26-Jun-14, 20:23
edited about 22 seconds later
Avatar for kitten2010
posted about 3 years ago
Hi all, could anyone share their experiences or advice on full time PhD?

I know you take modules from MSc programmes during the PhD and take research training session/days etc, but are you required to attend every day? Is it different if your first year or last year? Can you attend say midday til 8pm if that works for you both with homelife and finances (eg. travel off peak cheaper!).

And what are you actually expected to do each day?

I ask because the campus I am looking and likely to attend is really expensive to go in every day, it would cost over 350 pounds a month in train/bus travel. (2 separate counties to travel through).

I'd be very grateful for any shared experiences of expectations. Thank you K.
26-Jun-14, 21:21
edited about 28 seconds later
by Fled
Avatar for Fled
posted about 3 years ago
I just started in April full time. My research training modules start in October so I can offer any advice then. However I commute to school 20-30 mins from where I live. I anticipate my first year to be the most demanding in terms of presence. The social aspect of networking, being seen in the department, meeting frequency with supervisors, being social with the other candidates, attending "round tables" (how to get published, how to get a job, etc.)

That being said, I have a room in my apt to myself which is my office, but I tend to drop into school at least once or twice a week for non-scheduled stuff. If I have an event I go. Second year is usually field study, so you are away some, and focusing on outputs like publications and conferences, getting the first results of your research out there.

Others will have much more comprehensive advice to give, but I estimate I can maintain a healthy relationship with my department by being present 2/5 days. I also intend to tutor 2 seminars in October as well, so I would not be surprised if my first year turned out to be 4/5 or 5/5 days in department.
26-Jun-14, 22:07
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 3 years ago
It totally varies depending upon the discipline, university and supervisors.

If the PhD is lab based, you will probably need to go in every day, including some weekends. You can mainly set your own hours though, if your supervisors don't mind.

In my first year I had only a 2 hour class once a week, and 2 1 hour departmental seminars a week.

I think I generally worked about 6 hours per day in my first year, and about 8-10 hours a day in my second and third years. I attended pretty much every day in every year.

Like Fled says, if there are departmental things happening, you should definitely make an effort to attend as this will raise your profile within the dept and you will probably learn something.
26-Jun-14, 23:56
edited about 11 seconds later
Avatar for Barramack
posted about 3 years ago
It various according to the person and their work etheric/habits. Some people treat their PhD like a full time job (e.g. 9-5) and have the weekends off. Others work 12 hour days for 6 days of the week. And there are other who slack off for the first 2 years and have a nightmarish final year.

A PhD is like most endevours in life - you get out what you put in. How you approach your PhD will determine how many papers you get out of it, and whether you finish on time or have a rought time of things.
27-Jun-14, 00:35
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 3 years ago
Quote From Barramack:

A PhD is like most endevours in life - you get out what you put in. How you approach your PhD will determine how many papers you get out of it, and whether you finish on time or have a rough time of things.

Well, that and whether your research works and produces publishable results and whether you have a competent supervisor, since sometimes these things are out of one's control.
27-Jun-14, 08:58
Avatar for chickpea
posted about 3 years ago
As others have said, it really does depend on your department, whether your work is lab-based and so on. My commute would cost the same as yours, Kitten, if I went there every day (not to mention the 4.5 hour commute each time) so I tend just to go when I have a reason to, and work from home the rest of the time. The classes I've had in my first year have been voluntary, although I did sign up for most of them because I thought I might learn something as well as meeting other students. I've also done some teaching and invigilating work, as well as going for meetings with my supervisor. I'd say I was there 2-3 days a week in term-time, and now over the summer I'm rarely there at all, and just keep in contact with my supervisor by email (you'll also have to work out what level of contact you and your supervisor need to have).

Regarding what you are expected to do each day, you will probably get a certain amount of guidance from your supervisor on which tasks to focus on in the early days, but your day-to-day goals are your own. I have found it important to set myself reading and writing goals so that I keep on track.

