So.. I had a Viva and I didn’t die.
To be entirely honest whilst it wasn’t my dream best-case scenario it was my realistic best hope – I passed with minor corrections. [Dream best case? Immediate pass & simultaneous publication/fellowship offer hahaha]

However, at this stage I am trying to get my head round what that really means.

I have a list of typos, grammatical quirks and stylistic points to correct. Its not a short list (this isn’t a surprise) but some of its features are unexpected – for example my practice of giving a full reference in the footnote the first time I used a work and author-date-page thereafter was dismissed as not obvious and messy so I will be changing it to author-date-page throughout.
What is harder to get my head round are the general comments on things they would liked more/less of vs. the comments about what would need doing before publication was a sensible option. I am trying to work out how to include the information that my examiners deem important without pushing the word count into ridiculosity.
Naturally, given the multi-disciplinary nature of the thesis, they do not entirely agree on which areas should be given precedence/offer sufficient information and the weird synthesis of being too obvious/not obvious enough is brutally clear to me. Despite some vague why haven’t you talked about this/ clarified that etc comments there is a lot of really detailed feedback which I am really grateful for – goodness only knows I’d do it differently next time!

Anyway, I don’t have my formal report yet and nor do I have a clear idea of what my satisfying these comments and resubmitting/getting approved will look like.

This is definitely a portion of the PhD process I don’t know how to approach.
Anyone else have this problem?


Just living that moment where you look at the examiner’s report and it suggests organising the material in a way you rejected at your supervisor’s suggestion 18months ago.

Edited to clarify Рthe way my examiner suggested was the way my thesis had been structured  *mumble mumble* years ago but was eventually fully re-assembled to fit some suggestions from supervisors.Chronological vs. thematic? A matter of taste?

UK Academia in the News

Ever feel like the news is getting at you?
Well recently it has been my turn. Two things have felt surprisingly personal this week; firstly the announcement that postgraduate study in the UK isn’t producing value for money and secondly a new government report on self-harm suggesting GPs are not sufficiently trained for the growing epidemic. I’ll save my thoughts on the 2nd item for a little later but as a proto-/pseudo- academic I have some pretty strong thoughts on the “University Business”.

For those you not in the UK or blissfully unaware of the commentary: a think-tank has declared that postgraduate studies at British universities are not producing home-grown graduates with useful skill-sets for the job market and that the UK is in danger of under-investing in research.
Now these are two separate claims and worth two separate comments.
The 1st claim is that postgraduate students and their study are not contributing enough to our economy and it is linked to the idea that the universities are spending too much money on foreign students. Now this riles me for 2 reasons: 1st- Universities do not exist to churn out people who are money-generators; 2nd- the implication that people leaving postgrad courses are useless. I whole-heartedly believe that universities and higher-level research (as done by PGs, post-docs, lecturers and dedicated research teams) should aim to benefit society. BUT I don’t believe benefit is easily measured by economic output, nor indeed by rankings and student satisfaction ratios.
It isn’t necessarily apparent what research is going to change the world, and a lot of research will only ever pave the way for someone else but the inability to instantly generate money shouldn’t be a show-stopper. Furthermore, I don’t think it is the responsibility of a university to ‘create/train’ individuals to be good citizens and good workers. No one can make someone a good worker nor should their efficacy as an educational institution be dependent on the amount of money their leavers make.
I truly believe that for most jobs the skills required should either be learnt by age 14 (basic numeracy & literacy; ability to research ideas, make judgements & demonstrate processes; manners, teamwork and self-motivation) or be trained on job (builders, plumbers, electricians &c all fall in this category no training can be a substitute for experience for so many things). Some jobs, of course, do require specialist studies: doctors, lawyers, nuclear weapons designers… but for most of us a degree is a luxury and doesn’t make us more employable. I say this as someone with a BA & an MA and who hopes to soon have a Phd. I didn’t do this to make more money for the government I did it to learn new things and to contribute to a field of knowledge but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t developed skill-sets that are relevant to the economy in the process. I have developed my own voice and an acute eye for patterns, I have a better idea of self-discipline and time-management than most and I’m ridiculously good at spotting bullshit but it remains to be seen whether I can get a job.

