Me at the LSBU Induction Boat Trip in September 2017. I was very pleased with my ‘Staff’ Lanyard!
Today is one full year since I took up my new post as Lecturer in History at London South Bank University
This year has gone by very quickly!
It has been a year of hard work. Mentors had advised me that the first year of a lectureship was tough and I can now wholeheartedly agree with them!
I have had the added task of launching a new BA (Hons) History degree in my first year.
This means I have some achievements that I can feel quite positive about in my first year. I designed and delivered three brand new modules. I learned quickly about being a Course Director and the workings of a new institution by taking on such a big admin role from day one. I supervised dissertations and got involved in postgraduate provision. I am proud to see the progress many of the students have made this year and I can feel good about my role in that. I brought in money. I still managed to present a paper at a big conference in my field.
However, what has really made this a transformative year in my life is that it has also coincided with me becoming a carer. After nearly two years of unexplained symptoms, dozens of appointments at hospitals and doctors, and a raft of diagnostic tests, my partner has been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) (the terminology is contested, choose your term). This precipitated a complicated and stressful house move while marking finals and dissertations. I think that being a carer and academic deserves a blog post of its own but I think it is fair to say that my life looks very different to the one I had just over a year ago ago!
I am here 365 days later at the dining table in my new house surrounded by boxes still to be unpacked, writing next year’s key dates into my new academic diary. I am looking ahead to a much-needed holiday and beyond that to the new semester and academic year. This post serves to say ‘I did it!’ And to mark the transition into what will hopefully be a year in which I can grow further into both of my new roles.
It is no coincidence that my blog has been rather neglected since I completed my PhD. I have been experiencing the early career precarity which, though it is becoming more visible, still affects many of us after we submit our theses. This post is not the time for an extended account of my years in the insecure early-career wilderness. Instead this is the time to celebrate the beginning of a new phase in my career.
I have just started as a Lecturer in History at London South Bank University where I will be teaching on a new history degree (and three associated joint degrees). In some ways it feels like a long, slow exhale after holding my breath for a long time. It also feels like the start of something exciting. While I have a lot of work to do preparing new modules and settling in to life at a new university, I also have lots of opportunities to shape a new programme. Whether this results in more regular blogging remains to be seen!
This title could well read ‘How long does a PhD take!’ That would perhaps reflect the sense that though I have travelled a great distance towards completing my PhD in the last three years, it is not finished yet. I am entering my continuation year, or ‘writing-up’ period as it is also known. The terms of my funding mean that I will soon stop receiving the payments that have sustained me for the last three years. I am looking for work to fill the gap and know from colleagues who were never lucky enough to get funding that this will mean new pressures to deal with.
However, that is not what has me blogging today. I am blogging because it has become clear to me over the last year that expectations of how long it takes to complete a PhD thesis vary and sometimes contradict each other. This has meant confusion, pressure and doubt about myself which has not helped me get any nearer to submitting. In writing this post I want to start a conversation about how we set expectations with PhD students and how we develop systems and processes that deal with the variation between PhD students and theses. Continue reading