What our PhD Graduates Say

Read what our graduates say about studying for a PhD in the Educational Research Department at Lancaster University.

PhD in Educational Research - Higher Education

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!

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.

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.

Bernard Lisewski

Bernard Lisewski

Senior Lecturer in Educational Development, UK

I was awarded my Doctorate in Educational Research (Forthwith) in November 2018. Since, then I have really come to appreciate the additional benefits of undertaking the programme. Yes, one wants to achieve the Dr. but the experience offered so much more. It provided a portal into a colourful palette of educational literatures, analytical frameworks and critical inter-disciplinary discussion. I now lead an MA in Higher Education course for academic and professional staff at Manchester Metropolitan University within which I am more than happy to point successful participants towards the Lancaster programme and the flexible yet structured guidance, patient support and enlightened thinking that it offers.

 

Bernard Lisewski's reflections on the Doctoral Programme in Educational Research - Higher Education

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.

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.

PhD in Education and Social Justice

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!

PhD in Higher Education: Research, Evaluation and Enhancement

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.  There's a link below to a four minute video where you can 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".

Melissa James: comments and advice about HEREE

PhD in E-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning

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.

Traditional route PhD - independent study

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.