The purpose of universities and the contribution that they make to the development of students is obviously important to the amount that we as a society should fund them. If we truly believe that only those that create immediate wealth-generating research and/or individuals tailored to the job-market are worthwhile then money can only be directed to areas of interest to industry and vocational studies. On the other hand if we are to foster innovation and develop indviduals as critical entities we must fund the unexpected and the apparently irrelevant.
To me it seems obvious that as a nation we are failing to invest in research.. budgets at universities are so tight there isn’t enough money for lecturers to do photocopying, departments are axed for not being profitable enough and students are treated merely as consumers and not as individuals invested in their own lives. The fact remains if you are unwilling to put money into something the likelihood is that you will get very little out. So, if you want to create a platform for the underprivileged to better themselves provide money for it, if you want to use costly materials and machines to test new drugs provide money for it, if you want to identify the trends and faults of social and economic models of the past provide money for it…
I know it feels like people do research for the hell of it, and lets be honest those who care invest their own time and money into their research projects but don’t be surprised that people walk away when they can no longer feed their families or afford their commute, don’t be surprised that the gifted walk away from innovation in favour of a regular paycheck and don’t be surprised that universities court those who will bring them the most money regardless of nationality or novelty.

I don’t believe that universities and research centres don’t need to be accountable for their finances, I don’t believe in throwing money away but nor do I think that the profit of education and scholarship is financial

Dear Student Finance

Why do I have to fill in a full application form including my nationality and address for the 3 years prior to starting my course when I have already given you this information (hint I’m required to notify you if I change my nationality and the address I lived in 04-07 is still the one for those years)?
Why make me struggle through the piles of paperwork when I’m tired and stressed already?
Why do I have to sign a ‘loan declaration’ when I’m not applying for a loan just a payment for my mentor..? Are you going to hound me to pay back money that was supposed to be supporting me?
Why do I have to send all the paperwork through to the uni again when I (and they) are required to notify you if I drop out?
Why is it so damn difficult? Is this designed to just make me give up?
Yours sincerely
A tearful, anxious, stressed and confused student

Library travels

It takes me nearly 3 hours to get from my house to my university library and a little over 3 to get back
(yes – the train always takes an extra half an hour on the return journey, isn’t that fun)So 4 hours of quality source-checking makes for a bloody long day. On the plus side I can work on my thesis uninterrupted on the train as well as in the library – no internet, no conversation, nowhere to go; on the down side I feel wiped out, anxious and lonely through the whole experience.

Today I added accents to my passages of Diodorus, checking all of the text against Teubner for transcription errors – time consuming and boring but essential if you want to be taken seriously by classicists.
I also found page refs for a handful of the books missing such things in Chapter 1, returned some books and picked up a couple more. I began chapter two again and fiddled with yet more footnotes
But mostly I wonder whether today was productive or not…

DSA worries

It turns out that I should have re-applied for my disabled student allowance at the beginning of the academic year. Apparently you have to fill in their forms every year but no one told me.

So although I failed to keep any of my receipts and am too embarassed to ask for any extra assistance, because my university provided me with a mentor I have had to fill in a new application – though this only became apparent when they applied to the govt for their reimbursement and was the 1st I knew about it.
According to my disability support liasion I don’t need to have new Dr’s evidence, which came as both a relief and a surprise. A relief because a certifying letter from the Dr is expensive and time-consuming (approx ¬£30 and 2 weeks – despite being attached to a uni the health centre even charge for letters for extenuating circs at their own uni!!!) and a surprise because of the current government’s attitude to disability (i.e. prove it umpteen times and we still probably dont think you deserve DLA, ATOS I’m looking at you!).

I’m worried.
I’m terrified they’ll decide I’m not entitled, that the university will ask me to pay for the mentoring services (which I only took because I thought they were funded). I’m terrified they are right. That I am a malingering fool, after all I’m not on meds at the moment.
I’m not very good at asking for money or support. In all my years as a PG and despite being allocated a fund every year I have never claimed money back from the university, for conferences or photocopying. I have never complained at the difficulties and costs associated with returning library books as a distance learner or the extreme panic any form of admin not explicitly emailed to me has caused. I accept both that travel is required and expensive and that I made the choice to live away (to stay with my partner, support network and job) and that standard PG resources are all campus based and even that all disabilty resources are campus based – but I feel like maybe just maybe there should be/have been someone to support me through the financial issues and the DSA forms and checked up that I was getting help. Am I asking too much? Am I just jaded?