PhD and me – I got in!!!

Leeds University, Civil Engineering Department, PhD Student (Oct 2022…)

I am delighted, stunned, giggling like a child, as I confirm to this blog that I have now been formally selected to start a full-time, fully funded, PhD programme in October. Leeds University, Civil Engineering department, currently ranked second in the whole of the UK.

Offer received and signed by return ten minutes ago…

My seemingly unreachable ambition to sit in both academic and industry camps remains fired-up and on track. Researching in the name of one, but serving both. Hoping to learn to write and research with academic precision and add a small piece to the sustainability puzzle that now challenges us all.

How this came to be I will digest and reflect upon. A blog for another day. For now I feel humbled, daunted, and thrilled to be given new means to be.

PhD and me, is alive. My journey will continue to be shared here; on LinkedIn; and in everything I still have to do.

To be continued …

PhD and me

Learning by doing

I had to give this one a try. It came to my attention too late but I tried anyway. My first PhD proposal has now been submitted. Let the learning begin.

Written in three days is not the ideal preparation. But as a forced period of solid focus and serious questioning of what I’m trying to contribute as research and how it fits to wider academic research overall, was useful reminders of what it’s all for. My passion lives here. I just hope that shines through.

18 pages of my heart and soul. A baseline reset that serves as a useful confirmation that my research, my study, my consulting, and my life choices, all still sit well upon long-term goals.

That’s a good weekend, come what may. Learnt much by learning how much more I have yet to do.

PhD and me

PhD funding – plan B

Many postgraduate students are not fully funded on their course. This can be a tough ask when taking research through a PhD. This blog presents some sources and options of funding not always known or publicised.

My thanks to University of Nottingham and Postgraduate-Funding.com for permission to share these insights. UoN for hosting. Postgraduate-Funding.com (the alternative guide to postgraduate funding) for presenting a detailed UoN student session on-line, this month.

The Grad-Funding team would also like me point out the accompanying “Alternative Guide” on their website is freely accessible to the majority of students in the UK. This service has nearly 100 subscribing universities. Students can check if their university subscribes on the website under ‘List of University Subscribers‘. I was also advised that other subscribing universities are rather less proactive in publicising the Guide to their students than Nottingham. The Postgraduate-Funding team concluded that all publicity is welcome – therefore please feel free to share this blog.

My thanks to Lucy as the presenter on the day. Her first tip was to check out a few bios on their website. There will always be someone there who has been where you are now. Here is the link to the alternative funding homepage.

Plan B – What to do if the full funding option is not attained.

Building a portfolio of awards.

Research costs can be an unexpected reality check. External factors, or necessary changes from the research itself. This may be as study expenses, write-up challenges, the robustness to disaster recovery (many PhD students had to rework their post-Covid realities). Before starting any funding applications you will need to have clear ideas of what costs are in the pre-planned – but there are always unknowns – and more need to know beyond applications for loans.

Key first step is what is cash needed for. Tuition, maintenance, or costs associate with the research itself. Funding very often needs this disclosed upfront. Some funding will only include or expressly exclude:

  • tuition (UK or beyond)
  • maintenance: rent costs, bills, food, clothes, mobile
  • dissertation costs (field work, travel)
  • conference costs
  • books
  • printing

Portfolio funding

A portfolio approach is normal. Meaning there is an expectation that more than one source of funding is being sourced, particularly if larger sums are required. Funding sources may range from £50 – £8,000. The more typical range is £500-£2.000. Hence the portfolio approach becomes the typical strategy. Some will fund year to year. Some will be more responsive before course starts (with offer) others once course has started.

PhD Government loans up to £27,570 1st August 2021 – these are not means tested but not such loans tend to be loaned in draw-down amounts, at least yearly. A loan will not preclude funding. Funding will not preclude a loan. But each is informing the other. All in (i.e., course and research costs and living and studying) a 3 year PhD is going to need more than this loan.

Blitz or targeted – either way this will take some time

Expect a need to spread widely if seeking large amounts. The example offered was 120 applications; 24 responses; converting to 4 successful applications. This is termed the industrious approach. Width of reach.

