What our Graduates Say

Read what our graduates say about studying for a PhD at Lancaster University.

Melissa James

Melissa James

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Business at the University of Prince Edward Island, Canada

Melissa was a member of the Higher Education: Research, Evaluation and Enhancement PhD programme.  You can watch a four minute video to hear Melissa’s comments and advice about the PhD programme.  Here are some comments from the video:

“Part 1 is structured learning, with the modules, and those prepared me really well for Part 2 which is the research and dissertation.  I kept [Part 2] as structured as I possibly could given the nature of it.  I created my own deadlines in Part 2; self-imposed milestones.  My supervisor was wonderful… and she was always quick to respond and to work with me … She knew that I was very task orientated, and that really helped.  I cannot say enough about having a strong supervisor who understands how you work, recognising that they have their own work to do. It was a wonderful programme for me. It really fit my life. The team approach in Part 1 really helped to get a number of different perspectives and build up your confidence. And then moving onto the second part, it was taking all that learning and applying it… You have a wonderful team in the programme who want to see you succeed”.

Simon Snowden

Simon Snowden

Senior Lecturer, University of Liverpool Management School, UK

This has been one of the most enjoyable periods of study that I have had and the one that has made the most impact on the way I see and act on the world. The programme was structured in such a way that my basic skills were being built whilst at the same time I developed a strong understanding of the key debates and ideas in Higher Education. The struggle to become a complete academic is not one I faced alone. A new circle of friends in my cohort provided me with the support I often needed at difficult points in the process.
 
By the time I had decided on my research focus I had already been through three cycles of the research process and, for each, produced written work that has the potential for publication. The confidence that built in me was critical in moving me to the next stage. As I engaged with my thesis it became clear to me that the evolving structure of the programme ensured that I addressed all aspects of the research process step-by-step continuously developing my thinking for key sections of the thesis.
 
I really do wish I could do it all again.

Jenny Hatley

Jenny Hatley

University of Worcester, UK

I have been a member of the online PhD in Education and Social Justice at Lancaster and it has been a really wonderful experience. Studying at a distance has not disadvantaged me in any way. The tutors have been as available, as supportive and as responsive as they would have been were I a resident student on campus. The discussion fora, skype supervision and online activities – undertaken both as individual and group activities within my cohort – have been superb. The chance to discuss and engage with researchers passionate about their subjects has been a real pleasure.

This course has opened my mind to so many theories and perspectives on social justice and education that I now view the field in a much more complex way. Part 1 of the course enabled me to explore several areas in depth before deciding on my main area of study for part 2. The freedom to explore new areas of interest and develop my thinking throughout has been one of the best aspects of the course and as a result I have completed a thesis which is meaningful to me and will feed into the next steps of my career. I cannot recommend this course and the Department of Educational Research highly enough.

Monika Reece

Monika Reece

EAL and Languages Consultant

I started my PhD with little experience of Educational Research. The residentials, assignments, group discussions and required presentations during the first two years of the programme encouraged me to engage with a wide range of theories, approaches and methods, and to present my work at national and international conferences. All staff were approachable and their challenging and thought-provoking comments on presentations and assignments furthered my development as an independent researcher. Discussions started in seminars were frequently continued in smaller groups over lunch (or over a pint at the end of the day) which meant we developed peer support and friendships.

In the third and fourth year of the programme, the residentials offered opportunities to discuss our research with staff and peers in a supportive environment and there was an opportunity to practise for the Viva. Listening to other people presenting their research triggered many useful ideas for my own research. The supervision I received is a further reason for strongly recommending the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University.

Katy Jones

Katy Jones

Senior Research Associate, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK

I studied towards my PhD in Educational Research between 2015 and 2018. As a distance and part-time student, supervision was very flexible, which enabled me to fit my studies around my work commitments. Whilst mostly utilising Skype for monthly supervision meetings, whenever I visited the campus I was always struck by the warm and friendly reception from my supervisor and the other staff in the Department.

Having worked as a researcher prior to and during my studies, I have benefitted considerably from the opportunity provided by doctoral study to gain a greater theoretical understanding of the world around us. Whilst a reluctant theorist, I feel that this has equipped me with the tools I need to develop and progress in my academic career. The opportunity to dedicate a significant period of time to a research topic I am passionate about is something that I will always be grateful for.

Sal Jarvis

Sal Jarvis

Pro Vice Chancellor (Education and Student Experience), University of Hertfordshire, UK

I was a member of cohort 18 of the Doctoral Programme in Educational Research. I wanted to be part of a research community that made me think more critically about my research interests, and yet was flexible enough to enable me to engage part-time while continuing my role as a senior academic manager. This doctoral programme did not disappoint. The residential weeks immersed me in a vibrant – sometimes slightly crazy- community and put me on first-name terms with some of the ‘names’ I had been reading, who led the different modules. My fellow students and I forged a learning community which we kept going online (and which kept us going) as we returned to our own institutions. The academic team were readily available if we needed to talk something through, and the admin team tied things together into a coherent whole.

