Is a PhD right for me? A free online course

Sabrina Bowen, CHASE EDI Ambassador

Deciding whether to pursue a PhD is a big deal that involves carefully considering your academic and personal goals, while also weighing the challenges and benefits that come with doctoral study. The ‘Is a PhD right for me?‘ course by the Bloomsbury Learning Exchange, available on the FutureLearn platform, is a three-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) designed to provide prospective PhD students with the insights needed to make informed decisions about applying to a PhD program.

This course is a great resource for anyone thinking about doctoral study, especially because exploring a PhD can be an overwhelming and isolating experience, considering that many peers, family members, and friends may not have undergone this type of academic journey. ‘Is a PhD right for me?’ offers a supportive community where you can actively engage in discussions with fellow course members through comments. This platform allows you to share ideas, ask questions, and connect with like-minded individuals who are navigating the same decisions as you.

Among the course’s numerous benefits, a standout feature is its in-depth coverage of essential topics. The ‘Finance and Funding’ section, for instance, breaks down the costs associated with pursuing a PhD and explores potential funding options available to cover these expenses. The course addresses questions that you might hesitate to ask potential supervisors or the university you are applying to such as what a potential supervisor is looking for in a supervisee and what daily life looks like as a PhD student. In addition, you have the opportunity to hear from current PhD students studying a range of different subjects who share their thoughts, advice and lessons learned from their own application experience. Giving you first-hand knowledge that can be difficult to get elsewhere.

What sets this course apart is its multifaceted approach. It incorporates a variety of learning materials, including videos featuring current and prospective PhD students from a range of diverse backgrounds, articles, and reflection tasks. This diverse format caters to different learning styles, ensuring that the course remains engaging and informative throughout. ‘Is a PhD right for me?’ not only equips you with practical knowledge but also provides a platform to connect with a supportive community as you navigate the significant decision of whether a PhD is the right path for you.

Bloomsbury Learning Exchange’s ‘Is a PhD right for me?’ course is an excellent resource if you are considering pursuing a PhD in the UK. It provides you with a clearer understanding of the doctoral landscape and equips you with the foundational knowledge and confidence needed to embark on the path towards a successful and fulfilling doctoral experience in the UK.

Course Timeline

Week 1

  • Introduction to the course
  • The Basics: who does a PhD, what is a PhD and why does anyone do one?
  • Practical Matters: A focus on special preparation and goals relevant to individual circumstances
  • Finance and Funding

Week 2

  • Research: your research idea, ethics and proposals
  • Supervisors: how to find and contact a potential supervisor
  • Applications: how to prepare and submit various types of applications

Week 3

  • Managing work-life balance
  • Supervisors and support: a look at the various support in place for PhD students
  • Wellbeing and mental health
  • Life after PhD

CHASE EDI Ambassador

Sabrina Bowen

As part of their Diversity Action plan the AHRC CHASE DTP has provided funding to appoint a part time CHASE EDI Ambassador who will provide support for activities at Birkbeck aiming to:

  • Improve the pipeline of students from minority ethnic underrepresented backgrounds from undergraduate and taught postgraduate to arts and humanities doctoral research at Birkbeck
  • Ensure that arts and humanities doctoral researchers from underrepresented minority ethnic backgrounds are better supported at Birkbeck

This role aims to help to organise and run online events and in person activities aimed at:

  • Promoting doctoral study
  • De-mystifying the doctoral application processes and explaining the experience of being an arts and humanities doctoral researcher.
  • Identifying ways in which current arts and humanities doctoral researchers from under-represented minority ethnic groups can be effectively supported through the PhD at Birkbeck.

The post was advertised to all doctoral researchers at Birbeck and we were fortunate to have some extremely strong applications for the role. Following interviews last month we are pleased to appoint Sabrina Bowen as the CHASE EDI Ambassador at Birkbeck.

Sabrina Bowen

Sabrina is a 2nd year PhD Student within the School of Social Sciences, her research explores the intergenerational roles of the UK-based Caribbean diaspora in the development of their homeland.

Sabrina will work within the Birkbeck Graduate Research School team in collaboration with colleagues who are working on aspects of under-representation at doctoral level including:

  • Dr William Ackah, Senior Lecturer within the School of Social Sciences.
  • Caroline McDonald, Director of Access & Engagement – Access & Engagement at Birkbeck.