Hi! My name is Katie and I’m a second year PhD student in Medieval Studies. I research arms and armour in Middle English romance. In this blog, I’m going to talk about why I decided to do my PhD and the process of applying for and funding a self-funded PhD.
Why I chose to do a PhD
I chose to do a PhD for several reasons. The first reason, and the most important to me, is that I love studying and especially love studying my subject. It is a selfish reason, but I wanted a few years doing something I really enjoyed. I chose to study at York because it offered an interdisciplinary course that I liked the look of. On my course, I am able to research both Literature and Archaeology, as well as dabble in History and History of Art!
The second reason, a more practical one, is the employment prospects. Doing a PhD will help me to reach my career goals, whether that will be working in academia or in the museums and heritage sector. My PhD will give me chance to not only become an expert in my area of study but also to gain connections and further experience in my field. York is a fantastic city to study in; there is so much heritage on your doorstep and so many opportunities to get involved in, whether it’s visiting places yourself or through University events.
The process of applying for a PHD
I knew that I only wanted to do my PhD at York in my current department, so this advice will be a little bit biased! However, to make this decision, I researched different universities and the academics who would potentially supervise me on a topic related to Middle English romance. I quickly realised that York was the only place I could do my course on my terms and have such a well-paired supervisor. So I decided just to apply here!
I got in contact with my supervisors, explained I was looking to apply for a PhD, and discussed potential research topics with them. It is important when applying for a PhD to find a topic that not only interests you, but can also be supervised well by academics you want to work with. Your PhD supervisor is there to help you navigate the current academic field and fine-tune your proposal. During the application process, my supervisors were really helpful and gave me guidance for my application. If you’re applying for funding this collaboration can be very helpful.
Finding funding as a self funded student
I’m a self-funded student. This means I don’t have an official funding body that covers my PhD tuition fees and living costs. I want to explain how I raised my funds, to show that it is possible to do a self-funded PhD.
Firstly, I took three years out between my masters and PhD. This was a good chance to figure out if I definitely wanted to do a PhD. It also gave me time to prepare and learn Latin in my spare time. I had the chance to save up funds for my studies too. I found an office job that had opportunities for lots of overtime and put away as much of my earnings as I could.
Then, before I started my degree, I applied for loans from Student Finance; they pay roughly £25,000 over three years. I worked out a strict budget (for both saving when working and when doing my PhD). I realised that if I saved enough to cover my tuition fees then the Student Finance loans could cover most of my living costs, especially if supplemented by part-time work during my PhD.
During my PhD, I have found that there are many opportunities for paid work. This includes via the University in the role of Student Ambassador, or as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. There are also many part-time jobs around the city of York. Such work helps towards funding my PhD.