Doing a PhD is hard work!!! What is annoying me at the moment is the constant put down and problems I’m facing for being “a student”as they are stressing me out more than the work itself… and even making me seriously consider quitting!!
Firstly, my department treats you very differently if you were a staff member (like an RA or lecturer) before you started your PhD- this means the difference between having your own desk or being in a shared cluster with limited storage and also a difference towards how you are treated by staff in the school (particularly admin staff who seem to hate the “pure” PhD students and try to make our life very difficult at times).
Secondly, I’ve had ongoing IT problems in the Postgrad cluster and have tried reporting them but the staff won’t come out for a student raised complaint and even resorted to calling me nasty names for asking (I have had to raise a grievance against them because of this).
Thirdly, the students services regularly don’t pay us ontime and can’t promise a regular date when we do get paid. I have JUST received an email saying my October scholarship payment won’t be available for another week- hardly enough time for me to notify the mortgage company, is it? They’d never dream of treating staff in such a way.
Sorry to moan but these problems on top of a few others are seriously making me consider jacking it all in. I’ve applied for a couple of jobs- they’re a bit of a long shot though as are the kind of thing I may apply for after the PhD (they're not in research though so a PhD isn't essential). So after 1.5years of hard graft I'm considering leaving- I can't help but think that if the School/ Uni were more supportive to mere "students" that I wouldn't be feeling quite this disheartened.
Thanks for "listening"- I feel better already for having had a good rant!
Stop moaning - listen to yourself. We've all been going through the same shit. Try to live with it - it's part of the test a PhD constitutes. Some give up because they are too weak. Even if you are working in a normal company you have to earn respect for more than 1.5 years and work your way up the ranks before important people remember your name. I understand the problem but it's just the way it is.
I will have a complicated emergency wisdom tooth extraction on Monday and my viva on Tuesday - now that is life kicking your arse. I could throw it all in and start crying but I won't. Probably won't be able to speak without pain in the viva but that's life.
======= Date Modified 31 Oct 2008 11:20:58 =======
Wow- bit harsh there Jouri! I know I was having a moan but this forum is about support and should offer a platform for sharing and empathy. I don’t think I should just have to “put up with it”. I have worked for years before doing my PhD and know that had I received such diminishment as a staff member that HR would have helped me sort the problem- as a student there is no HR but that doesn’t mean you should just take a sh*t deal!!! You don’t have to be broken in order to get a PhD as that can result in bitter people who end up making future PhD students go through what they had to.
Also, giving up is NOT necessarily a sign of weakness, especially not if you’ve been bombarded out and not left because of the workload. I started a PhD to gain research experience and knowledge in my field- I may have achieved that to the extend that I need to without finishing- that does not make me weak.
My PhD study involves working with families whose newborns are critically ill so I’m well aware of what constitutes life kicking your arse. I am sorry to hear about your own operation though- be sure to take plenty of pain killers like codeine, ibuprofen and paracetamol back to back to spread the pain coverage and I’m sure you’ll get though just about in one peice.
Jouri, that was very rude of you. Not being paid on time is serious in itself, and Twinkle is very entitled to a moan; I would! I bet you would too. And I've had emergency extractions twice. You'll be fine, if anxiety is the cause of your unusual response. Don't worry; it doesn't hurt these days.
Twinkle, it can be really frustrating; I've had a good moan too lately (about being treated as a badly-paid technician, in my case). One day...it will all be worth it.
Flippin heck Jouri, that was a bit harsh. There are plenty of people who have complained more about less on this forum.
The money thing is a problem I've seen elsewhere - stipends being paid weeks after they were supposed to, resulting in students having to borrow money to pay rent. There do seem to be different sets of rules dictating how one is treated according to whether one is a staff member or a student.
If you have a departmental graduate tutor, maybe it's worth having a chat with him/her. Or seeing if other PhD students in your group are having similar problems. If these things are affecting a number of you then maybe someone will take more notice if you present your case together.
Sorry to hear you're having a difficult time at the moment, but maybe there are some practical solutions to your problems. Although you have mentioned computer and payment issues, maybe it's significant that you're halfway through your phd - I'd say there are a lot of us on here who would agree this is a difficult stage to be at when all the enthusiasm of the first year has worn off and only the reality of a lot of hard work remains. Is it possible that the computer problems are part of a more general lack of enthusiasm for work at the moment? If so, my only advice is to stick with it and keep doing some work - however little - until your interest resumes. I had my own 2nd year crisis and got to the point where I told my supervisors I was thinking about quitting; thankfully they were able to talk me out of it and I'm now well on the way to finishing. Quitting after so much work is a major decision and not something, in my opinion, which should rest on your access to computers and payment problems.
But to go back to your post, if it's getting you down having to deal with admin staff and IT staff is there any possibility of working from home for a while? Sometimes being out of the situation, especially if there is a lot of office politics or resentment, can help you get a sense of perspective. With regard to payments, I think irregular payment is a fact of life unfortunately - my ESRC payments are pretty random. I think talking to your mortgage provider, rather than the university, might be more effective because there's pretty much nothing the university can do about it. I don't know what your situation is but could you take on some teaching assistant work? This would bring in some extra income (and in my experience it's paid quickly, a couple of weeks after you put a claim in) and maybe doing something academic, but not thesis-related, would help you deal with/forget about your other problems.
