Which is better for PhD study: Essex, Sussex or Kent? Please help!

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Dreamin
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#1
Report Thread starter 3 years ago
#1
Hi everyone!

I am new to this forum so I hope I am posting this in the right section.

Here's my situation: I am going to do my PhD in an interdisciplinary subject which is broadly located at the intersection of politics, sociology, development studies and discourse analysis. I have been accepted by both Essex (Government dep) and Sussex (Sociology and perhaps Development Studies if I get to do a joint degree, which is not clear yet as I have been "verbally" accepted but don't hold the offer yet). I have also applied to Kent (politics and IR) and still waiting for the decision, so not sure I’ll get a place.

I am looking for advice on the best university in terms of research, skills training and learning opportunities, resources and facilities but also more generally in terms of student experience (staff, degree completion, etc).

I heard that Essex is quite prestigious for politics but I don't want to get caught in the trap of reputation, I heard sometimes reality might not live up to the expectations :/ Also I kinda feel that Sussex is much more open, liberal and vibrant, but I might be wrong!
I applied to Kent because I lived in Canterbury for a few months, seen the campus and liked it, but I don't have much info about the university.

Those of you who studied in any of those, could you tell me a little bit about the opportunities to find internships or work placements? Essex seem to offer plenty but I am once again afraid it wouldn't be available to everyone - or at all...

Finally, if someone could also enlighten me regarding life in Colchester vs. Brighton and Canterbury? (student life, costs, transport...)

Sorry for the deluge of questions! I am really puzzled and don't have much time to decide. Thank you
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Dreamin
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#2
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#2
(Original post by worldender)
I'm interested as to why you're concerned about internships or work placements, as a PhD isn't really (or indeed at all) about getting 'industry' experience outside of academia. Nobody spends any time doing formal 'internships' (apart from anything else, there isn't the time), although you will always have ample opportunities to teach, go to conferences, be involved in research groups, maybe publish something on the side, and generally develop your skills for an academic career. What do you want to do with your PhD?

All three would be great places to do a PhD in IR. Sussex is excellent for development studies. Essex is also a very strong shout, but obviously they are famed for a very particular approach to discourse analysis - you'll want to decide, if you haven't already, whether that approach works well for your project, and if it doesn't, whether Essex still offers enough of what you want. Sounds like you might need to do a little more in-depth research about these departments. Are you in touch with potential supervisors?

Colchester and Canterbury will be pricey as they're in the South East and close to London, although cheaper places to live relative to Brighton, which is exorbitantly expensive (2nd highest living costs in the UK behind London). I applied there, didn't go, but was concerned as to how far my funding would stretch if I had to live there. The campus is actually in Falmer which is about 4 miles from Brighton. I understand that most people live in the city and commute to university, so there's an added cost there too.

Hello, worldender and thanks for the detailed answer!

Maybe you're right in finding it a bit peculiar, I am actually interested in that because I want to be able to work in international organizations/NGOs or in the private sector afterwards, targeting work positions which require advanced research and analytical skills, so getting some work experience is very welcome. I think a PhD doesn't just allow a career in the academia.

I have now received my offer from Sussex - it is based in the Sociology department. I will be co-supervised by someone from the Institute of Development Studies but won't be officially affiliated. Regarding Essex's dominantly post-structuralist discourse analysis, it's the key approach I am considering for my research and that's why I initially applied, however they don't seem to offer much expertise related to other core aspects of my project (I am doing research on the discourses of development through ICT) and that is why I am hesitating so much. On the other hand, my supervisors at Sussex have a strength in development, ICT and security studies but not much in poststructuralism and discourse analysis. I have done a lot of research on the departments and I am in touch with the supervisors, but it is so difficult to decide!

Do you think £1100 per month would be enough to survive in Brighton, including rent and other living expenses?
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Dreamin
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#3
Report Thread starter 3 years ago
#3
(Original post by worldender)
No problems.

