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Robert - the meaning of the PhD
Name: Robert
PhD discipline: History
Area(s) of work: Academic research support administration
Year of graduation: 2003
Date of Interview: 17/06/2008

Now Playing: Robert - the meaning of the PhD
Robert shares his feelings of satisfaction in achieving his PhD and he reflects on what the PhD means to him now and how it affects his sense of self and identity, since he is working in a university, but not in an academic post.

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When you think of the PhD and your identity 


Your personal identity perhaps versus your professional identity, what does it mean to you?

I kind of look back on it as being a very kind of valuable experience in terms of doing something that was actually colossally self indulgent for four years and actually having to work through something from beginning to end. And not really be particularly answerable to anybody else for that period, and just being able to explore something in that much depth. I think anything you do in that much depth, spend that much time digging into and fretting over is always going to be a valuable experience in some way. And I'm actually quite proud of what I got out of it. I mean in terms of the actual thesis. It was very important to me to have with hindsight I mean that's perhaps the main reason why I'm glad I didn't quit during the times that I thought I might, it was very important to me at the end of it to actually have the thesis and to actually have something that was a document of those four years and that was actually I still think very good. Only I actually think it was well written and clear and probably people who didn't know anything about the subject would be able to pick it up and get something out of it, which was very, very important to me. I didn't want to do something that was very kind of abstruse and technical. And you know the examiners said that, and although it took me a long time for me to be able to stand back from it when I actually went back to it later and I mean we're talking about quite a long time later, maybe a year or two years later, I sat down and thought 'actually this is pretty good, I'm quite proud of that' so and I think that's sort of what I feel about it with hindsight. And that I think is quite separate from any kind of professional advantage or professional identity.

So the PhD is something that belongs in the past?

Yeah I think so. I mean I for a while when I was finishing it, or in the period shortly after I finished I was intending to go back and maybe try to work some bits of it up for publication and that you know I still think in a sense that would be nice to do. But it's not something that's a leisure activity you know that's not something that I can do in my spare time without sacrificing a lot of other things I mean I'm when I'm not at work I'm actually reasonably busy. I do quite a lot of stuff like I go out quite a lot, I'm very interested in music and theatre and I find myself doing all those kinds of things and I sort of think 'well I'd rather be doing that than in the library trying to work up something that I wrote five years ago into a journal article' or whatever. I think that if I were to go back to it I'd like to try and do something a bit different from that with in terms of something a bit more public, a bit more kind of public history. Something public history is something that kind of fascinates me anyway and I would like to kind of – in some respects I would like to kind of revisit it in order to do something different with it, but the further I get away from it the more it seems in the past, I know that's tautological but that's – but I sometimes find it a little bit difficult to relate to the period of time when I was writing it. And yeah this is well – certainly the longest conversation I've had about it in five years.

So in terms of an academic identity


Is it possible to have an academic identity when you're not working in a directly academic position?

Yes I think it is, I'm not saying that I do but I certainly think that it is. I think that there are plenty of people who might be librarians or museum workers or even people working for the auction houses or galleries who I think do have that, and I've met those people and talked to them either personally or sort of in a semi professional capacity. And I think that's eminently possible. I think perhaps to an extent I do. I mean I think the job I do at the moment is the more academic side of university support, academic support, and I think that you couldn't do this well without some academic background. That doesn't mean having a PhD but without some insight into how research works in university.

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