nightskies
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Hello!! I have a PhD dilemma that I'm really not sure about. I've been offered places at Oxford, Cambridge, York and Nottingham to study English. I thought I'd been ruled out for funding for all of them until this week, when I received confirmation of a fully funded place at Nottingham. I was planning on working a lot this summer, going to Oxford, and then praying for funding for my last two years (I can afford this with government loans, savings and borrowing from my parents). I need a Distinction for Oxford so if I get the grade (a 75 where I am at the moment, Cambridge), and publish papers and speak at conferences, I'll stand a much better chance next year for funding. It's the number 1 place to study my subject - my supervisor is perfect, and - other than the lack of funding - it's ideal.
But then again, lack of funding is far from ideal...
Nottingham would be a decent place to study, but I don't know if I'd be happy there - three years is a long time to be in a place you sort of don't want to be in. I've really had my heart set on Oxford, but there's no doubt it's a massive, expensive risk. Oxford may set me up for a better career in academia. If I get the grade, I don't know if I'd ever forgive myself for turning it down.
What should I do?
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SlaveofAll
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Choose the one you can afford.
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Keele Postgraduate
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(Original post by nightskies)
Hello!! I have a PhD dilemma that I'm really not sure about. I've been offered places at Oxford, Cambridge, York and Nottingham to study English. I thought I'd been ruled out for funding for all of them until this week, when I received confirmation of a fully funded place at Nottingham. I was planning on working a lot this summer, going to Oxford, and then praying for funding for my last two years (I can afford this with government loans, savings and borrowing from my parents). I need a Distinction for Oxford so if I get the grade (a 75 where I am at the moment, Cambridge), and publish papers and speak at conferences, I'll stand a much better chance next year for funding. It's the number 1 place to study my subject - my supervisor is perfect, and - other than the lack of funding - it's ideal.
But then again, lack of funding is far from ideal...
Nottingham would be a decent place to study, but I don't know if I'd be happy there - three years is a long time to be in a place you sort of don't want to be in. I've really had my heart set on Oxford, but there's no doubt it's a massive, expensive risk. Oxford may set me up for a better career in academia. If I get the grade, I don't know if I'd ever forgive myself for turning it down.
What should I do?
Hi nightskies!

Firstly, congratulations on being offered funding for your PhD!

In an ideal world, I think I'd preference the research project, research culture, and supervisory support over the funding. You're going to be working on your PhD for at least 3 years so it's important that you are studying a project you feel passionate about, and with a research culture and supervisory team who you feel value and support your work. It's also important that you're in a university setting that you like, and that has access to the resources you need to complete your PhD successfully.

That said, I use the phrase 'in an ideal world' deliberately. The world is, alas, far from ideal and completing your PhD unfunded is not for the faint-hearted. A PhD takes up a huge amount of time and energy (both mental and physical) so trying to fit in part-time work around it can be really tough - especially as non-academic employers tend not to realise the demands a PhD can place upon you. The need to work can also impact your ability to engage with other PhD related activities, such as conference attendance, teaching, academic development opportunities etc.

I'm in the second year of my (funded) English Literature PhD and, honestly, I couldn't do it without the funding. I do still work part-time but having the funding means that I have the luxury to work on a minimal-hours basis within academia and to turn down additional work when I'm really busy with the PhD. I self-funded my MA year and I was working part-time in my (non-academic) job throughout that year and it was tough - my employer was great but, understandably, they needed me to work set hours/shifts, and often expected me to be 'on call' for sick/holiday cover - which then got in the way of classes, study time, and other uni activities. Personally I couldn't have kept up with it during a full-time PhD - if I hadn't got funding, I'd probably have had to do the PhD part-time.

In terms of your academic career, there is a certain kudos that goes with Oxbridge - as you're at Cambridge for your current programme, you're probably aware of this! Plus there's some excellent networking potential within the Oxbridge colleges. However there are plenty of academics with Oxbridge/Russell Group qualifications working at post-war and post-1992 universities - and vice versa! Long term, I think the quality of your research project and your ability to disseminate that effectively are more important for an academic career - as well as any publishing and teaching you do during your PhD.

Ultimately, you have to balance your preference for the supervisor/university on the (potentially) unfunded PhD with the additional time and financial security which comes with the funded option. One isn't necessarily 'better' than the other - both offer pros and cons - but you need to think about what will work best for you and what kind of PhD experience you want to have.

Hope that helps!

Amy Louise
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mnot
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(Original post by nightskies)
Hello!! I have a PhD dilemma that I'm really not sure about. I've been offered places at Oxford, Cambridge, York and Nottingham to study English. I thought I'd been ruled out for funding for all of them until this week, when I received confirmation of a fully funded place at Nottingham. I was planning on working a lot this summer, going to Oxford, and then praying for funding for my last two years (I can afford this with government loans, savings and borrowing from my parents). I need a Distinction for Oxford so if I get the grade (a 75 where I am at the moment, Cambridge), and publish papers and speak at conferences, I'll stand a much better chance next year for funding. It's the number 1 place to study my subject - my supervisor is perfect, and - other than the lack of funding - it's ideal.
But then again, lack of funding is far from ideal...
Nottingham would be a decent place to study, but I don't know if I'd be happy there - three years is a long time to be in a place you sort of don't want to be in. I've really had my heart set on Oxford, but there's no doubt it's a massive, expensive risk. Oxford may set me up for a better career in academia. If I get the grade, I don't know if I'd ever forgive myself for turning it down.
What should I do?
Hi congrats on your offers!

Im a PhD researcher at Notts (although im in STEM). Personally I love Nottingham, beautiful campus and its a lovely city (maybe come for a campus visit if you can).

I would personally go with the funding, the finances involved in funding years of your life with debt aren’t worth it imo. And in terms of working in academia as a paid PhD you already feel part of the staff as well as a student (although i see this through the lens of STEM where their is more funding and is the norm to be funded). If you wish to stay in academia is it worth investigating which department will be more accommodating to finding teaching experience during your PhD.

Another thing to consider is if the Oxford prof would be a secondary supervisor on your funded project (they should be very understanding to you accepting a funded offer over an unfunded one).

Also, id ask to speak to the main supervisors current students. And I dont know ho this works in English but are the supervisors current candidates regularly getting published (just as you mention wishing to stay in academia, this is fairly important for an academic CV).
Just some food for thought. Good luck whichever route you take.
Last edited by mnot; 1 month ago
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