You are right that a PhD allows careers beyond academia - I am not sure whether I will be staying in academia myself after I finish mine. However - and trust me on this - you won't have the time to get any significant work experience in NGOs or development organizations alongside your PhD, unless you're doing it part time. It will be a distraction and get in the way of your research, and PhD courses rarely (if ever) have work-experience components built into them in the same way that a BA/MA might.

What I'm trying to say is - obviously a PhD is a very valid way to get into policy research, development, all the rest of it. However, if you want specific 'on the ground' work experience in those areas, a PhD is not going to provide it or give you significant time to pursue it. What a PhD will do, however, is turn you into a competent researcher, so the best thing is to focus on developing your research and networking skills as this is ultimately what's going to get you a job.

Sounds like you're pretty knowledgeable about your approaches so I'm sure you'll work that out.

£1100 a month to live in Brighton will be fine, although you will need to budget tightly and you might not be able to save very much for an unfunded fourth year.
I see! And I partially agree with you. I will focus on developing my skills as a researcher, which is the purpose of a PhD, and I guess I will be fine if I excel in my research and successfully complete my degree. I still hope to have the chance of getting involved in other activities, though, even if that means working harder to finish in time.

Your piece of advice is the last argument confirming my choice: I have decided to go to Essex's department of Government which I feel is the most compatible with the way I envision my project.

Thank you again for your help!

Best wishes
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gjd800
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#4
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#4
Institution matters significantly less than choice of supervisor.
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KirstyDavis981
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#5
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#5
(Original post by Dreamin)
Hi everyone!

I am new to this forum so I hope I am posting this in the right section.

Here's my situation: I am going to do my PhD in an interdisciplinary subject which is broadly located at the intersection of politics, sociology, development studies and discourse analysis. I have been accepted by both Essex (Government dep) and Sussex (Sociology and perhaps Development Studies if I get to do a joint degree, which is not clear yet as I have been "verbally" accepted but don't hold the offer yet). I have also applied to Kent (politics and IR) and still waiting for the decision, so not sure I’ll get a place.

I am looking for advice on the best university in terms of research, skills training and learning opportunities, resources and facilities but also more generally in terms of student experience (staff, degree completion, etc).

I heard that Essex is quite prestigious for politics but I don't want to get caught in the trap of reputation, I heard sometimes reality might not live up to the expectations :/ Also I kinda feel that Sussex is much more open, liberal and vibrant, but I might be wrong!
I applied to Kent because I lived in Canterbury for a few months, seen the campus and liked it, but I don't have much info about the university.

Those of you who studied in any of those, could you tell me a little bit about the opportunities to find internships or work placements? Essex seem to offer plenty but I am once again afraid it wouldn't be available to everyone - or at all...

Finally, if someone could also enlighten me regarding life in Colchester vs. Brighton and Canterbury? (student life, costs, transport...)

Sorry for the deluge of questions! I am really puzzled and don't have much time to decide. Thank you
Hiya, I study Sociology at Kent so I cannot enlighten much on the course only that we have a fantastic set of staff and win awards for our research standard. In terms of life at Kent, post grads have their own on-site accommodation area called Woolf College which is perfect for meeting people the same age and in the same position as yourself. It is more expensive to live on campus than in off-site student houses but it gives you the advantages of being on campus near the library and everything you need. Uni life in Canterbury is surprisingly good for such a small town and even on campus, we have our own nightclub and many bars/ food outlets. We also have the uni gym which is much cheaper and more convenient than any in the central city. Transport wise we have the quick train to London and the uni bus pass which students can access for a reduced fee. When I applied I also looked at the same uni's and found Sussex to be more expensive in terms of living and Essex about the same as Kent so it's really down to where you prefer! In terms of work, I know we have plenty of part-time work available on campus and in the city and there is also the fantastic careers service which can help you find internships and work placements. Hope this helps
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