a fragile ego.  Ten days later and I'm still assessing and working through the impact.  I'm assailed by all those feelings doctoral students experience - I'm not good enough, I can't do it....I recognise that the downer has come as such a shock because only a month earlier I'd finally felt I was making some real progress, getting a grasp of the literature, developing my own voice in my writing.  No doubt you'll tell me this is all part of the journey too, detours and dead ends are essential!

Monday, 3 June 2013

a different light

I've been staring rather hard at the view from my window recently.  I'm moving from rural Gloucestershire to urban Yorkshire at the end of the summer. So I'm trying to imprint on my memory the sight of spring in the garden and across the valley.

One thing which always beguiles and sometimes startles me is the sudden transformation worked by the sun emerging from cloud or the simple and temporary brilliance of the evening sun on the fields and the trees.  It's like a light being switched on - an illumination.

My experience of my doctoral research can be like that (ok, not that often!).  Suddenly, through reading, or writing, my perspective shifts, opens up and ideas, concepts, metaphors connect.  I realise the connections have been there all along, but invisible to me, just waiting for the clouds to clear or the sun to move, imperceptibly, to another spot.  

I want to capture these moments of insight, just as I'm trying to hold the sight of the fields, trees and shadows in my memory.  If I don't get them down on paper/on screen, then like the way the sunlight travels across the fields and the leaves, they can be all too transitory.  

Thursday, 23 May 2013

imposter syndrome

I'm at the HEA Social Sciences Cluster Conference (#HEASocSci13) which has as its theme: Teaching Research Methods.  I experienced a painful case of imposter syndrome this afternoon when I attended the opening keynote by John MacInnes (University of Edinburgh) who also happens to be the ESRC Advisor on Quantitative Methods Training.  I'm drawn to qualitative rather than quantitative research.  I'm the girl who ran, weeping with relief, from the room at the end of my O'Level Maths exam (yes, that long ago) and wept with relief again when I was informed I'd scraped a C.  In my mind I never had to think about Maths again.  I'm also the kind of person whose eyes lit up on reading a news article last week on how mild electric shocks to the brain have been shown to improve mental arithmetic skills.  Forget research, life in general would improve measurably (but by what % I hear you cry) without having to constantly revert to a) fingers and thumbs b) pen and paper to work out the minutiae of my personal finances.  No doubt I fall into the 'statistically illiterate' category whose skills are barely basic and certainly don't reach the heady heights of being 'confident at manipulating fractions and decimals to express proportions', attributes John MacInnes listed as as essential for social scientists learning quantitative methods.

I'm not proud of any of this by the way.  But I am content with making the most of the strengths I do have.  I'm a poet and I write fiction (when I'm not writing research papers).  So the speaker's reference to 'the statistical imagination' caught my own.  We must, he said, help students to appreciate the 'excitement of data', to 'learn to see the world in terms of variation and distribution'.  I think I probably already do, in my own way, I just instinctively express my understanding of it in words, rather than numbers.  

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

part-time matters

Yesterday saw the launch of Part-Time Matters, a campaign highlighting the benefits of part-time study to the UK economy, society and the individual.  Backed by a range of stakeholders in part-time higher education including universities, their mission groups and the NUS, the campaign has launched in response to the dramatic 40% decline in part-time applications to higher education following the 2012 reforms to higher education.  Universities UK has already started to conduct a review into the reasons behind the drop.  

The publicity around part-time higher education is not simply timely, it is overdue.  My doctoral research into retention and part-time, mature students, has revealed the dominance of full-time as the 'authentic' model in institutional, policy and media representations of higher education,  despite one third of all higher education students studying part-time.  There is a tendency to lump part-time students in with 'disadvantaged' groups despite their varied profile. 

Why does part-time matter?  As the campaign argues, part-time higher education brings economic and employment benefits to students/employees and employers; it widens access to higher education and it has a positive impact on personal development. I think it matters too, to our higher education institutions and all their students.  Part-time students bring life experience, employment skills and knowledge, alternative perspectives and astonishing motivation and commitment to their study.  This matters, diversity matters, part-time matters.

