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Uni of Birmingham PhD Modular course

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  • Uni of Birmingham PhD Modular course

    Hey guys,

    I am looking for someone who is doing/has done the University of Birmingham PhD course through distance study. I read that they offer a 'modular' and a 'sandwich' course. I would like some firsthand information...or just any other thoughts you may have on doing a PhD. I've already read many comments about why NOT to do it. Is there anyone out there who did a PhD and was happy that they completed it?


    P.S. I'm not ready to do a PhD right's just something I have been contemplating for a few months.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Potter
    P.S. I'm not ready to do a PhD right's just something I have been contemplating for a few months.

    I was in the Birmingham PhD for 4 years but had to drop out for financial reasons

    Just my two cents worth. Before you start on a PhD you need to be clear in your own mind about WHY you want a phD and what you want it for. I went through some hell a year or two ago with lots of people saying a phD in TESOL is useless (what do you need a PhD for in teaching English for anyway blah blah when in fact it was a research degree in Linguistics, NOT TESL.

    There are some books I can recommend you read about doing PhDs and help you to answer questions before you sink money into it.

    Do you want to do it for research or to 'get a high paying job'? Is it for status or for professional development? Do you have a research question sorted out? I spent 18 months dithering around as I couldnt focus on what it was that I wanted to research.

    There is nothing wrong with the Birmingham degree- you will be assigned aq supervisor and as an enrolled student have access to them to pick their brains (usually by email). Its not their job to write it for you but for you to bounce feedback and they give you direction so you dont go up blind alleys.

    Supervisors can be hit or miss as many are pretty busy and dont always have time for you. They dont get paid for supervising you but it seems to be part of their job to mentor other PhD candidates. It can boost their resume if you do stellar work under them as they may list who they were supervisors of. Ive known of guyts who didnt get on with their supervisors, had supervisors die on them. Mine changed halfway through the degree as the first one left the university. You have to be clear about what you want them to do for you and what you expect from them. They dont really work for you but they are expected to mentor you through the PhD program.

    University of Birmingham as a distance student is EXPENSIVE. As a foreign student I was paying 3000 pound a year or about 600,000 yen. Thats 50-60,000 yen a month out of my after tax salary I have to come up with on top of supporting a family in Japan (wife wasnt working either). Add in airfara, accomodation at BU and you are looking at a Million yen a year. The first four years is 12,000 pound (about 2.4 million and 2,000 pound for the final 2 years. By that time you should be writting up your dissertatiion and getting it ready for Viva, which is where you defend your research in front of 4-5 independent university faculty outside of BU who evaluate your work and decide if its PhD material. If its not you will be awarded an MPhil as a consolation prize.

    The PhD also requires you spend 6 months out of the 6 years on the home campus in Birmingham. I spent 3 weeks in Birmingham around 2004. There is a cheap hostel nearby for international students. You can stay there up to a month or two at a time. They have an education library and a pretty fully equipped computer center where you can go in and log on the Internet and do research etc.

    A PhD is extremely labor intensive. To do it properly you need to be spending at least 10-20 hours a week on doing research, collecting data and doing reading etc. A lot will depend on your topic but the bibliography alone should run from 10-20 pages. Be prepared to give up any socialising, you will put family life on hold. If you have no wife to worry about you will be OK but it can put a strain on a marriage and many will get a divorce before they give up their PhD.

    I started off doing the sandwich course which is an 80,000 word dissertation (equivalent to writing a 250 page book) but later switched to modular which is a series of 'mini' research projects that may be independent in their scope but tie to form your dissertation. In other words you might write a large chapter that stands by itself as a publishable piece of work. You have to think about how much time you have the kind of writing you want to be doing and what you feel comfortable with- one big monster of a 200 page thesis or lots of smaller pieces of work.
    Last edited by KansaiBen; 2008-07-14, 09:04 PM.


    • #3
      Thanks KansaiBen.

      I will think about it. The money isn't a problem as my bonus will cover it...although I can think of a lot more fun stuff to do with the bonus :-)

      I have no family obligations and as part of my job, I am required to do research (which I really enjoy) and publish. The uni also provides a budget for books and supports some overseas trips. I seem to be in a good position to start the PhD. Not the best of reasons to do it I think, but good enough reasons to contemplate it.

      contemplate....contemplate...contemplate...rum and coke..