Dissertation Guide

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Is it different for part-time students?

“There’s obviously a major difference between supervising part-time and full-time PhD students. You can gauge where a full-timer is because you know what you can expect from them; they’ve got their stall set out and if something goes wrong it’s very clearly wrong. It’s more gradual and insidious with part-timers. Of course, part-time students have very crowded lives. Things can change. For instance, I have two PhD students who’ve had babies while doing their theses.”

“Over a lengthy period, outside an academic community, I think some part-time students will tend to become more isolated than full-time students. They don’t have the chance to become part of whatever student body exists, although actually there isn’t that much of a student body of PhD students because it is generally an isolating experience. I’m not entirely convinced that all these things are bad by any means, but they have consequences. Having a full-time or part-time job, possibly being more likely to have a family and other business, does rather concentrate the mind and also increase the likelihood that one will be a little more professional, and a little more instrumental about this whole thing, which I think is rather a good thing. It just takes some of the preciousness out of being a PhD student. So there’s a kind of upside. Some of my part-time PhD students have used their time well because their time’s been very precious.”

“Things defined as real are real in their consequences. If part-time thesis writing appears different, therefore I guess it is. I’m not entirely convinced that it has to be completely different or as different as it sometimes seems to be. We have more and more part-time students now because they have to pay their way in the world and the only way they can do a PhD is to have a job and do this thing in the margins. It is probably trickier now than it once was because it’s also the case that the jobs are now more pressured. The PhD does get crammed into small blocks of time. Part-time students can’t say, ‘”In my plan I’m going to do my fieldwork till June and then June to September I’m going to write”; it’s very much, ‘”I’m going to have a week’s holiday to write and then, if my partner’s okay about it, I’ll write all weekend as well”.’ You’ve got all those practical, familial, personal things going on as well as trying to switch out of the PhD and then into the PhD, and trying to remember what you’ve done and keep the flow going.”

“For me, time-management is something that I learned a lot about. That may be because I had a lot to juggle, but I think that that was a good thing. I think I would have gone insane if my life had just been about my PhD. I saw other people really struggle because the PhD was their main thing. I’ve always worked alongside my studies. As an undergraduate I’ve always needed to have that independence to contribute to society in another way.”

“I did my degree part-time, and there were lots of issues to do with having access to other students in a similar position. My institution did try to link part-timers with invitations to seminars and things like that, so there are opportunities to meet others.”

“As a part-time student it was difficult to develop a daily writing habit, but it’s still possible to have a weekly or monthly habit. There were huge gaps where I did nothing.”