Are you studying part-time or know someone who is?  Do you teach part-time students?  What do you think are the particular challenges and benefits of this mode of study?

Monday, 13 May 2013

'at home' in higher education?

My reading about retention of students in higher education is taking me in the direction of belonging and from belonging into identity and place.  So I've become particularly alert to the ways in which people use space to create place, to establish connections between the people they are or would like to be, the things they do and the places they inhabit.   

This was illustrated for me yesterday when, in a brief respite from case study research design, I went to visit several makers participating in Stroud International Textiles Festival Open Studios Weekend   Part of the delight involved in these weekends is discovering places on your doorstep you never realised existed.   Of course during Open Studios weekend, the studio becomes a shop window, the artistic process is self-consciously available for public consumption.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed imagining the private creative process taking place within them on a daily basis.   Yesterday's visits revealed two makers' studios tucked away up a narrow, tree-lined path.  One was little more than a lean-to with a view of the garden; the other was a purpose-built garden 'room' with a green roof.  Both were compact, distinctive workplaces. 

It got me thinking about my own 'studio' (derived after all, from the Latin studere, to study): essentially a desk in the spare room, a noticeboard and a shelf of books.  It's the nearest I can get to the garden room with the green roof.  But this workspace has become an important part of my development as a doctoral researcher.  It keeps that part of my life distinct, it's an acknowledgment of the importance of place to the development of a learning identity.  

These observations feed my thinking about the larger questions about learning and social spaces; about the ways in which student populations use campus space - inclusively and exclusively; what it means - and who is allowed - to feel at home in higher education?

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

a matter of life and death

Last week, I felt I'd reached something of a milestone in what I'll call my PhD career.  This week that milestone is forgotten and the future trajectory obscured by life events.  I'm reminded all too abruptly of how studying as a mature student and perhaps particularly as a female mature student, is vulnerable to disruption by events beyond your control.  My elderly mother had a(nother) fall and though not seriously hurt, has simply failed to recover.  This week - and the Bank Holiday weekend - has been dominated by encouraging a reluctant elderly person to eat/get up/dress/bathe, ensuring they take medication on time and daily, weighing up their additional care needs, whether further medical attention is required.  The physical, mental and emotional energy this demands makes starting on what feels like a new phase (writing my Lit Review chapter, planning methodology) impossible for the time being. 
And then today, in piercing sunshine, softened by glorious blossom, I attend the burial of my ex-colleague who has died of cancer in her mid-forties, a year younger than me.  She is buried in a wicker coffin, beneath a graceful stand of trees in South Bristol Cemetery.  Saying farewell to her feels like an invitation to make the most of now, a glib phrase most days, but not today. 
In between the death of a quirky middle-aged woman who died with dignity and the life of an admirably stubborn elderly woman clinging on to life, my PhD seems at once insignificant - and so much more.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

first stop - reading

A couple of times a month I leave the pocket of rural England I currently call home and get on a train to the big smoke for PhD supervision and library raids.  That's what I did yesterday and travelling back via Reading (dappled pink sky, May blossom softening the urban edges of the M4 corridor), I realised that I'd reached my own particular station stop on this PhD journey.  My supervisor had advised me to stop reading (for the time being) and start writing my Lit Review chapter.  
To my surprise, my first reaction was regret!  Last autumn, the idea of 'reading for a year' seemed a) ridiculous, b) impossible, c) profoundly indulgent.  But 'reading' has turned out to mean so much more.  Reading has meant grappling with new technological know how and the virtual abundance of library resources; becoming strategic about database searches and library book renewal; working out an effective notetaking/filing system; learning how to to navigate the highways, short cuts, dead ends and voyages of discovery in every bibliography; discovering the joy of indexes; not being afraid of sentences that begin: A lack of corporeal finality arises from a mutual inherence between psychical interior and corporeal exterior...*; analysing, connecting and getting past the authoritative voices in my field; expressing their relevance to my research in my own words, tentatively at first, then with increasing confidence...
If I'm honest, I'd like at least another six months.  But it's on to the next station stop. 
*McNay, L. (1999) Theory Culture Society, 16:98

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

campus? what campus?