The process of studying this doctorate enabled me to re-examine assumptions, and to develop a whole new area of expertise in greater depth than ever before. I didn’t end up doing at all what I thought I would do at the start, but that unpredictability is part of the joy of the whole thing. I am now publishing my work and looking forward to further research.

 

Irene Foster

Irene Foster

Director of Quality Improvement, UK Higher Education Institution

I chose Lancaster University as my place of PhD study following many months of research.  The university offered a unique format of part taught PhD in Educational Research.  I was impressed by the far-reaching reputation apparent within the learning community.

The learning environment within the department, and reflected throughout the course, was one of high level stimulation, embedding thought provoking debates and discussions in many of the teaching sessions.

The content of many of the modules were very pertinent and contested topics within higher education arenas. This, coupled with the varied and diverse backgrounds of the students within my cohort, adding another interesting dimension to my learning. The well-stocked physical and on-line library is second to none, making research for the many assignments a much easier task.

Whilst the whole experience was positive and ultimately rewarding, there is no doubt that it takes over your life. Being prepared to set aside some dedicated time for study and knowing that putting your nose to grindstone will pay dividends, life does unfortunately throw up the unexpected.    It was reassuring and comforting to be able to share the hard times with empathetic fellow students, who never failed to provide much needed support!

Nicky Morrell-Scott

Senior Lecturer Nursing, Liverpool John Moores University, UK

I began my part time PhD in Educational research at Lancaster in 2014 and completed in 2017, and can honestly say it was the best programme I have undertaken. The programme has developed me as a person and has afforded me the research skills to now undertake high quality research, and has also given me the confidence to do so. Being part of the department has allowed me to engage with colleagues and staff who I would never have met and this has led to an exceptional student experience.

Debra Ibbotson

Debra Ibbotson

Teacher, UK

I gained a great deal by completing the PhD in Educational Research (Higher Education).  From a professional standpoint, the PhD helped me to feel more secure in conceptualising, designing and implementing a programme of research.  This has not only enriched my own practice, but has also deepened my understanding of what it means to be a professional researcher.  In addition, I found the whole experience personally rewarding.  Through the PhD, I have developed a more innovative and independent spirit which has given me the confidence to take on new challenges.

The expertise and guidance provided by the staff within the Department of Educational Research was excellent.  I thoroughly enjoyed being invited to explore different perspectives and approaches within a highly supportive environment.  Finally, an absolute highlight of the PhD was the ongoing encouragement provided by other students on the programme.  I learnt so much from the people I met and developed some lasting friendships.

Lyz Howard

Lyz Howard

Senior Lecturer, Isle of Man

I joined the January 2014 cohort eResearch and Technology Enhanced Learning PhD Programme and successfully completed my PhD (forthwith) in early 2018. The design of the Programme was such that it challenged and extended my thinking in a good way! In addition, the programme team facilitated my apprenticeship as a researcher by encouraging a deep understanding of the philosophical and theoretical implications surrounding the development of new theory in the field of networked learning. I found that studying a PhD at Lancaster University was the best learning experience I have ever had. I felt supported at the same time as being encouraged to become an autonomous researcher. The hybrid nature of the Programme with two years of facilitated learning and two years of supervised research empowered me to achieve new understanding as an academic and teacher from a professional perspective, and to know myself as an individual. My supervisor demonstrated exemplary supervision as she gauged my work ethic and sought to facilitate my learning by responding to my individual needs. Without such individualised supervision, and guidance to be clear in my theoretical explanations, I might not have achieved a PhD forthwith.

The intense yet enjoyable nature of the Programme encourages peer and collegiate support from which friendships have flourished. I would highly recommend studying at Lancaster University to anyone who is considering postgraduate study. The support is amazing; the Programme Team are experienced, approachable and will respond and reciprocate the enthusiasm shown by their students.

Peter Alston

Peter Alston

Director, Learning Solutions, Laureate Online Education B.V. and Honorary Lecturer, University of Liverpool, UK

Studying on the PhD in e-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning programme has been one of the most challenging, but rewarding experiences I have ever engaged with. The structure of the programme is fantastic, helping to build you knowledge (and confidence) of successfully undertaking a research project and seeing it through to completion, and the team in the Educational Research department are well equipped in helping you take your first steps in the ‘mystical’ world of studying for a PhD. Part One of the programme definitely prepares you for the larger ‘thesis’ research you will undertake, by getting you to engage in small-scale research projects so that you can experience the research process in its entirety. Then, when you get to Part Two and start your thesis research, the process is already so well in-grained into your mind-set that you will be able to explore your area of interest with confidence.