steady on jouri, it's not a competition to see who is having the worst experience!! i think twinkle has good reason(s) for complaint, not being paid on time in particular is extremely stressful, esepcially when you have a mortgage/rent to pay! at my uni we have to have an advisor appointed to us individually as well as our supervisor who is there for non-academic issues - is there anyone like that that you can go to? if not, then i would definitely approach the postgrad office and discuss all these issues with them, as it does sound like you're having a hard time of it! it can be very demoralising when everything seems to be going badly so i sympathise - but don't let all this grind you down! try to focus on the things you *like* about your phd, it would be a shame to leave for reasons that are unrelated to your research (although i can see how they have an effect on it!). chin up, and good luck! :-)
Twinkle, I don't how much work you have done in the 'real world' but from my experience HR and admin departments are usually rubbish in most organisations, particularly universities and that is for staff as well. I always have to chase payments, P60s, tax problems etc etc. The worst thing that has happened at my uni recently is that the expense form and original train tickets of a very eminent keynote speaker were lost and she still has not been paid nearly a year after the conference she attended! The problems you talk about are just a fact of life unfortunately and you should try to rise above them and concentrate on your PhD. I know waiting for money when you have a mortgage to pay is difficult and that happened to me as well, but you just have to keep hassling the people to sort it out. I sent loads of urgent e-mails dictating that I had to have my money by a particular day and I kept phoning as well. One tip though is that if you come across someone who is helpful (and they do exist) make sure you get their name, phone number, e-mail etc so you can contact them again when you need help.
I can understand your frustration but I don't see what this has to do with whether you quit or not. Either you want your PhD or you don't. So unles you have really lost interest in the PhD itself anyway or the dept are actually stopping you from completing your research I would just lpough on and have a good grumble now and then. Works for me 8-)
Awgh thanks guys!! You’ve been a great help- as I expected from this forum
I think that the money thing is obviously a major one that has upset me today. In the current climate having no money for your mortgage is scary stuff. Thankfully my partner should be able to bail me out- but I shouldn’t have to rely on that. You’re so right about there being little point complaining to the uni though as I think it is a down side to scholarships. My previous employment has been NHS and, all credit to them, they always paid you promptly!
Regarding the other problems, I was the PG rep and have had lots of liaison with the Department’s postgrad tutor but there is low staff morale at the moment (financial worries and all that) so they’re just not interested in helping us. I’ve also been working home a lot but my house is freezing and I’m a sociable creature and miss fact to face contact and chit-chat! The isolation from that is another of my “issues”
I know that part of this is a sure sign I’ve hit my mental wall and as I’m letting circumstantial things make me consider leaving. I know that they’re really just the tip of the iceberg though and that the other problems or concerns I have are much harder to diagnose or even acknowledge. The trouble is that academic institutions are so chaotic at the moment, and as others have pointed out reclaiming expenses, getting paid etc is an on going issue. In my field academia is really the only option after my PhD and I guess all this is making me contemplate if that is what I really want. I miss the hands on job I’ve come from! I’ve checked my balls in the air by applying for other jobs and it’ll either spur me on to complete the PhD as I’ll be more employable for stuff like that afterwards or it will lead me out of the chaotic academic domain (into another domain that will obviously have it’s own problems!!).
Thanks again- it was just nice to off load a little to people I don’t see day in day out.
"The worst thing that has happened at my uni recently is that the expense form and original train tickets of a very eminent keynote speaker were lost and she still has not been paid nearly a year after the conference she attended!"
I can beat that record: I went to a conference April 2007 and still haven't been paid expenses! They lost all my receipts, and didn't tell me till last month. Luckily I had the email confirmation of flights etc; so they should be paying me in November. Not holding my breath;-)
That makes a lot more sense. I worked for a long time before coming back to this PhD. It is quite alarming to see the chaotic, non-accountable way things are 'run' in an academic dept. But I suppose this is the general culture. I much preferred the 'culture' especially the social side, of my previous jobs - I just didn't like the actual work and couldn't spend all my time at work gossipping, unfortunately (although I gave it a good shot). Academia is my only option too. I'm realising that for me it is going to be a choice between work I enjoy or a workplace I enjoy. I can't seem to have both. I think my place is nicer to students - tech support etc is quite good. Financial stuff is terrible - I had one grant payment delayed 3 months :-s
I'm hoping that the teaching element will give me back that missing 'handsonness' and interaction with other real life human beings.
I agree with you that you should not have to accept mistreatment, and that it should not be accepted as part of the PhD challenge.
That seems ridiculous to me. Life is difficult enough without projecting it onto others.
Regarding the payment, why are the payments irregular? Is it because the funding body makes the payments irregularly?
This is unacceptable, but it might be the case that you would be best off expecting it.
It's tough not to feel disregarded, and perhaps your mortgage company would be understanding but I think this is a very poor solution.
You should be suported by the university in your endeavour, and while minor hiccups should be tolerated, these should not be allowed to be the norm.
Yes, I sound very idealistic, but you have made a choice to do a PhD, you could equally do something else, where you would be valued.
anyways, simple point is, you should be looked after. don't let people act otherwise.
Sounds like you have it tough.. And I totally disagree that you have to 'put up with it', irrespective of your status you should be paid on time and have your IT problems dealt with. At the end of the day you bring money into the university and you along with all the other students are the reason these people have jobs, however I am aware that alot of admin/support staff see students as a necessary evil. I've worked in admissions/student services and the attitudes some people had towards the students was appalling.
I am quite lucky in that I am treated more or less like a member of staff by most people here, but then I am at a research institute rather than a uni. But there are a few people who have the 'You're just a student' attitude which irks me a little. My research is no less important than theirs and my needs for equipment etc. are just as valid. I think with post-docs and the like it is quite often a case of 'poacher turned game keeper' where they treat students badly because they were treated badly when they were students.
Regarding the lack of payment, have they given an excuse why you weren't paid on time? If I was in your shoes I would see how many other students were affected and raise it with the student union and make an issue out of it. If you miss your morgage payment or get overdrawn fees because they are late then it is a serious issue. They would hunt you down if you owed them money.
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