Someone has commented, though not publicly, that for a blog entitled Campus Chronicler, I don't seem to spend much time on campus (see below)!  This is an excellent point.  I am a full-time, doctoral student but enrolled at a university 120 miles away. I visit about twice a month for supervisions and library raids. I spend the bulk of my PhD life in a small room overlooking my neighbours' gardens on the outskirts of a (quite funky) small town in the West Country.  My 'campus' (study space, cafes, bars, sports facilities, social life), is either downstairs, on my doorstep or within a 5 mile radius.  But my 'campus' is also the extensive virtual library facilities I enjoy and the whole network of people I connect with via email, blogging, facebook and twitter and, less often, conferences and seminars.  Some are new to me since I started my PhD studies, others have been built up over a long and pro-active working life in higher education and associated fields.  My 'campus' is also the organisations I play an active part in, notably UALL - The Universities Association of Lifelong Learning and UALL's national women's network Women in Lifelong Learning, which I convene, not to mention the news, issues and debates about higher education I try to keep track of.  
The relevance of all this (and therefore the reason I'm blogging about it) is that one element of my research is what 'belonging' means for part-time, mature students in higher education.  Because belonging has been highlighted as critical to retention, I am trying to uncover how the multi-faceted lives of part-time, mature students impact on way they negotiate, indeed need to 'belong' to their higher education institutions.  
I'm definitely mature, but I'm not part-time, nor undergraduate, but there are similarities with my research question and my own circumstances.  Even though I'm here and my university is there, I feel I belong enough to keep me going.  Admittedly, I've been well-trained through several years of Open University distance study but I also have a rich life and a rich history that I am weaving into my developing identity as a doctoral researcher.  I feel as though my campus - any campus, experienced by any student, is, as Doreen Massey (1997) would define it 'a particular constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus...articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings'. This implies that belonging can be something 'inbetween' rather than a finite state.  
So, I maintain I am a campus chronicler, despite appearances and the odd city break to the contrary!  In any case, I'm grateful for the comment which unwittingly, has connected me more closely to my research! 

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Treacle and Twelfth Night

After a day spent wrestling with a paper on identity (multiple, fluid, negotiated) - I'm at what I call the treacle stage - I found myself at a performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night (separated twins one of whom pretends to be a different gender to get the guy she loves, fends off a woman who falls in love with her, etc...)  performed by an all male cast ( A play strangely appropriate to my current intellectual task. Lots of cross dressing, gender confusion etc., performed with emotional intelligence and flair.  It must be a GCSE/A set text because the theatre was full of rapt teenagers who gave the performance a standing ovation.  Heart warming.  If Propeller Theatre come to somewhere near you, go and see them, whether or not you like theatre/Shakespeare  You might just get a taste for it!

Sunday, 14 April 2013

goodbye Berlin, hello Bakewell

Just back from a short trip to Berlin which featured a visit to the Reichstag - an architectural invitation to transparency and reflection which never fails to inspire.  It was good to experience (albeit briefly) Berlin's energy and style (and to escape the Thatcher media frenzy for a few days).  Back to work now and an opportunity to reflect on Joan Bakewell's welcome intervention in the part-time study debate .   Government statements on the issue seem wilfully blinkered if not purposefully obtuse.  The facts are that part-time undergraduate enrolments in higher education for 2012/13 are down 40%; postgraduate down 27%, following the introduction of significantly higher tuition fees.  Keep your eyes peeled for the outcome of the UUK Review of part-time study

Thursday, 4 April 2013

discovering slow thinking

This week I've been attempting to untangle theories of identity and belonging alongside completing a long-deferred job of painting the kitchen cupboards.  The work of sanding, priming, undercoating and painting has provided some light relief when my mind just wouldn't absorb or process any more.  Now I'm realising that each stage of the painting job - and the necessary waiting period in between - has punctuated my very slow progress towards what might, eventually, be a paper for my next supervision.  I'm learning the value of slow thinking.  I've allowed myself to be challenged, confused (and bored) by my reading then got the paintbrush out and given myself the space for my thoughts to sift, review, connect.  Painting is well suited to this process - it's rhythmic, repetitive and, in contrast to my reading, something which shows clear and usually satisfying results relatively quickly!  

