Part time and funding - advice needed



I'm after some advice please...

I'm seriously considering doing a phd in Education next year. I work full time as a social sciences secondary teacher and I'm currently in my final year doing a Master's in Education Studies part-time. I've really been inspired and engaged with re-entering HE after an 11 year period. I've been getting all distinctions for my assignments, ranging from 78-95%. My average is 84%.I've enjoyed working independently and to be honest, I know that even if I didn't attend the weekend sessions we sometimes have, I'd still understand a lot of the content.

I'm not prepared to give up my full-time job for financial reasons so I'm thinking about doing a phd in education part time and possibly distance learning/ online. I have the following questions...

1. What is the difference between part tine distance learning / online courses and just part time phd? I don't want to be campus based? If I chose a uni that offers the part time phd would I constantly have to visit? I won't be able to enroll at nearby universities because there are not many that offer the PhD part-time and also I'm finding that are differences in terms of fees.

2. I want to apply for funding and I'm particularly interested in studying education and disability but not sure if I would be likely to get funding since I have full time employment. Any thoughts? Not even sure how this process works?

3. If I chose to do the EdD instead of the PhD I think it is unlikely that I would get funding for the former? Is that correct? Having done some research it seems funding is likely to be given to candidates who produce new research, ie PhD thesis.

4. I'm going to a couple of uni postgraduate events next month to find out some further info but am I correct in thinking that in order to apply, it's simply a case of just following the university application process and then if accepted apply for funding thereafter? I'm really struggling to understand how you apply for funding. How long is the process?

5.Do I just apply to as many universities as I want and go to the one that perhaps best fits/ suits my needs?

Thanks in advance for taking the time to read. Sorry it's so long.



Hi as222.

I can't answer all your questions but I am a part-time self funding PhD student. I did my masters part time on day release from my job and it was a completely different experience to my PhD. Although I am officially distance learning I did have to go to the lab a lot in the earlier years due to the nature of my research.

I know a few people who have completed their PhD part-time and / or self funded, it has taken them around 10 years. I started in 2011 but am officially in my 7th year having taken some time off of studying.

Your time on campus will depend upon your area of research and the set up of the university. If it is a distance learning uni chances are you can have skype meetings with your supervisor. Some universities are more open than others to part-time and self funded study.

In the earlier years I tried to apply for alternative funding as being a part-time student often rules you out of lots of funding opportunities, this may be different in education, but in the end I gave up. I have occasionally considered how much it cost me financially, given the fees, loss of earnings (I was working part-time at the beginning), train travel, etc, it is a horrendous figure.

Looking back I don't think I would do this again if I knew what I know now. This experience has been incredibly isolating, difficult for my friends / colleagues to understand and an uphill emotional battle. We all have the best intentions at the start, I had an epic five year plan, but I'm hoping to submit early next year (9 years since I started). I'm not saying don't do it, I'm saying think about it carefully.


1) I would not personally recommend a distance learning PhD, because they sound a bit like cash-grab teaching for minimal effort on the (virtual) supervisor's part. It perhaps depends on why you want to do it; if it's for a job in research afterwards, you'll need to make connections, which will be incredibly hard if your actual contact with the research community is a bi-monthly skype call. You will be paying a lot of money, so the support, and more importantly the opportunities to network, are something to evaluate.

2&3) Basically; in the UK, academics apply for funding from councils/trusts/companies/whatever moves, not students. If an academic is successful and has nobody lined up (hence the importance of networking opportunities as per 1), then they will tend to advertise a paid studentship on This will rarely be part-time though. Universities also invest directly in studentships, however, they're usually full time because, cynically, for the Uni the purpose of the investment is to get on-time (3 year) completions for league tables.

4) It is worth noting it is very rare for a student that starts self-funded to get offered funding down the line. Perhaps the odd 'extra work' opportunity (e.g. teaching), but because most funded opportunities are linked to projects that start and end in a PhD lifecycle, you can't move onto one halfway through easily.

5) If you are self-funding I would firmly consider yourself the customer at the application stage (though, not necessarily at the supervision stage, as your supervisor will be doing it for the teaching/research, not the income, which will go straight to a nebulous university pot). I would consider: whether there's a substantial active team researching what you're doing; the track record of the potential supervisor(s); whether there are active related projects within the group; whether there are other PhD students; & the ranking of the University.

Hope this helps.