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Caroline - teaching during the PhD
Name: Caroline
PhD discipline: English Literature
Area(s) of work: University teaching; media; business (property management)
Year of graduation: 2001
Date of Interview: 24/06/2008

Now Playing: Caroline - teaching during the PhD
Caroline recalls the experience of lecturing whilst studying for her PhD part-time.

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Did you do any paid work during your PhD?
Yes. Yes I worked as a lecturer for probably about five, five and a half years of the seven years that I was researching. The first year was overseas and then the rest was here in the UK and at both jobs I was teaching undergraduates in a range of bachelor's degrees and certificate courses.

And at the UK institution, how did you get that teaching?

It started with one term of guest lecturing. There was an English lecturer who was taking some paid study leave and they needed someone and I knew the lecturer quite well from having lived in London many years ago and we'd kept in touch so it was through her that I knew that this position, this temporary position was available and so I applied for it and was asked to teach; it was only a ten week term, really only about eight weeks of teaching because of the exam week at the end and so on and during that time one of the other English lecturers who was quite ill handed in her notice and the Head of Department asked if I would consider applying for this position. I was deeply ambivalent because I wasn't actually looking for full time work and this was going to be full time and in fact my supervisor, by this stage I was here, my supervisor was saying you need to get into full time research as soon as you can because the part time work is not really very efficient. Part-time research. But I applied for the job and was offered it and so then for the next about five years I had a full time position teaching undergraduates on different certificate and degree courses with one day a week for research.

How did that work?

Not well. And in fact if I could have my time again I would not have taken that job which is not to say I didn't enjoy the job. I'm in contact with one of my colleagues from there to this day but looking back it was not the right decision either for my research which then dragged on for a total of seven years of research nor was it the best decision for my family although at the time I thought well this at least will help with our financial situation because my husband had a little fledgling media company and our two children were adjusting to English schools. But looking back we've often said that if at that point, if I had not accepted the full time position, if we had moved west to Wales and got involved in the property work full time that we are now doing, that would have solved some of the other problems that the family has had to deal with. So it's just an indication of how sometimes a decision which you take at the time using the best information you have might prove later on with hindsight not to have been the best but of course you don't have those years again and so you just; I suppose then next time you come to a similar transition I think what I'd do is to be a little bit more bold. I think this is probably what hindsight has taught me. Don't be so timid. Be bolder. Follow your heart more. Don't be as worried about things because you will find creative solutions. I would say that's probably one of the central things that I've learnt.

Was it very unusual at the institution that you were at to be enrolled on a PhD and working full time as an academic lecturing undergraduates?

Not totally unusual. I suppose at the time that I was there there were probably, erm, let me see, five or six of us out of a teaching staff of maybe 50 but to my knowledge only probably a third to half of those have completed their PhD to this day.

Are they working in academia still?

Yes but they haven't completed their study because it is very difficult to combine everything and added to that my daughter entered her teens during the seven year period and in fact my son went right through his teens during the seven year period and those are not easy years of a child's life or a parent's life in fact and added to that one of the children has a learning disability and so there were extra pressures and problems there too to deal with so I think looking back it would have been much better to find other solutions to the problems and to complete the PhD faster because I think that pulling it out over seven years part time, it just prolonged some of the other problems unnecessarily I suppose.
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