Which PhD should I go for ?

posted
20-Feb-18, 08:43
Avatar for ellabella1993
posted about 1 year ago
Okay so here’s the thing, they’re both really good universities.

University A has a supervisor I really really really like (not in that way) and he responds to e-mails straight away and had a very passionate and positive vibe about my topic. It’s also distance learning which is helpful because I’ll be teaching full-time and won’t spare any time to travel here and there. A downside is that the university is far away and it has not even offered me (it has taken forever to offer me yet still...). Another downside is that English is my specialism by if I worked with this professor I’d graduate from the department of modern foreign languages - would this hinder career prospects ?

University B “had” a supervisor I really really really liked, but he’s now an emeritus and referred me onto a younger and less experienced supervisor who seems very nice but doesn’t respond to e-mails as quickly. I can’t complain because I was a prospective applicant and not an official student. However, the university has been quick to offer me a place. The university is close by but is only part time and not distance learning (would this affect my full-time teaching schedule at a secondary school?). The biggest downside is that I wanted to allocate my second supervisor from another department. They decided to allocate some random supervisor from the same English department as my supervisor (which was a bit of a blow). She may be nice, but I was really keen to work with the other. The upside is that it is an English department which may help encourage my career prospects.

I’m really unsure and it’ll take time for me to decide. However, from your own experiences, what would you recommend ?

Thanks for your time !
posted
20-Feb-18, 10:42
Avatar for bongmaster5000
posted about 1 year ago
Lots of specifics going on here which ultimately come down to your own choice/gut feeling.

However, all else being equal, I really don't think it matters at all whether you graduate from an English or MFL department. The structure of universities simply means that you have to be put in a 'box' one way or another, but once you get to PhD you find people working on inter-disciplinary things which straddle departments and it's really not a big deal. I work in a specific social science discipline and we have PhD students who would technically be classified as geographers, political philosophers, political economists, historians of science, sociologists, etc etc, who will all graduate from the same department - the name of which tells you very little about their research.

What matters is a) the appropriateness of your supervision arrangements (sounds like uni A has got that right), b) the research environment and availability of relevant expertise, and c) - by far the most important - the content and quality of your own thesis.

Whether it's an English or MFL department, from what you've said, shouldn't have much bearing on what you actually research and write. I really wouldn't worry about that aspect.
posted
20-Feb-18, 13:02
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 1 year ago
I doubt distance learning or not makes any difference either. There's generally no requirement to come into the university. There may be "mandatory" training courses but often no one really knows whether students attend or not.

I will say that personally I would not like to work full time and work on the PhD during my spare time, because that's basically 20 hours a week of spare time you need to find and that's not easy, plus you miss out a lot on not being embedded into a department, or office, or research group. It can be difficult to succeed in a PhD in isolation.

I also wouldn't put too my credence in how supervisors respond to emails - academics have peeks and troughs in their work loads and you may be catching them in busy/less busy weeks.

Also bear in mind sometimes second supervisors do nothing at all - they can be just appointed as a second point of contact, which is often a requirement. I wouldn't factor this into my decision either. Ask for the emeritus to be a second supervisor - this is allowed at my uni.

I'd go for option 2 in your position on the basis of the information you have provided.
posted
20-Feb-18, 14:07
edited about 24 minutes later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 year ago
I think if I was in your shoes I would be thinking is there any way Option 1 is going to work out. That sounds preferable to me. Responsive supervision, and that positive and passionate vibe you describe, is priceless.

BUT - it seems as though Option 2 is in the bag... and you don't want to miss your opportunity because you hung around waiting for Option 1 and it didn't materialise.

What I'd suggest is:
Contact Option 1, explain that you have had an offer from another University, but actually, if they can make you an offer, you would take it and reject the other.
If they can't speed things up, as long as I felt OK about the arrangements (very important), I'd take Option 2. Is there a reason why you would like the second supervisor to be from another department? If you can justify why you'd like it, then why not ask about it? It is your PhD after all - you are entitled to a say about who your supervisors are.

In my personal experience (and everyone's will vary on this forum - so I stress, it is an opinion based on my own experience), it is the ones who are highly responsive and positive, and who have more experience, who make the better supervisors. My very experienced one has been able to see the bigger picture and, informed by their experience, give very smart advice that I generally feel very confident about taking. Also, liking someone (as long as it lasts) can be more important than it sounds. When you like and respect someone, and they are responsive in an appropriate way (i.e., suggesting a mutual regard/respect), it makes it a whole lot easier to work with them/be supervised by them. Just on your brief descriptions, that is why I would feel very inclined to go for Option 1, if at all possible.

Good luck!
posted
20-Feb-18, 18:03
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 1 year ago
One thing that I think would impact more on career prospects than the department's name is your ability to participate (or not) in things like training, departmental seminars, conferences, teaching opportunities, professionalisation events etc. You're always going to struggle given your job, but if the nearer institution meant that sometimes it would be possible, then that might be a consideration. I say this if you are hoping for an academic career in particular as there are so few humanities jobs that you really need to tick every box on your cv. It would be less of a concern if you intend to progress in your current career and just think a PhD would help.

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