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  • Getting a PhD? Here’s some helpful English vocabulary

    A doctorate or PhD is the highest university degree given to students and called the fourth level of education. However, studying for a PhD is also fraught with difficulty as it can be hard to get funding and even harder to get a job afterwards.

    Here is some vocabulary to help you talk about your PhD.

    Why are you doing a PhD?

    I want to become an academic.

    I am passionate about the subject matter of my thesis.

    I want to be as educated as possible and an expert in something.

    I am not suited to the regular workforce.

    My job applications for positions that might have interested me were unsuccessful.

    I am following the family tradition of being highly educated.

    What is the field of your PhD?

    Science,

    Non-science, (Arts, Humanities etc)?

    How are you paying for your studies?

    Are you self-funded through savings or part time work?

    Did you take out a student loan?

    Did a company sponsor you?

    Did you get a local authority grant?

    Did you get a faculty scholarship or bursary?

    Are you enjoying working on your PhD?

    Yes….because the work is….

    Stimulating,

    Challenging,

    Fascinating,

    Prestigious.

    No, because the work is…..

    Laborious,

    Exhausting,

    Without financial remuneration,

    Time-consuming.

    Let’s read an excerpt from an article recently published in England’s Guardian newspaper about the shortage of funding for non-science PhDs and then answer the questions that follow it.

    Who can afford a doctorate in the arts and humanities now?

    As funding falls away, the arts and humanities risk becoming the playground of the wealthy

    By Lucy Tobin, The Guardian, January 17, 2011

    Anyone visiting a university library at 9am might wonder where all the students have gone. The science doctorates will be in their labs, most undergrads will still be in bed, but arts PhD students could once have been relied upon to be toiling amid the tomes. No longer. Demand for arts doctorates so enormously outstrips funding that PhD students are more likely to be earning their keep during the 9-5 period, with research to follow after hours.

    “I don’t know any doctorate students who don’t have another job,” says Duncan White, 31, who has just handed in his PhD in English literature at Oxford University. “People teach, design websites, work in cafes and bars – anything to earn money in a way that hopefully leaves time for study. I applied for funding from the AHRC [the government funding body, the Arts and Humanities Research Council] but didn’t get it. That meant in my first year I had to pay fees of about £5,000 plus more than that on living costs,” he says. “Although I then won a faculty scholarship, which paid my fees, my rent and living costs were still very expensive. I had hoped to finish my PhD in three years, but soon realised the expense meant it would be impossible.”

    White worked as a sports journalist for two or three days each week, and taught undergraduates for another five hours. “But that took far longer once I’d done all my marking and preparation. I ended up worrying about when I’d be able to fit in my research. There’s no question the quality of my PhD work was affected.”

    He is not alone in that predicament. Demand for non-science PhDs has rocketed – last year, 32,735 students were working on arts and humanities doctorates in the UK, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 23% more than in 2002. But funding has not kept up. The AHRC says it is currently paying for the studies and living costs of around 2,100 PhD students, who receive about £15,000 a year. Some of those are through collaborative awards with organisations such as the British Museum, National Trust and city councils. Whilst other educational trusts and funding bodies are also helping some students, the vast majority are paying their own way. And some postgraduates are worried that arts PhDs are becoming the preserve of the wealthy.

    “It’s definitely a concern that it’s infinitely easier – and increasingly common – for the better-off to do arts and humanities doctorates,” says Jonathan Theodore, 25, who is doing a PhD in history and film at King’s College London. “It’s a real shame – not just because so many able people are missing out, but also because we’re in real danger of our academic and intellectual horizons becoming the preserve and playground of the wealthy.”

    Questions

    How does the article explain the lack of arts PhD students in the library?

    Why does Duncan White say the quality of his doctorate research was affected?

    List the possible sources of funding available to PhD students mentioned in the article?

    How would you define the following words used in the article: outstrips, shortfall, better-off, predicament?

    How would you explain the phrase ‘preserve and playground of the wealthy?’ Do you agree that arts and humanities PhDs are increasingly becoming this?

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