Over worked, under paid: quality of phd life?


I am on a structured PhD programme and it sucks! Although I am in the second year and should be focusing solely on my research I am still doing taught modules... one of which starts tomorrow and in preparation for each 3 hour class, we are expected to read 10 to 12 long and tedious articles, write up a two page critical argument (not a summary, but a well constructed argument) and a 5,000 word essay at the end. This is only one module, I have two other modules to do as well, although they involve less prep work.
While I do sometimes see the benefits of a taught component for PhD students I feel it has really affected my work over the last year and a half, not to mention my quality of life, my relationships, and my general health has deteriorated considerably.

I have spoken to my supervisor and I was advised not to complain, I spoke to the course coordinator and I got far less satisfaction there, and the Dept. head insists that I don't see the bigger picture which for him is the value of having graduated with a solid theoretical learning.
For me the bigger picture is far more than my CV at this stage, its having my weekends free, and even some of my evenings to relax, so that I can keep a good head space.

I feel that complaining last year got me no where, this is evident in the continued work load this year. I think I argued my case in a rational manner but all I seem to have done is created an image of myself as a moaner/complainer/lazy person.

Does anyone feel my pain?


Got to say I don't like the sound of that one bit. Structured PhD programmes look very sucky indeed. I feel for you.

Avatar for sneaks

======= Date Modified 10 Feb 2011 15:54:14 =======
I had to do modules in my 1st year - but I got out of some of them with exemptions because I'd already covered the content elsewhere (and had evidence for that). So you could try that.

Otherwise I have no advice - are they pass/fail? if so do the bear minimum!

edited because I'm not sure if its bear or bare???? no bear doesn't sound right. eurgh SPSS has mangled my brain


Hi Sandian,

It sounds like your are in a situation that does really meet your expectations and I hope you can pull through it and come up better off in the end for it. I also did some modules in the first year, but only ones which complimented my research. If funding is from an external source you could mention that fact that your are losing out on meeting the demands of your external stakeholders by losing too much time doing modules which is not contributing to your PhD.

Is everyone in your course doing the same? Maybe talk to some of those in the third/fouth years to see how they managed and got through it. Maybe they can give you some advice?

All the best


I’m in the same situation. Structured PhDs are pants if you ask me. I’ve been forced to do one too. One has no choice here anymore. They have enforced structured PhDs full stop. However, I have got out of having to do some of the modules like Sneaks as I had done them before but I think I will have to do another few modules at some point just to get credits. It is upsetting to the point of tears. I understand completely that feeling that your time is being wasted by these modules when you really are itching to get on with your thesis. I feel your pain but like you I don’t have any solutions. I too complain and complain and complain to my sympathetic supervisor but no-one has the authority to reverse it as far as I can see. I hate the kind of rubbish that your head of dept. is saying. It's nonsense. People just want to work on their thesis. I am looking for more ways of getting out of doing the remaining courses. The course I did last year was actually useful but that was in my first year. After first year I really think we should be free to work on the thesis. Between teaching and trying to do these modules I don’t know how anyone is expected to get work on their thesis done. As you say your social life and relationships end up suffering as there just isn't enough time in each day. I hate it too to the point that I have considered dropping out but it's so futile because I LOVE my thesis but hate these pointless modules I am forced to do.
Are you in the position of just doing modules to fill your credit obligation not cos you actually want to do them? It sucks completely. If you can get any of the modules waived it’s worth a try.


======= Date Modified 10 Feb 2011 16:25:16 =======
Edit: Double post


To further develop my case:
When I initially agreed to take the scholarship and do the PhD I was told I didn't have to do modules because I had a masters degree which was one reason that I did the Masters, however the day after I was registered I was handed my timetable and module options and was instructed to choose the most relevant ones. I was shocked. This was not what I had signed up for and no body listened to my arguments. I was not given the correct information to make an informed decision, through no fault of my own. I was going on what my supervisor (at the time) was telling me. He has since left which is a whole other issue itself!!

I feel that there is a close bond between all my superiors which makes it very difficult to get support from supervisor, they simply don't like to challenge their close friends, and certainly not stick up for their student.

I have made it known that I wasn't happy and that I was considering leaving but they know how much I want this so they didn't take me seriously. Its funny because we talk about empowering people and having the little voices heard a lot in class and yet when students get together to voice their concerns they are not heard.

From my experiences of academia I don't want to be a part of it... get my PhD and bid it farewell, that is the plan.



I feel quite sorry for you, this structured PhD thing sounds fairly rubbish, however there is another way............................. If you and enough fellow PhD people feel sufficiently unhappy with this situation, you simply need to unionise so that you all just don't do the modules. If enough of you, ie over half the cohort simply does not attend, and expresses its reasons for non attendance ie lack of quality time for spending on research/thesis writing to the detriment of both your overall research output and quality of life in general then you can probably force the department to drop it. No department would simply allow half of it's PhD cohort ( especially if most are research council funded) to pack it all in and walk out, think of how bad that would look.

Failing that you could just do the barest minimum, but I quite like the idea of the first option.