Friday, 30 November 2012

Good news and bad news all rolled into one.

It turns out that mountain biking was a very fruitful hobby to have taken up those many moons ago and has provided me with some very clever and useful brains to pick regarding PhD applications.

The initial group of mountain bikers I went out with in 2006 included a young lad who was studying at Newcastle University, he was 25 years old, a great mountain biker and intelligent beyond his years. He's now 31 years old and is a lecturer in Economic Geography at Northumbria University and more importantly he has agreed to help me through the painful PhD application process. I invited Dr Jon Swords over for tea (that's 'dinner' or 'supper' depending on how posh and non-Northern you are, not simply a cup of tea) with the agreement that I could barrage him with questions and to his word, he's answered all of them honestly which means I got both good and bad news from his visit.

The bad news is that I really need to be completely realistic about how competitive the studentship competition is. I knew that already, I mean you can't ignore how many different places and people tell you how much competition there is for places but it's something I need to reinforce. I need to be thinking about what to do post-MA now based on the assumption that I won't be starting on a PhD. The rapidly approaching prospect of being made redundant in March just adds extra impetus to that need.

Another potential negative which I've only just started thinking about recently is that I don't know exactly when I'm expected to finish my MA. The Durham uni website says that part time it takes "2 years plus completion of dissertation". What does that mean? Is that 2 years or 3 years or 2 years plus an extra term?? When am I due to finish it? If I get an extra term or longer then I won't have finished it by the time the PhD would be due to begin thus surely meaning I wouldn't be able to start it? That's something I need to find out for definite from the PG office because ultimately this may scupper my plans entirely so I've emailed the PG secretary to find out but she's unavailable until Monday. Slightly missed deadlines scuppering my plans wouldn't surprise me at all, after all, they're the reason I couldn't do my MA/MSc with the Open University (they withdrew all PG Soc Sci provision just as I was about to finish my BSc - I missed the final registration by 6 weeks). Sometimes it really does suck being a part time student; very little is coordinated properly to suit you and you get far less of the benefits of being a student (many associations don't grant you concessionary membership rates unless you're a full timer, as if somehow those of us who work full time, study part time and pay our tuition fees up front must surely have the financial wherewithal to pay the standard rates).

So there are two negatives - one potentially plan-blowing but I'll not dwell too much on it for now otherwise I'll just upset myself.

Oh the plus side, Jon seemed to think there might be some mileage in my ideas. The two ideas I have don't seem to have been directly researched so a literature review will have to draw on adjacent research to show how mine would 'fill the gap'. Each idea could go in about a dozen directions so that's something I would need to narrow down. He's suggested that I get in touch with a potential supervisor asap - as he rightly said, if applications close in February then allowing for time off over Christmas then marking in the new year etc. it doesn't leave a lot of time for an academic to speak to students so I'll get an email sent off to the lecturer I have in mind this weekend.

Huge thanks to Jon for his sound advice, I don't think pizza and belated birthday cake quite made up for the wisdom he passed on so I greatly appreciate it.

It's all a bit much for me at the minute truth be told. Imminent redundancy and the need to start serious job-hunting, the fast-approaching deadline for PhD applications along with the possibility of not even being eligible to apply, and ongoing studies with looming assignment deadlines are all just sapping away my emotional stability and will soon leave me a gibbering wreck. The job situation is the worst. I fear I may be served my notice any day now and to be completely truthful I'm not qualified to do anything yet so I don't even know what jobs I should be looking for.

I'm in limbo. No man's land. That awful place where I need a new job but am too far away from having a qualification which might just enable me to get a job I like. At the minute I'm not really qualified to do anything, and I suppose to be honest, even if I was the job situation in the North East of England is dire at the minute so you never know, next time you call into Greggs for a corned beef pasty it might just be me serving you.

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