Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

PhD Part-Timers: How to Juggle Study and a Career

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

PhD Part-Timers: How to Juggle Study and a Career

Article excerpt

Former rugby player Colin Gregor is one of many students to combine doctoral study and other pursuits. Jack Grove reports

Keeping your PhD studies on track over the course of three or four years is a notoriously tricky task, with many students finding it hard to stay the course.

So how do those who combine their doctoral studies with a full-time job, as well as social and family commitments, fare? Is it feasible to do a PhD part time, typically over five to seven years, without letting your studies drift?

While completion rates are generally lower for part-time PhD students than full-time ones, the part-time PhD route is now taken by a growing number of students, latest figures suggest.

While part-time student numbers have slumped at undergraduate level in recent years, the number who completed a part-time doctorate in 2014-15 increased by 9 per cent to 3,825.

That represents about one in six of all PhD candidates - 22,300 in total - to complete their studies in the last academic year, according to data compiled by the Higher Education Statistics Agency for Times Higher Education.

Doing a PhD part time at Heriot-Watt University, in Edinburgh, was an attractive proposition to Colin Gregor (pictured) as it allowed him to study while continuing his career as a professional rugby union player.

As captain of Scotland's Sevens teams for several years, the scrum-half often found that he had spare time when touring the world to play in international competitions.

"You have a fair amount of downtime as a rugby player and I wanted to make the most of it to position myself for a career after rugby," said Mr Gregor, who started his PhD shortly before skippering Scotland in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

After discussions with his supervisor at Heriot-Watt's School of Management and Languages, he began studying how conflict can affect team performance and cohesion.

However, it was not always easy to find time for study when travelling, training and preparing to take on 16-stone rugby players keen to flatten you, Mr Gregor admitted. …

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