The whole exercise was definitely good training and came at a perfect time for me. I am currently revising a draft I wrote for a paper. I'm presenting the paper at a Postgraduate Symposium next Saturday. My paper is entitled: 'Rat courts' or 'a great, loud cats' bag': sororities, schooling and reconstruction of identity in the short stories of Sylvia Plath. I'm really excited to get the opportunity to present and also to meet more students with similar research interests to myself. It will hopefully be a good day:) If things go well and the paper is received favourably, I will post a link to it on my blog very soon:)
In other news, The Guardian published the following article this week: Who can afford a doctorate in the arts and humanities now?. I thought this article was very interesting and in a lot of ways, true. Basically the article details the lack of funding available for students who wish to pursue a PhD and describes the variety of jobs students take up in order to get the money raised to continue studying. Personally, I would not be able to afford to self-fund my PhD, there would be no way. With the funding that I'm on (DEL Funding, Northern Ireland), life is a struggle enough. I'm contractually obligetd not to undertake any other work, even part-time (which to be honest would be a great help). I live in rented accommodation but luckily, am not living in a large city so the expense is not a huge amount. I honestly don't know how even funded students can afford to live in Dublin or London for example. The prices of food and day-to-day life are so astronomical, it must be very tough.
I think the Guardian article makes a great deal of good points about education becoming increasingly available only for the more well off. Indeed, any personal friends I have at Oxbridge are all self-funding, and it's not for lack of 1.1 degrees or Distinctions at MA level: the funding is just not there. I realise that I might sound like a hypocrite going on about the dire state of education when I myself am funded, but it is through sheer luck - a nice God up there in the clouds looked down at me and decided I was more suited to academia than a receptionist - that I am able to be at this stage in University. My own MLitt at Glasgow was self-funded (except for a one-off small bursary from AHRC) and it took me around two years working my receptionist job to clear my overdraft as a result.
This is the final point the Guardian article makes, and one that I have been on the receiving end of myself. You work hard at school, at University - pursue postgraduate education in the form of a MA and emerge fit for a job you could have attained leaving school with 5 GCSE's aged sixteen. Facts like this are another off-putting factor for students in the world today. The specialist jobs simply are not there. How can we be expected to self-fund and then not enter a job that has a salary to help get out of the debt acquired while studying for the subject? It's very difficult to comprehend. The sacrificing of the depth of knowledge in Arts/Humanities will be the result of the dire situation education finds itself in. To quote the article:
"It's a real shame – not just because so many able people are missing out, but also because we're in real danger of our academic and intellectual horizons becoming the preserve and playground of the wealthy."
I would be inclined to agree with this. At University I met so many wonderfully intelligent people, far more intelligent than me; and they have been dissuaded from further study because there are no incentives. And I believe education loses out!
It is with this article in mind that the days when my alarm clock goes off and I want to snooze; I force myself to get up and open the books. Constantly reminding myself how lucky I am to be where I am is a strong factor in my enthuasiasm for this research project. Fingers crossed I can maintain the momentum!