Since starting my PhD, I’ve read a lot about what it takes to make it through. One of the most common pieces of advice is that you have to be willing to fail. Repeatedly, painfully, and constructively.
No-one says you should court failure; rather, you shouldn’t be surprised when it creeps up on you. Some people would argue that the way I’m doing this PhD is not just courting failure, but outright chasing it down. You see, friends, I have to confess: I am an unfunded PhD student. I am an unfunded part-time PhD student. I am an unfunded part-time PhD student who took a few years out of HE.
And while I’m glad I got those secrets out, I’ve got another big one: for me, none of those things are outright negatives. In fact, they’re positives. I know I’m flying in the face of all received wisdom here, but bear with me for a minute.
1) I’m unfunded. This means huge financial headaches (try saving several hundred pounds a month for the next few months and you’ll understand.) However, it means that if something does go wrong, if I do have to drop out, or suspend: I answer only to myself. My worry about the state of my funding won’t stop me leaving if this PhD thing doesn’t work out.
2) I’m part-time. More importantly, I’m part-time because I need to work to pay my fees. Again, this presents more financial challenges, and can cause time management issues. But, all those ‘transferable skills’ PhD students are supposed to be developing? I’m developing them right now. And those horrible periods when your PhD engulfs your life and you find yourself crying onto your keyboard at 3am on a Thursday morning because you just can’t see the end of it?
Well, I can’t do that. My PhD can’t dominate my life because two and half days a week, I need to be focused on something else. A few days ‘off’ from my PhD means that I come back refreshed every week, ready for more.
So, I may be chasing down failure by starting off this way. But, for me, I actually hoping I’m staving it off as best as I can. And I’d be fascinated to know if anyone else is taking a ‘non-traditional’ PhD route, and how you’ve found it.