Great project, mediocre uni...

posted
17-May-17, 22:09
Avatar for Puhuhduh
posted about 1 week ago
Hey champs, wondering if anyone can help solve my dilemma. I have found a lovely funded Phd project right up my alley (mental health, education, inequality) that last year won the award for best research-led community contribution at the Times Higher Ed awards. Only issue is that it is at Edge Hill, and whilst I'm a big fan of their focus on research with real practical value and its supposed to be a lovely place to work//study, I'm also really concerned that they are not the best regarded university (54th in recent UK rankings). After a two year hiatus from academia, I am really keen to get started asap, and this project starts October - missed the deadline for most other funding. So the question is - do I go for it? Feel a bit pretentious for this even being an issue, but I want a career in academia and am aware that if my PhD isn't from a highly regarded uni, that might hold me back from certain PostDocs further down the line. My heart says go for it, screw elitism, but my heart has a history of being full of crap. Other info that you might need to know is that I did my undergrad at Edinburgh and MPhil at Cambridge, both laa-dee-daa unis (so much for screwing elitism). Might that history compensate for the less prestigious PhD? Help meeeeeee!
posted
18-May-17, 03:09
edited about 23 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 week ago
I will never ever understand this obsession with university rankings.
The project is perfect, the location is perfect so I dont understand the issue.
Do you honestly want to work in an industry where they are daft enough to award jobs based on what uni you went to anyway rather than treating you on your own merit?
IMO university rankings are as useless as journal impact factors when considering almost anything of merit.
Ludicrous academic obsession with both is a large part of why I am getting out as soon as my corrections are finished.
Phew. Glad I got that off my chest :-D

Others may give you a calmer response lol.
posted
18-May-17, 12:17
edited about 25 seconds later
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 1 week ago
I don't think it will matter where you have done your PhD - it's more whether your supervisor is known in the field. Go for it.
posted
18-May-17, 13:28
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for EffinIneffable
posted about 1 week ago
I think it depends what kind of an academic you want to be and what kind of an academic career you want to have (if that's your aim).

My husband did his undergrad and masters at Oxbridge, then his PhD at another uni (also quite laa di dah but not Oxbridge). He feels very strongly that this put him out the running for applying for JRFs at Oxford and Cambridge (well trodden route to permanent jobs at those institutions), and hampered his applications for permanent jobs at Russell Group Unis, which can be very snobbish and traditional, more so in certain fields. It sounds like your field is education/sociology/psychology - these fields can be slightly less snobbish and a bit more critical, but only slightly. If you want to prioritise being an engaged academic,working for the love of it on projects you care about, but in a more precarious situation, Edge Hill be fine. But if you care about getting to be a Prof at a long standing traditional Uni such as Russell Group or Oxbridge, the fact is, it could make a difference. If your supervisor is a really big shot (and you want to stay in that field) than that will alleviate the issue somewhat.

I don't think this is how it *should* be, but it's surprised me quite how reactionary universities can be, even in fields where you expect more questioning of the status quo.
posted
18-May-17, 13:47
Avatar for EffinIneffable
posted about 1 week ago
More thoughts ...Go and talk to the potential supervisor at Edge Hill (or arrange a phone call). If you really hit it off, that's worth a lot. You'll spend a lot of your life and energy on your PhD, if it's really exciting you and you think you click with the supervisor, that will make your life a lot happier!

On the other hand, what are your alternative options? A funded project can hamper as much as help. If you get an 'Open' scholarship elsewhere you can build your project around your own ideas anyway and it might actually allow you to pursue your ideas more fully than going for this project. But can you wait for an Open scholarship and are you prepared to risk the more competitive nature of them?
posted
18-May-17, 15:14
edited about 2 seconds later
Avatar for chickpea
posted about 1 week ago
I agree with others here that this isn't how it should be (but probably is) - it is also a big turn-off from academia for me.

If you want my honest opinion, mental health/education/inequality is such an important area that you should only go for this if your heart is in it completely. If the concern about the university and prospects is looming larger, perhaps this project belongs to someone else.
posted
18-May-17, 17:41
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 1 week ago
I think the Oxbridge JRFs are rather a closed shop for everyone who didn't do their PhD at Oxbridge or one of the very few universities globally they consider their equal... Not very meritocratic. Other jobs (RG included) I think for education and sociology (assuming one of the other is your subject) there's not a lot of snobbishness about what institution you did your PhD at as for both subjects there are really strong researchers at lower ranked institutions. (I do think it seems to matter more in eg History, philosophy or English Lit). Getting a job is more about what you have achieved in terms of publication etc. So what matters more in your assessment of Edge Hill than the ranking, is whether the supervisors of the project are publishing in the highly ranked journals, you need to target to be competitive for jobs. If they are, then they will almost certainly be able to give you the professional skills training you need to stand a decent chance.
I think the only other real concern (more for sociology than education) is research methods training. Depending on how much you've already had, this may be less of a worry, but you might want to check a) what Edge Hill offers and b) if they have any connections to ESRC Northwest DTC to help you access any specialist training you need. Unfortunately social sciences are so method heavy these days that not having strong methods skills makes it hard to get into the better journals, and this can be disadvantageous career-wise.
posted
18-May-17, 21:53
Avatar for Puhuhduh
posted about 1 week ago
Thanks for the response guys - a lot of food for thought. I take on board people's frustrations with the system, it does seem absurd that this should even be an issue, and chickpea is right to point out how petty my concerns seem in the face of the value of the project. Its slightly embarrassing to be anxious about something so superficial, but also fascinating how a seemingly irrational obsession with status still effects institutions (and people) that pride themselves on rationality.
I will get in touch with the supervisor over the next week and see if we get on, have similar interests etc (thanks for that advice, Effinineffable) and whether my proposal fits in with the project, as well as do a bit more digging in terms of the research training (thanks bewildered). Really appreciate the input. If anyone else has any more thoughts, I am all ears. Thanks again!
posted
18-May-17, 23:26
Avatar for fallenonion
posted about 1 week ago
Im not an expert at all by any means but here's my thoughts, based on my limited experience.

I'm in the process of trying to get a job as a lecturer in education myself. My academic record is distinctly patchy, to put it politely.

Ive got a 2.1 (highly erratic...please, no one ever ask for my transcript which includes everything from firsts to thirds) from a mid-ranking (at best!) red brick, a pgce from a Russel group, and a Masters from a post 92' (although it is a distinction). All in different subjects. I work in an FE college (not a particulalry good one), and have done some Associate lecturing in a low, low ranking post 92 where I have a doctoral proposal on hold.

However...

So far I've applied for three lecturing jobs in education departments. By sheer coincidence, they all happen to be very prestigious Russel group institutions. And to my surprise, I've been shortlisted for all three.

Admittedly, the first interview was a disaster, and the other two are still to come. So its not like I'm speaking from a position of having a job in HE yet.

But if they are willing to interview someone like me, perhaps they aren't as sniffy as all that? If I don't get a job, I honestly don't think the unis I've been to will have much to do with it. Or even my grades. More how I do on the day, really.

So I'd say go for the phd at edge hill. Just my opinion though. Maybe I'm being naive, but that's my thoughts.
posted
19-May-17, 08:45
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 1 week ago
I agree with fallenonion. I don't think people sit there after interviews and go 'now who should we employ, not this one, she didn't go to a Russell group uni'. It's about the person and how much they like them and think they will fit in the department in terms of research, teaching and collegiality.

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