Last week I wrote about my experience as a ‘remote’ PhD student. I suggested that people often have assumptions about what ‘the PhD experience’ looks like, but we can all feel ‘remote-ness’ in different ways even if we seem to be following a ‘conventional’ PhD route. Rather than focusing on how our PhD experiences differ (by institution, discipline or location) I argued that we should focus instead on the opportunities to build networks around common interests and shared challenges.
Later, thinking of a blog post for this week (my life recently has been very boring, consisting of pomodoro after pomodoro in an attempt to pull together my first-year literature review) I remembered that I’d first written about this subject when I applied for the role of SGSAH blogger back in December. I was asked to write about my experience of doctoral training. I wrote about attending SGSAH’s Welcome Event just a few months into my PhD. This is what I wrote then:
SGSAH offers an opportunity to build something special in Scottish academia, which goes beyond the particularities of subject or institution. The organisation brings together a diversity of doctoral students in the Arts and Humanities to actively build a community where we can discuss, debate and find solutions to challenges we face; as well as constructing a platform to share our research and enhance the experience of doctoral students at a national level. It’s an exciting movement to be part of!
These words remain true, and looking back I realise not just how special SGSAH is, but also how little I knew about the organisation when I started my PhD. So I thought I’d spend some time dwelling on some of the opportunities coordinated through SGSAH – particularly the internships which are open for applications until 2nd October.
SGSAH works with the AHRC to deliver funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) Studentships in collaboration with Universities in Scotland. Through these studentships, PhD researchers across disciplines and institutions are brought together to form a cohort which together experience residencies, training and networking over the three years of their PhD.
In addition to the DTP, SGSAH also offers Applied Research Collaborative Studentships (ARCS). These are PhDs designed and supervised by two Universities as well as an external partner. This seems like a great option for prospective PhD students who already have a career and are seeking to gain a PhD in that field.
Not funded by SGSAH? Me neither – but the organisation offers a lot to every Arts & Humanities PhD student in Scotland including the Cohort Development Fund and, most excitingly, a range of internships and artist residencies.
It’s hard to overstate how important it is to have these funded, high quality internships on offer to PhD students in Scotland. There’s an increasing awareness that less than half of all PhD candidates end up in an academic job, which means that careers which were previously viewed as ‘alternative’ professions are now becoming the norm. For those with their hearts set on a career in academia, that’s a tough realisation. The good news is that high quality work experience outside of research is only going to make you more employable both within the academy and for a whole range of other careers too. Plus it gives you the opportunity to test your fit with other roles and organisations before committing to a full-time job after you complete your PhD.
I feel strongly about this in part because of my personal work experience. Before embarking on a PhD, I was a manager in the Operations team of a museum, and my role occasionally involved recruiting new staff. Sometimes applicants would have PhDs, but no relevant experience. Some candidates had PhDs in potentially useful areas, but apparently little experience of conveying to a non-academic job panel just how wide-ranging and useful their PhD was for the job on offer. As a recruiter, I found this frustrating because I knew these applicants probably had fantastic experience, but sometimes that just wasn’t made clear in their applications or interviews. I also worked alongside some PhD students who volunteered with the museum. Many of my colleagues in the heritage sector relied on unpaid internships or volunteering programmes in order to get experience to secure their first job (myself included – I volunteered at a museum whilst working two jobs in my final year as an undergraduate).
So I genuinely see it as an enormous privilege to have the opportunity to apply for a funded internship during my PhD. It’s not something to take for granted, and I appreciate the work SGSAH has done to advocate for and organise such opportunities, as well as the involvement of such prestigious organisations who get involved to host interns. I’ll almost certainly apply next year, and if this year’s offering is anything to go by (Glasgow Women’s Library, the Scottish Parliament & the National Trust for Scotland to name but a few) I’m sure I’ll have a hard time narrowing down which one to apply for!
You can find out more about this year’s internships here