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PhD in Humanities - hesitating between 2 universities in different countries

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Why bother with a post grad? Are they even worth it? Have your say! 26-10-2016
    • Thread Starter

    Hi all,

    my name is Claire and I am posting on the forum for the first time!

    I visited the forum plenty of times recently as I have been facing a quite challenging situation and I have difficulties making up my mind. I am originally a French citizen and I am planning to start a full-time Phd in Cultural Studies, ideally around September 2017.

    I graduated with my Master's in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2014 and I live now in Amsterdam where I am working and saving up some money as I am considering self funding. Regarding the supervision of the Phd, I was already in contact with the supervisor of my Master's dissertation at the University of Edinburgh and he showed straightaway interest in supervising my phd. However, I haven't been in contact with him for a few months now as I wanted to take some time off to really think about my project and in order to write my initial proposal.In addition to that, I got into contact since then with the University of Amsterdam in order to inform myself about the conditions and requirements for Phd candidates and I learnt that they do not charge anything for self funded phd diplomas contrary to Scotland where the price is around 4 500 pounds per year. Because of that, I have been feeling very divided and I was wondering if anyone encountered the same situation.

    Of course not having to pay a tuition fee is a big advantage in regards to the University of Amsterdam. Indeed, I have been able to save up a lot of money but not enough to be able to cover as well the tuition fee for 3/4 years and possible travels. By the end of the year I intend to have enough to also cover possible travels but it would still not be enough to cover the extensive tuition fee in Scotland. If I want to pursue a full time Phd in the Uk, I would then have to apply to scholarships which I might do.

    Nonetheless, I am totally aware that the economic argument is not enough. Both potential universities are very well represented and ranked internationally and have their own pros and cons. I am sure I could make it work in both places, even though the University of Edinburgh is still somehow more recognized thanks to its history and being an English language based University. On the other hand, the University of Amsterdam is also very celebrated internationally for its innovative and very tolerant approaches which could be interesting for my topic.

    The other reason why I am still so confused though is that the subject of my proposal, albeit not being exclusively related to area studies, will deal somehow directly with Scotland and its culture. Do you think it is necessary to study directly in the country related to your topic when picking up a subject that deals with a certain geographical area? My subject will not be limited to this as interdisciplinary and will also deal directly with other interests and majors such as Feminism, History of Art, my thesis being on the part and role of Women artists in the construction of a new sense of Scottishness in Modern Scotland (the supervisor I am in touch with a the University of Edinburgh is specialized in Scottish Art). I do not have a potential supervisor at the University of Amsterdam yet as I just finished the first draft of my proposal but I already spotted some interesting and potential ones that I listed, several ones being specialized in Cultural Studies or even Feminist art and history. Plus, travelling to Scotland should not be a problem as plane tickets from Amsterdam are very cheap and I still have several friends living there.

    What would you do? Is the location of the University that important in my case and should I rely on the university's global reputation or more on the supervisor?

    Finally, I still need to get in touch with my potential supervisor at the University of Edinburgh in order to ask him for a reference letter as I would need one anyway to apply. Should I let him know that I am not sure yet about my choice and that I feel divided between both Universities or not yet? If I am not choosing him, is it still acceptable for him to contact him in order to ask him for bibliographical references in Scottish theory?

    I hope my explanation is not too confused, I tried to make it as clear as possible but being myself very much confused (and English not being my mother tongue), it is quite hard to formulate my thoughts.I would appreciate any advices

    Thanks a lot!!!

    A few thoughts on your situation:
    -I think the first step is for you to identify a potential supervisor in Amsterdam. If you can't find someone suitable or willing Edinburgh will be your only option.
    -Finance is a big consideration. If you can't afford Edinburgh and don't end up with a funding then you can't go!
    -I'd say a happy medium would be establishing a collaboration with the supervisor in Edinburgh or a joint supervision situation so that you can benefit from his expertise and network and maybe even visit Edinburgh if there's stuff you need to do there while working and living in Amsterdam.

    So basically if I were you I'd first try and identify a supervisor in Amsterdam. Then contact the supervisor in Edinburgh, explain your financial situation and propose the idea of joint supervision or a collaboration and then go from there. And yes you can ask him for a reference if needed unless he is going to supervise you directly.

    Imo you should think seriously about what you're going to do regarding funding. There aren't that many scholarships at UK universities for EU students (I'm also an EU citizen so I know..), you should focus your energies in the next few months researching scholarships and contacting potential supervisors. Edinburgh is not a particularly cheap city and if you're going to do your PhD full time you might not be able to work much. Are you willing to go into debt to pay living expenses while studying? A lot of funded places that are eligible for EU students are for pre-set projects so you might have to be a bit more flexible about what your project will be about.

    Something else I think you should consider is what resources you'll have in Amsterdam if you decide to do a project on Scottish art there. They will almost definitely not have as many books, journals etc on Scottish art and history as a university in Scotland would. You might get away with taking trips to look at artwork but it can get very annoying if you can't access a lot of the major recent research work in your area while at your home university.

    Supervisors understand how difficult it is to find funding so nobody really expect you to only apply for their program or to turn down a better offer for them if you get one.

    The location of the uni does not matter at all. I myself am an EU student who will start a fully-funded PhD in social sciences in Edinburgh with research oriented to completely different part of the world. You can do the travels etc. in teh second year.
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