The story so far – the prologue

In the first of a series of catch-up posts, I’ll try and bring readers up to speed with the PhD journey so far.

The journey metaphor is an apt one, for anything that takes as long as completing a PhD part time does.  But this first posting will only bring us to the starting gate.

My Masters in Education (actually an MA in Education) started way back in 2003, when I started a PGCE in education which was a compulsory qualification for anyone who was teaching at the university.  This went well, and I was given permission to carry on to a PG Diploma, which I also completed successfully.  It seemed a small step then to complete a dissertation, and get the MA qualification.  A simple matter of practicing what I had been preaching for the previous four years when supervisiong my own Masters students, all be it in a different subject area.

I did all the right things, sent regular drafts off to my supervisor, who I assumed was reading them.  Our one to one meetings were always short, but cordial enough and all seemed to be heading on track.

I remember the Saturday that I received the envelope with the results, and remember thinking at the time that if the work was in the 70% plus range, I’d be able to get it published with no problems.

I got 37%, a fail.

Much of the feedback was concerned with the anonymity, or lack therof within the dissertation.  This was despite having ethical forms signed off by all the participants, and approval from my supervisor and head of research which stated that the participants had given consent to be named.  The meeting with my supervisor was brusque to say the least, and he had little recall of our meeting or what had been discussed.

So I reworked the dissertation, resubmitted, and passed second time round, with a staggering 42%.  I have since found out that I wasn’t the only one who had struggled with this stage, clearly there was an invisible ‘hoop’ to jump though, that I had failed first time round.

I rested for a while, and considered my options.  I could have completed a PhD in my subject area, but even then I could see that there were difficulties in specialising too much in an obscure area of computing.  I like the idea and structure of a ‘taught doctorate’, now more accurately called a ‘professional doctorate’ or ProfDoc for short.  I looked carefully at the EdD programme at Keele University, and visited the campus to talk to the course director.  But at the time no-one had completed the programme in the specified time frame, and the main attraction (the opportunity to complete an ethnographic study in another institution in another company) had not been attempted by anyone one the programme.

So I started searching again.  A former colleague had studied, but not completed a ProfDoc at Lancaster University.  I looked at the structure, the mix of distance learning and residential school, and the PhD title, and decided it was for me.  This was March 2009.

I knew my application was early, but in September 2009 I received confirmation that I was not selected for the 2010 cohort.  I was on the ‘first reserve’ list however, and if someone else dropped out, I would hear before the official start date.

This I did on the 23rd October.  Whatever happened to the person who dropped out, I’ll never know.  I ‘only’ had to secure funding, and ensure that I was ready to study in January 2010.  Books were bought, and a drip of information became a flood as the course started.

I’ll talk more about the structure, and why calling it a ‘taught doctorate’ is wrong on so many levels later.


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