You also get to meet some fantastic people studying with you from a range of disciplines across the world and build up a learning environment that is collaborative, engaging and supportive, and I have already recommended this programme to several of my friends, who are now seeing the benefits of the programme for themselves. Studying on this programme really is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Sandra Wearden

Sandra Wearden

Managing Director, Degree Ceremonies Ltd.

I had always had an aspiration to do a PhD but never had time to get around to it, but after taking time out of my career as a management learning consultant to be a full-time mum, I decided this was the ideal time to finally take on the challenge of doing a PhD.  The flexibility of the part-time PhD allowed me to spend time bringing up my young son and fulfil a long-held ambition.

The programme is divided into two main parts, an initial taught programme followed by a second part where you conduct your own doctoral research.  I found the taught element of the programme particularly useful because it re-introduced me to academic writing, brought me up to speed on some of the latest technological innovations and research in education, and introduced me to a group of like-minded people willing to take on the challenge of doing a PhD.  Doing a PhD can often be an isolating experience, so this initial element of the programme provides an opportunity to forge lasting friendships and support networks that help get you through to the end.

Carrying out my own research taught me about what it takes to be able to manage a large, complex research project, and throughout the staff in the department could not have been more helpful or encouraging.  As a result of this programme I am about to embark on a new career running my own business and I also now sit on the board of a national charity.

Paul Sherman

Paul Sherman

Program Head of Family & Community Social Services, University of Guelph-Humber, Canada

I’m a proud graduate from Cohort 1 of the Doctoral Programme in Education and Social Justice (ESJ). When investigating potential programs I was nervous about returning to study after a very long hiatus. I was concerned about meeting the requirements while working fulltime, and especially reticent about studying online. I chose Lancaster because it offered what I was looking for: opportunities to expand my knowledge in theory and practices relevant to my professional background and job. I was particularly enthused about opportunities to hone my research and writing skills by submitting assignments deemed of a publishable quality. While the asynchronous online learning environment was a unique, and at times challenging, experience the substantial support offered by peers, instructors, and support staff was extremely satisfactory. Moreover, as I oversee an undergraduate online program at work, my experience in the ESJ program provided tremendous insights (and compassion) for the challenges and rewards faced by my students. 

When I announced my intention to do a doctorate many people “warned” me of its adverse consequences, particularly as I was at a more advanced stage in life. I didn’t suffer any of these adversities, but my personal and professional life has grown significantly. From my coursework and thesis research I’ve published in several peer-reviewed journals, presented at conferences, established collaborations, and attracted funding for new research. This wouldn’t have been possible without the experience of studying in the ESJ program. It was a joy from start to finish, and beyond!  

 

Antonieta Hidalgo

Antonieta Hidalgo

Associate Professor, Chile

Studying at the Educational Research Department was definitely a challenging and fulfilling experience that manifests every day in my work as an academic and in my personal life. I had a supporting and welcoming supervisor from whom I learned the importance of tutor-tutee relationship and who guided me through a satisfying distance PhD journey. My experience at the Department allowed me to develop strong theoretical and methodological foundations to continue growing and contribute to my workplace. Because of this I have felt in the position to accept new challenges, willing to add significantly to projects I am involved in. At the moment I am working for two universities in Chile in educational programmes where I have the opportunity to teach future professionals and also to carry out research related to areas that are in need of knowledge generation and expansion in my country. Today I am also the Chilean Lancaster alumni coordinator which has allowed me and other Chilean graduates to keep in touch and remember Lancaster in our annual meetings. My experience at the Educational Research Department is undoubtedly one I treasure and would therefore highly recommend pursuing a postgraduate degree at the Department.

Karen Broomhead

Karen Broomhead

Liverpool John Moores University, UK

I began my PhD in the Department of Educational Research straight after my MA at Lancaster University.  I realised I wanted to continue my studies here due to the expertise and support provided by staff within the department.  My PhD was an extremely positive experience, and one that will never leave me!  From the beginning I was actively encouraged to participate in the research community within the Department, where I was able to engage and reflect on much wider educational issues.

I would not hesitate to recommend studying within the Department of Educational Research, as I feel I have gone from a dependent student to an independent researcher.  I am indebted to my supervisor for her support (and patience!), and due to my PhD have been able to obtain a Senior Lectureship at Liverpool John Moores University, using my research to inform and develop the knowledge of undergraduate Education Studies students.

Debbie Prescott

Debbie Prescott

Head of the eLearning Unit, University of Liverpool, UK

The doctoral programme was one of the best things I have ever done! It was challenging but extremely rewarding and beneficial for me professionally. I gained many useful skills, some that I had not expected at all when I began this programme. I met, and have become friends with a lot of excellent people and as a result now have opportunities to be part of research groups and further work. I had an excellent experience and I'm very glad I decided to do the E-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning Doctoral Programme.