Funding decisions for English PhD

posted
09-Jun-15, 09:01
Avatar for ConfusedMuch90
posted about 4 years ago
Hi,

I’ve got several offers for PhDs in English starting this autumn. I’m trying to choose between an offer of a full AHRC award from Newcastle (fees plus living expenses), and an offer from Oxford that covers college fees (£2800 per year), but not tuition fees or living expenses. I want an academic job after I complete the PhD, and wondered which of these options would look best on my profile?

Thanks!
posted
09-Jun-15, 10:54
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 4 years ago
Yes consider how good a PhD at Oxford would look on your profile, but also consider the state of your mental health after working 70 hours a week for the next 4 years, because that's what you're going to be doing unless you already have savings to cover living expenses.
posted
09-Jun-15, 11:05
edited about 18 seconds later
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 4 years ago
Best on the profile : Probably Oxford but what is it worth if you cannot keep up with the Oxford standard because you work another job in parallel? Basically they just offer you to work for free. It will be anyway tough to get an academic job with English, but if you are under pressure because you are highly in debt it will be even worse. I would take the full award in Newcastle.
posted
09-Jun-15, 11:16
edited about 7 minutes later
by Mark_B
« Moderator »
Avatar for Mark_B
posted about 4 years ago
Hi Confused

I'd certainly not sniff at the Oxbridge reputation, but I would weigh it up with a few other factors. When you come to apply for academic posts the experiences and development opportunities you gain during your PhD will be just as important as the awarding institution - if not more so.

Think about who you'll be working with, how well the the research culture of your department fits your project, etc. Institutional reputation isn't necessarily as important as the more specific reputation and experience of your supervisor and department.

It can be hard to assess all this as a prospective student, but it's worth having a go.

There's a lot to be said for having full funding too. It'll make your experience of the PhD a lot more pleasant and rewarding (as TreeofLife points out) and having won and completed a research council scholarship also says something about your quality in and of itself (and, potentially, your ability to win further project funding as an academic).

Hope that helps a wee bit

Mark
posted
09-Jun-15, 11:48
edited about 29 seconds later
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 4 years ago
According to the 2014 REF, Newcastle's research in English is stronger than Oxford's at the moment.
posted
09-Jun-15, 12:12
edited about 25 seconds later
Avatar for ConfusedMuch90
posted about 4 years ago
Hi Everyone,

Thank you so much for the replies - I'll definitely try to consider all the different aspects of the decision that you mention, particularly Mark_B's suggestions! I was (and still am) leaning towards Newcastle - I think my two prospective supervisors are of much the same "standard", and the prospect of going to Oxford but not being financially self-sufficient doesn't sound like a great idea for the ol' self-esteem...I guess it just feels very odd to be turning down an offer from Oxford. (Though, as some have mentioned, reputation isn't everything). Thanks again!! There's not a lot of advice to be found about stuff like this so it's really nice to have some.
posted
09-Jun-15, 12:38
Avatar for HazyJane
posted about 4 years ago
I'd choose the fully funded option, unless you have some other source of funding that doesn't require you to be working substantial hours while trying to do your PhD (e.g. a wealthy family/spouse!).

Regrettably, the odds of you (or indeed most of us) of getting an academic job following PhD are so slim that it is not, in my opinion, worth forgoing 3/4 years of income/increasing one's student debt in the interests of gaining a qualification that has a high chance of not leading to the desired outcome. Do some research into the realistic job prospects in your field to check whether my broad assumptions are right for your area, but generally the odds aren't good. You might also want to consider cost of living in your calculations - I gather Oxford is not the cheapest place to live.

In terms of weighing up how things look on your CV, yes, there is institutional reputation to consider. But having received AHRC funding also makes you look good, particularly if applying to them in the future (funding bodies sometimes like to fund people they've funded before).
posted
09-Jun-15, 12:38
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 4 years ago
Another point to consider is that a big part of making yourself more employable after your PhD is extra time consuming experience you pick up during the PhD itself. So e.g. teaching undergraduate students, going to speak at conferences, even organising conferences, also publishing academic journal papers. You're likely to have much more time to do that sort of thing, and complete your PhD in a reasonable time scale, if you have a full funding award. I'd doubt very much that you could do these "extra" activities so well with the Oxford offer you have. And these extras are important if you are looking for work afterwards, to make you a more tempting employment prospect.
posted
09-Jun-15, 15:39
edited about 21 seconds later
Avatar for ConfusedMuch90
posted about 4 years ago
Thanks HazyJane and BilboBaggins - you've both made really useful points! I do realise that the chances of getting an academic job are incredible slim and that paying for three years of extra education might seem like a waste of money (as well as time) if I don't get to work in a university. It's also a good point that it's important to do 'extra' activities that might be easier at Newcastle. All in all looks like I should go to Newcastle then!
posted
10-Jun-15, 17:50
Avatar for Edwardianguy
posted about 4 years ago
Before you turn down the Oxford offer - have you checked if any other funding/scholarships/teaching are available to help you that would assist you in paying for your living costs etc?
posted
10-Jun-15, 21:18
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for ConfusedMuch90
posted about 4 years ago
Hi Edwardianguy - yes I've done a fair amount of digging and emailing and haven't been able to find any more sources to top up the funding from Oxford :-(
posted
15-Jun-15, 19:35
Avatar for Edwardianguy
posted about 4 years ago
Have you decided yet?

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