The targeted approach is advised if smaller sums needed and better success rate. Depth of understanding of the nature of the funder concerned.

Some key sources to seek out

There are more avenues of funding. This alternative guide to graduate funding gives a good scope of what they may include.

100’s of funding charities. This includes education charities specifically aimed at students looking for post-graduate help.

Crowdfunding – can be successful with good sales pitch and with clear goals that people will be excited by. Sharing the journey is generally a key part of the process.

Specific university assistance – Nottingham University will have more information to inform what is available directly from the graduate school or department. Note the Student Hardship Funds and the associated national assessment guidelines. Worth approaching to see if PG applications are permitted or more information on what else in available at this institutional level.

Alternative funding – Charities, Foundations, Learned Societies, and Trusts

1,000s in UK. Many set up by private benefactors with specific causes or interest in mind. Check the following – and build your own database

  • criteria
  • eligibility (or close fit)
  • history of the charity – understand why it was established (their goals)
  • minimum and maximum grants – (rule of thumb is ask for 25%-50% of max). Asking for the maximum may make your case less likely to be chosen over four cases each asking for 25% vs your 100% of max.
  • deadlines – note many trusts may be small and only work with paper applications. Have in mind that many of these trusts are administered from private charitable trusts or foundations. Expect to be applying with stamped addressed envelopes not email or websites.
  • All applications will want to know what the career path looks like post this education. Contact thereafter may also become a means to pay forward.

Building the list

Have in mind flexibility beyond the parameters of a charity or trust. Note many charities will only pay to an organisation (e.g. the university).

  • institution
  • alternative guide online
  • other universities
  • scholarship search, cf. postgraduatestudentships.co.uk; researchprofessional.com; unigrants.co.uk
  • Research and Development Funding List
  • General Charity Search Engines (e.g., Turn2us)

Other information resources to check out

It is worth looking at other websites. Nottingham website has a list of external funding resources. Kings College and University of Birmingham have good resources to read through.

Remember the Postgraduate funding student stories look at the individual stories where people look in similar situation to yourself. Then check out the funding database (e.g., search by age or key words). Also useful for pro forma statements. Also, google “examples of” and many pdf examples will appear. Checking what others have done by experience (blogs, crowdfunding).

Also, go to your local public library – ask specifically for:

  • the educational grants directory;
  • the charities digest;
  • the grants register
  • the directory of grant making trusts (not always in library)
  • they are reference books and can only be reviewed in situ.

Also check Google for “grantsregister.pdf” for a 2016 version someone has uploaded.

Professional learned societies

  • Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Royal Historical Society
  • Royal Society of British Artists
  • British Psychological Society
  • but also think of other organisations that might have interest in your work

Students should also liaise with their university to understand which societies are best to join. Check the bursary details for each – they may fund research, travel or course costs. Also networking opportunity can be significant.

Ask local council (education division), local parish council, or directly to the university department.

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About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here:

PhD and me

Beginnings of a parallel project

PhD and me. I’m adding this category to my blog series. Not that I feel any expertise to yet share. But that’s the point, perhaps. This is a journey from novice beginnings…

What is the reality of preparing for a PhD? What does naïve look like in a middle-aged man? I’ll be researching what it takes, what breaks, what career sacrifice one must make. What upside this offers and opportunity it creates.

I have two years to go with my current part-time MSc. It is time I intend to spend making my self-defined research interests valid for more robust academic enquiry. This daily blog is essentially part of that entire process. I now have access to all university facilities again, to help steer my way.

So watch this space. I will be covering this as a journey. From preparation learnings, steps, set-backs, and places and people that can help. This is no small task, but perhaps others out there may see this as a journey option of their own. I will be 50+ by the time I can start a PhD.

I had early help this week. One-2-one help on what is required, plus an excellent university sponsored two hour seminar on alternative funding avenues. All of these tips and tricks are intended to help make this journey possible to more. Maybe that is you (or your kin), too.

I already have much I want to share, but I am awaiting appropriate approvals and permissions before I do. I have been looking into this for 18 months, but let’s call this step one.

To be continued…

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

Find my professional mask here: