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Past Questions

  1. Hey Kylie, did you know exactly what you were going to research before you applied at Birmingham or did the advisors help at all? I know I want to pursue a PhD, but am having trouble narrowing down what I want to research exactly. I realize that's part of the downside to the UK programs compared to the US ones! Also, after you applied how long did it take you to find out if you were accepted? Thanks!

    Hi!

    Thanks for the great questions, I have broken them down into the individual questions so hopefully this answers everything.

    1) Did you know exactly what you were going to research: That's a good question! I would say I had a basic understanding of what I was going to study, so maybe 80% of the total, before reaching out to my advisor. My PhD looks at the creation of communal identity in music festival and church communities, so I had that in mind. I also had a few structures in which to study communal identity, aka things like shared history, language, etc, but my advisor helped me construct those specifics once I was in my PhD program. So in short, you really have to have a solid core concept of the PhD before reaching out to an advisor, some of the peripheral details, which are important for the research, can be decided on later. In my situation my advisor was influential in pointing me to resources and ideas I may have missed, but the real core of the thesis was crafted by myself. After all, a PhD is original research and so my advisor really stressed me generating those ideas! So I would say before approaching a potential advisor(s) you need to have a general understanding of your argument while also understanding that the research and the advisor may bring about different things.

    2) Narrowing it down: The good news is that sometimes the process helps narrow it down for you! My journey was a bit different, my topic was pretty concrete and original, but that means that you get to explore a bit more! If you have a few ideas or a few genres of research I would encourage you to do a deep dive into those topics and make sure they haven't been covered already. Or find an advisor that you think would be awesome and tailor your reproach question to fit their specialities.

    3) How long did it take: Let me first clarify the steps that I took for the PhD application. I knew my general topic and once knowing that my first step was to find my primary advisor and have a discussion with them. I 'cold emailed' my advisor, introducing myself and telling them the basic reproach I was hoping to do. We then had a meeting where I was able to explain it further and he 'accepted' me as a potential student. In your application you will need to write down your advisor, so the FIRST step in all of this is securing your advisor. Once you have that you will write the official proposal (your advisor can help give you some guidance for that) and then you'll apply! The turn around for me was a few months, so I applied and two or three months later was officially accepted.

    Hope this is helpful! Feel free to ask any follow ups if needed. Good luck!!!

  2. Hi, I live in Delaware and I am planning to get my PhD in Theology. I have two questions that perhaps you already answered but maybe not. What is the best advice to give for someone going into this doctoral program to getting accepted? What do you think would set you apart from others when applying? Also, I know you said the schedule is more flexible, but are there summer or winter breaks? Or is it only fall and spring semesters? Thank you so much! And congrats! What a huge accomplishment!

    Hi! Well firstly, congrats on making it to this point! It is a big step to make and an exciting but scary adventure to embark on. Let me answer these questions by question.

    1) What is the best advice to give for someone going into this doctoral program to getting accepted: This is a great question! My best advice is to do two things, the first is have a rough idea of what exactly you want to research and the second is to make sure you find your advisor and discuss with him/her before applying. I have found that if you have these two that you have a good odds. Your advisor is a major part of not only your PhD journey but also your admission so make sure that is solid before entering the process.

    - What do you think would set you apart from others When applying: again, I think what sets you apart is an original Thesis topic and advisor support. In some ways the admission mindset is different from what you would have with a USA PhD application; while still very competitive a lot of emphasis for a UK application seems to be the originality of your thesis as well as the advisor support. So with those two you should have good odds of acceptance.

    - I know you said the schedule is more flexible, but are there summer or winter breaks? Or is it only fall and spring semesters: Ah, the timeline question :) To be honest I would say yes and no to breaks. The PhD track in many ways follows the normal school calendar so that you have at least Christmas 'off' but most PhD students I know, including myself, seem to work most of the year without really having time off. I would normally take a week or so off for travel, and the University alots time for you to be away, so you do have breaks but most of us are focused in a way that doesn't necessarily allow a lot of time. If you are worried about the time frame you can also think about part time schooling!

    Good luck with everything! Feel free to ask more questions as more things come about :)

  3. Hello, are there funding opportunities for PhD's at the University of Birmingham. Have you benefited?

    Hi! If you go to the PhD page for the University and for your school you can see all of the funding opportunities and options! The scholarships and bursaries are very competitive, so I have not benefited from any directly! My PhD has more or less been self funded. However, the University does allow each PhD student to submit (and often receive) money for research and conferences, so that's awesome!

    Good luck in your PhD journey!

  4. Did you find job hunting to be easy/difficult upon completing your PhD? I would be looking to be a lecturer in Theology and Religion, do you think finding a role as a lecturer is hard afterward (and did the University help at all?)

    Hey! This question is a bit tough to answer because so many people have had very different experiences. I have found, along with my two or three other friends who have embarked on the PhD, that finding a teaching job directly after the PhD is very very difficult. While I did teach at UoB I relied on my previous experience in pastoral ministry to open my first University door and my PhD was a bonus! I have heard other PhD students say that you should not rely on an automatic PhD to lecturer path, that while viable for some this tends to not be the full reality of possibility. That being said I have found numerous lecture jobs in smaller, USA based schools. So the potential is out there, I would just not rely on it.

  5. Hello, thanks for answering my previous question.

    So as a full-timer you averaged 6-9 hours on a 5 day week. That would mean you spent 30-45 hours a week on your PhD, whilst also working 20+ hours. How did you undertake such an incredible feat?

    The reason I'm asking is I'm considering whether or not to undertake my PhD full-time or part-time.

    So if you were to study full-time it may be 30-45 hours, and would part-time be half the amount (i.e. 15-23) hours?

    Thanks very much.

    Thanks for the follow up question, clarification is always great!

    The PhD time schedule really depends on what you are studying. Part of my PhD was studying in the music industry field, which I also worked in. So my PhD allowed me to do research and work simultaneously. When I was working another job it was geared more towards night hours and so I would do PhD things in the normal 9-5 slot and than work from 6-10ish.

    If you are not sure what to do I would recommend speaking with your potential advisor. They will help you better understand your specific area of research and the time demands that you may be under. Also, if you come in as a full time or part time student and realise that schedule doesn't work for you, you can always change!

  6. I am in Sweden and have my bachelors from Egypt. I am intending to study a Masters programme at the University of Birmingham in Religion, but I wondered if would be able to have a job as a teacher in Sweden after obtaining the degree. Do you have any experience with that?

    Hi there! Unfortunately this is a bit tough for me to answer because I do not exactly know what Sweden requires or what area of teaching you are looking to go into. I would venture that university teaching needs PhD education if that I what you are hoping to reach.

    I would maybe do a little more research and reach out to teachers in your field and ask them!

  7. Hello, as a full-time student, how many days/hours are you expected to work on your PhD? Does Birmingham Uni offer the PhD program as part-time?

    Hey!

    The great thing about UoB's PhD program is that it really revolves around your schedule and your time. As a full time student my schedule fluctuated; during festival season, my research season, I worked and traveled nonstop. It was a lot, but it allowed me to work and write a little less than some other students during normal school times. I probably averaged between 6-9 hours 5 days a week. But again, because full time work is flexible you can allow it to fit your schedule requirements. I also worked 20+ hrs a week and the schedule was manageable. Your advisor will help give you milestones to reach and so you simply figure your schedule out so that you can meet those.

    With that in mind a part time program is offered! I know a good number of students who decide to do a part time program. Part time obviously takes double the amount of years, so that is something to consider! That being said tuition and fees is reflective of the part time status, so you don't necessarily pay more to do a part time program.

    For more info you should check out UoB's PhD page. I know it shows you the different types of programs (full time, part time, distance) and explains it a a little more!

    Good luck and feel free to ask more questions if needed :)

  8. Hi Kylie,

    I'm from Texas and am looking into the distance learning program at Birmingham, specifically for a PhD in Theology and Religion. Could you tell me a little bit about your personal experience, in terms of how the flow of the program goes? Is there any type of structure or is 100% self-paced? Are the advisors good at giving direction and feedback? Was there anything that surprised you that you wish you had been aware of before? These questions and any other feedback would be most appreciated! Thank you!

    Hi!

    I know a handful of people who have done the distance learning program and it is a wonderful option! I can speak both of my experience and then the little I know from those who have done the distance learning option.

    As per the structure it is a bit self paced and a bit of a given timeline. It is self paced in that you do not have specific requirements (aka you have to hit x amount of words by this date) so it allows for a little flexibility depending on what is happening in life. That being said it is structured in that you have monthly meetings with your advisor. You also have yearly progress reviews. Your advisor is great in knowing sort of archetypal deadlines so they keep you in check but also understand that life happens.

    I have found that each PhD is unique in how it comes together, because mine was so research heavy in the summer months I did little to no writing then, so my structure was a bit odd. My friends who did distance learning liked the sort of fluid structure because it kept them on pace but allowed for flexibility depending on their research schedule and life schedule. Your advisor will work one on one with you to coordinate the best schedule and keep you on track!

    I have worked with my two advisors and absolutely love them! I lived with other PhD students in other departments and they all struggled with advisors feedback but I can tell you that every person I know in our department has had wonderful experiences! My advisors ask good prompting questions that allow for you to explore but also give practical guidance that is important for passing. Every individual in our department is also willing to help in your adventure. I have found the support to be truly remarkable and I know my friends who do distance learning feel the same.

    The last question is great. I would say I have been really surprised by the totality of support from Birmingham; professors outside of your field are willing and ready to help. My advisor has found some great conferences for me, so even though he is the head of the department and oversees a number of PhD students their is really a great amount of personalised care and attention. So, good surprises!

    I think the one thing I would mention is that the core part of most research takes 3 years, and you are given a 4th year for write up. Some schools charge normal tuition fees for all four years, but UoB only charges a minor fee of a few hundred dollars for the fourth. It alleviates some of the financial burden which I find to be a huge blessing and abnormal!

    So here are my take aways from all of your great questions; UoB distance learning is great because it gives you structure but flexibility. The advisors, no matter where you do your PhD, are attentive and instructional but also push you to really reflect on your research. Distance learning students are still given the totality of support that other students have, they just enjoy it from the comfort of their homes :)

    I know this may come across as a sales pitch, and please know that while I am on the postgrad page I would tell you any of the negatives because I think it's important. That being said I would genuinely and enthusiastically endorse UoB for distance learning in Theology!

    Feel free to send any more questions my way and blessings on your PhD journey!

  9. Was there a big transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study?

    As a PhD student the transition from Master to PhD scholastically was not too drastic. However, as an International student I had a tremendous transition of learning a new culture and new way of life!

  10. Have you joined any clubs or societies, gone on any research trips or done any volunteering?

    I have gone on fieldwork trips to Paris and Vienna, and am planning a trip once a month. Along with that I have joined music oriented societies. I know as a postgrad student joining a society may seem odd, as we are old, but it is such an amazing way to meet people. I’ve made very good friends through my society!

  11. Can you describe your journey from school to where you are now?

    When I decided to do a PhD I started chatting with my Masters professors. My mentor told me that the University of Birmingham has a top ranked program, and so I decided to begin my journey a year in advance. After speaking to my now advisor I knew I wanted to join the University. It took a little under a year to get all the necessary paper work and visa work done, but I am so happy to be here.

  12. What was your motivation for undertaking postgraduate study?

    I undertook my postgrad study because I am really passionate about my area of subject, and wanted to gain the full breadth of knowledge to be able to teach in my field.

  13. What, for you, are the best things about the course?

    As my course is research based I spend a lot of days studying in my office. That being said the support of the staff is incredible, and there are so many other PGR students that are under the same course type. I’ve enjoyed studying my area that I love, and not having to study core class material.

  14. How will your degree prepare you for what you want to do afterwards?

    As I want to teach in Higher Education this degree will lend me the credibility to enter into a field. Along with that my work in the music industry in Birmingham allows me to make connections with artists and managers that will prove fruitful in the future.

  15. What piece of advice would you give to anyone considering postgraduate study in your field?

    First, do it! If you have a passion that was not fully developed in your Masters program, take the leap and join the PhD life. Second, breathe! The process of getting here is stressful, the process of being in this program is stressful, but all of it is worth it. So take a moment, breathe, and know that things do not have to be done instantaneously.

  16. I live in the United States and am researching various PhD programs. Most American programs offer a degree map or course listings. Can you tell me how (if at all) a PhD from the University of Birmingham differs from those in the United States?

    A UK style PhD is vastly different from one in the states. In the States you spend a considerable number of years in classes and then studying/taking comps before you start your dissertation writing. In the UK you start immediately with your dissertation, so they tend to be a few less years. The reason you do not see a course list is because there isn't one!

  17. ​Hi, I'm applying to the University of Birmingham. I am hoping to receive some tips or suggestions before I enrol onto the PhD via distant learning program. I live in the USA. I saw that living in England while doing school would cost too much as I believe I cannot work more than 20 hours. My background is in film/video productions.....I may be able to work on the side but that may or may not work out. I can receive $20,500 (yearly) in loans through FAFSA but I think the cost of tuition are about 3 to 4x for international students like myself. Rates are about £16,320 full-time (around $21k USD). Do you have any advice on the topics of: Funding, distance learning, loans/scholarships/grants, dissertation (compared to traditional US PhD dissertations) part time/full-time distance learning and teaching assistantships (could possibly help reduce or pay tuition costs)? Thank you.

    Hey Andrew,

    First congrats on applying to UoB and getting to this point! You have a handful of areas in your question so let me break those down for you.

    Working Hours/ Cost: you are correct that international students can only work 20 hours a week. It is very difficult to find part time work, so most of us work for the Uni in some capacity. It equates to enough to cover living expenses but certainly not tuition. You are correct that the fee for international study is around £16,000 which is very similar to what you would pay in the States for a PhD. Funding: so with all that said funding mostly comes through loans. There are a handful of PhD scholarships but they are very competitive, so a majority of us are self funded. Teaching assistantships are possible but again are very competitive. They pay great but normally only offer a few hours per week. Distance Learning: your situation sounds like it may be a perfect fit for distance learning (and a lot of CAL PhD students work under such structure). For Distance students they Skype with their advisors at least once a month (which is the normal meeting rate for on campus students) and then engage their research in their own time. Distance students must come to campus once a year. I know a lot of Distance students and they really are very happy with their decision, as it allows them to both work full time as well as research. If you are interested in Distance Learning there should be a page on UoBs page and you can also chat with your prospective advisor. Part time/Full Time: like distance learning the question of part time/full time really depends on your situation. Most students on campus are full time and distance learning students are a mixture. A full time researcher spends 3 years working, whereas a part time works for 6. I think again it totally depends on your situation; as someone who worked full time during my Masters career I could see working full time as well as PhD life as a possibility, but it completely depends on your working style and outside responsibilities. US vs UK: so PhD in the states, as you probably already know, is a at least 6 year process in which one takes three years of courses, then Comps, followed by their dissertation. The length of the UK is similar to the US, you just learn and research in different ways. The UK dissertation is more or less fully self created with the guidance of an advisor. This means that from the beginning their is a lot more flexibility and fluidity than one in the states. Rather then learning in lectures you simultaneously learn all the material as well as engage in writing. I personally really like our system over a US one!

    I know thats a lot of information. If you have any more questions or thoughts feel free to email me at kxm644@student.bham.ac.uk Good luck!

  18. As a current student at bham, would it be possible to organise an event for postgrads in PTR to get to know some people?

    Great question!

    I am sure we could have some things organised, I think getting in touch with the Postgrad office would be most useful as they can communicate directly with you to find something fun to organise!

  19. Hello Kylie, could you please tell me the process for entering the PhD study programme? I have been out of education for a while but have the necessary qualifications. Thank you!

    The process is a bit different for everyone, so I will give you my process hoping it will be helpful!

    I apologise, I do not know if you are from the UK or another country. I am from the USA so my process is a bit different from if you are a UK citizen, so keep that in mind.

    The PhD process in my case was fairly straight forward. I had an idea of what I wanted to research so had a basic one paragraph idea. Luckily the area that I study, Theology and Culture, is rather specific so I did not have a lot of options in terms of places to study. I looked at the two educational facilities and found UoB to be the perfect fit. After that I looked at the roster of PhD supervisors and found a supervisor that I really wanted to work with, I emailed him with a basic idea of what I wanted to study.

    After this email, just saying who I was and what I wanted to study, my advisor was interested so we set up a Skype chat. After the chat he was interested in the project and so I put together a little PhD proposal and applied to UoB.

    The beginning stages for you are to 1) have a rough idea of what you want to study, maybe a few paragraphs 2) identify and begin discussions with your primary advisor.

    After you have those two things you can go through the application process and all the other things!

    I hope this is helpful in getting you started. Do not worry about being 'out of education.' So many of the PhD students are in a similar boat! Please feel free to email me at kmccormick98@gmail.com if you have any more questions/concerns/crises

  20. Hello Kylie! I recently applied for a PhD within the department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Birmingham. I just wanted to know if you could assist me with any advice about funding and scholarship opportunities? I am from Ghana. Thank you.

    Thanks so much for the question and congrats on your application!

    I am personally self funded, so I use my savings and a loan from my home country to pay for my PhD. The majority of PhD students I know are in the same boat, so they are self funded.

    The University has a webpage with funding/scholarship opportunities so I would check that out to see what you could possibly apply for. A good number of applications have to be finished closer to the new year, so you may have missed the dates for some. The website on UoB's page is the most helpful place to look, so start there!

    Hope that helps!