If you are in the UK and travelling by train, don't forget that as a full-time student you can apply for a railcard which gets you discount on your train fares. They issue you with an 18-25 railcard if you're a student of whatever age (I'm in my 40s so it is slightly embarrassing producing a young person's railcard, but it has saved me a fortune!)
27-Jun-14, 10:51
by marasp 2 star member
Avatar for marasp
posted about 3 years ago
Because I had a couple of masters, I started straight with a PhD - not with an Mphil. Therefore, I did not have any lectures to attend. My PhD is in Law and Human Rights. On the first and second year, I was on campus regularly, working from there, mainly in the library and my own study space. After that, I moved one hour away from campus. The tickets were very expensive. I could not afford going every day. I worked from home, and I only went to campus for supervision. Last year I moved 3 hours away from campus. I did the same thing.

In the last year I have spent a fortune on train tickets. You will miss out if you are not on campus. My experience says that if you are there, the university treats you better: e.g. they may offer you teaching assistantship, etc. Also, you get to network a lot. Something I was not lucky enough to do.
27-Jun-14, 11:35
edited about 8 seconds later
by wowzers
Avatar for wowzers
posted about 3 years ago
I've had to be really flexible with attendance in the first year to go to training modules and get to as many other events as possible that were research specific to my project. It's a 3 hr round trip so I actually get less done on days I'm physically in uni. I make this up by working extra at home like some evenings and weekends. I'm hoping next year I won't need to be so flexible so I can plan more when I'm going to be in as I'd like to keep to a set 2 days. It's a nightmare atm planning the childcare I will need next year :( I didn't know that about student railcard! great tip :D Also what the trains don't tell you.....If I get a Virgin trains only ticket off-peak (after 9:30 from my station) It's £3.50 a day cheaper! Plus use the web booking service 'Redspottedhanky' to book through them to collect credits that you can use as money off travel later in the year.
27-Jun-14, 13:04
edited about 10 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
The answer does vary enormously by subject, institution and people (supervisor and student). You should really ask the staff at the university you are considering attending.

I've been a PhD student twice (had to drop out of first one after developing severely disabling neurological illness). The first time I was a science (computer science) full-time student, and it was basically like a 9-5 job, Mon-Fri permanently. I needed to be there to do the work needed, and was expected to be there by my supervisor. My second PhD was part-time, humanities (history), and I pretty much did it all from home, in very few hours. I had to work with archival source material, but arranged copies of everything needed pretty much to be brought to me at home, so I could work on them there. Vital given my illness.
27-Jun-14, 13:06
edited about 32 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
Oh and I agree with Wowzers that on-campus students get more opportunities. This is particularly the case with teaching/tutoring opportunities/experience, which can be so essential for securing an academic job after your PhD. People off-campus, whether full-time or part-time, are frequently overlooked for these opportunities, and have to work that much harder to secure them.
28-Jun-14, 03:56
edited about 15 seconds later
by satchi 4 star member
Avatar for satchi
posted about 3 years ago
hi kitten,
When I did my phd, I was told that 37 hours per week was expected of me, but actually I think some weeks I did less--and in saying this I mean less hours being on-campus. My supervisor was happy for me to work from home. But having said that, I do agree with wowzers n bilbo about the perks of being on-campus :-) people tend to remember who you are if you are around etc.

Oh yes please do apply for a railcard, it will help :-)

love satchi
28-Jun-14, 08:53
edited about 9 seconds later
Avatar for kitten2010
posted about 3 years ago
Hi everyone, thank you all so much for your responses.

It is really useful and has put me at ease that I will be able to work around what suits me. I have looked at the railcard but it still is very very expensive! So i''m thinking to look at accommodation or something else even.

I really am committed to this goal so something will work out, in the meantime all the freebies I can get now to save on cost later on! lol

Thank you all again


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