Apparently Barack Obama is a slow thinker, although I'm guessing he doesn't use the kitchen cupboard method.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

social mobility? what's not to like?

Last week I attended a conference on higher education and social mobility.  The holy grail of the 'graduate job' and the fast disappearing 'graduate premium' have encouraged the assumption that HE is good for social mobility.  The only way is up.  
As someone researching part-time, mature students in higher education I was looking forward to some critical discussion of the term.  After all, social mobility might mean something different to a 40 year old student changing career direction than to a 21 year old first time entrant to the labour market.   Should all students (and staff) subscribe to the overwhelmingly economic emphasis placed on social mobility in policy documents and institutional publicity? 
There were some thought provoking contributions.  Professor Chris Brink VC  of Newcastle University argued for a more lateral conception of social mobility which embraced its moral and social dimensions as well as economic; civic and public good as well as private benefit.  Social mobility he said encompasses university as a destination and as a point of departure.  It was an interesting perspective, idealistic perhaps.  I wondered how a VC of a new university might have approached the subject.  Claire Callender (Birkbeck, Institute of Education) reported on recent research demonstrating that part-time learners acquire AND deploy the significant benefits they gain from HE in their working and non-working lives while they are studying as well as afterwards.  She argued that the lower financial but wide-ranging, non-financial benefits of part-time study means that part-time students should attract greater subsidy.  There was also a stimulating presentation from Professor Ann-Marie Bathmaker as part of the Bristol Paired Peers project, showing the stratification of social mobility across different universities and the ways in which middle-class students mobilise all the capitals: economic, social, cultural available to them to compensate for their attendance of 'lower-status' universities. 
There was also plenty of rhetoric and evidence of an unquestioning approach to social mobility, not to mention a couple of presentations which were not about social mobility at all, but simply added the term to their presentation title....(nothing new there!)
And today a further dimension to the social mobility discussion - the presentation of a new 7-social class model ranging from elite to 'precariat'...  More on this once I've taken the test to discover where I fit....!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

all aboard...

It's not too early to acknowledge the support of others in getting me to this point (and hopefully beyond it).  It's already obvious to me that fuel and pitstops, of all kinds, are essential on the otherwise solitary PhD roadtrip!  

So let me say: thanks to Becky and Katie, whose warm hospitality allows me to be enrolled at the University of London but live in rural bliss (your rewards are forthcoming but may take a while!); thanks to my mentors Bonnie and Ann-Marie whose academic and personal integrity I absolutely trust and whose time I really appreciate.  Thanks to Cat for cultural interventions and city sojourns and Kate B for coffees and institutional insights.  Thanks to all those ex-colleagues whose support kept me going last year and who waved me off with such good wishes.  To Mum and Rodda who won't let me pay for lunch!  To Tam who was there when it mattered.  And to my partner Jane Oliver, the sweetest woman alive, who feeds and loves  me in every way.  

Friday, 29 March 2013

six months and counting...

This seems like an appropriate moment to jump into the blogosphere....

I'm six months into a PhD researching how UK universities retain (or don't) part-time, mature students.

These dispatches from the field of higher education/academia will record my reflections on inhabiting the role of a doctoral student (I didn't see that coming!), my engagement with all aspects of my research and a watching brief on the state of UK higher education.  And yes, the title's implication of conflict/struggle/battle IS intended. 

To start, here's some context.  The UK government's funding reforms for higher education seem to have hit part-time student enrolment hardest.  It's down 40% from 2010/11 (BBC News 14 March 2013).