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Laura - reasons for doing a PhD
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Name: Laura
PhD discipline: History
Area(s) of work: Youth worker; university teaching
Year of graduation: 2003
Date of Interview: 01/07/2008

Now Playing: Laura - reasons for doing a PhD
Laura explains dual explanations for her desire to do the PhD.

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I think there are two ways of thinking about the motivation for doing my PhD. One is the worthy academic explanation about my passion for the subject, and the other is the sort of pragmatic practical situation that I was in at the time. And they're probably the same thing really.

I had been around the left and politics etc in the 80s, and I'd almost instinctively had been really interested in it and been involved in various different political groups and political campaigns. And yet felt that the world sees young people as being apolitical and apathetic and not involved in politics. And that didn't make sense to me or indeed to younger women who I saw, and men who I saw coming up through various political groups. So how can we be both politically apathetic and only interested in buying nice shoes and going to Ibiza and raving, and my experience being that me and my friends were very political. That was what I wanted to find out about really. I was particularly interested in the ways in which campaigns around Aids had been played out in various different political groups. And my itch that I had to scratch was to understand – I can't believe this was so fascinating to me – why different far lefts sects responded to Aids differently. It was very important to me to understand. I think that's probably to do with the age I was and I knew many died. Complications came with Aids quite early on with friends that I had, and the sort of lifestyle that I had. So I suppose it was a personal and political thing.

So my PhD looked at how the personal got political and it's a bit of a cyclical argument because my interest in politics was personal, so that's the academicy bit and then the pragmatic bit is that I was a single parent on benefit and I didn't have to be actively seeking work. I knew that I needed to be investing in a career future but was finding it quite hard to do that between the hours of nine and three while my daughter was at school. I thought if I stack up higher education post graduate qualifications it will somehow counter the fact that I hadn't really got many O or A Levels. Which was ridiculous really. But I think there was a sense that I knew I needed to get myself quite far up a ladder if I was going to be able to be self sufficient. I was lucky enough that there were bits of money around my family and that they decided investing in my education was worthwhile for the family, – I did my PhD part-time – my brother paid a year, my Dad paid a year and my Nan died and left me the money for a year and we sort of jiggled that around and we used it in that way. Presumably I have to pay them back in some way.

So it wasn't a great academic dream. I can't honestly say I ever thought I was going to be academic or wanted to but I thought it was a sensible thing to do in order to get me into another type of work. I don't even know what I thought that sort of work would be.

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