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PhD Discussion Forum

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This Category: > PhD Advice / Support

1 to 15 of 17 PhD Forum Posts

Doing a part-time PhD at the Open University

User: beercat - 30 September 2010 10:45

I'm a prospective PhD student, planning to do a part-time, self-funded PhD, but need some advice from current PhD students. I'm a late starter - I didn't get my first degree until I was 38, then did a full-time MSc when I was 40 and a part-time MSc in my late 40s. I'll be 59 when (if) I start my PhD. I've been told by a friend who started her PhD in her 30s that I may have problems finding a supervisor at a local uni (North East or North West) because of my age. I am considering registering with the Open University as I think they are more likely to take me on. I'd be quite happy working with minimal face-to-face supervision and my subject area lends itself to online working. I'm going along to the Postgraduate Fair in Manchester in November to find out more, but does anyone out there have experience of the OU, or of doing a PhD with minimal supervision?

User: BilboBaggins - 30 September 2010 12:27

There are plenty of very mature PhD students in my non-OU department, so I wouldn't rule out the local possibilities so quickly.

I considered an OU PhD (after leaving a science PhD I did a part-time OU BA(Hons)), but went with my local university instead, where I did my part-time Masters.

I had minimal supervision. For much of my 6-years as a part-time history PhD-er I met my supervisor maybe 4 times a year, if that much. I steered my own course, defined the project myself from scratch, applied for AHRC funding part-way through my first year and won it, and decided the structure that my thesis would take, and just got on with it. I think my background as an OU student encouraged me to be more independent than other students might have been.

I do have a good online friend who recently passed his OU PhD viva. I got back in touch with him towards the end of his PhD though, so don't know how good his support was in the earlier stages. He got good advice in the run-up to the viva though, including a DVD preparing him for it. I could have done with that :p

User: jepsonclough - 30 September 2010 13:39

Not sure what subject you are n but I think in most universities if you are self funding then your age will not be a barrier to applying. I'm nearly 45 and started my part-time PhD at the end of last year. I am doing it a university in the North of England. I know of lots of other mature PhDers. I would approach universities and supervisors and see what they say.

User: beercat - 02 October 2010 09:03

Thanks for the input. I would rather study locally (nothing against the OU, apart from the travelling time and costs). I think I was being a bit Tiggerish when I was discussing it and my friend wanted to prepare me in case I was knocked back, but I took it to heart more than I should. I found some other threads on the lines of "too old to do a PhD" (one of them was from a 30-year-old!) and it seems it shouldn't be a barrier if I go about it properly. At least I've got plenty of time to think about it and get my ideas organised before the Postgrad Fair. I've really got to do something intellectually challenging, or I'll spend the rest of my life watching CSI re-runs on Channel 5....

User: ubu - 02 October 2010 17:37

======= Date Modified 02 Oct 2010 17:40:04 =======
Blimey, don't worry! I'm 27 and probably 10-15 years short of the average in my department. Who's counting anyway? Best luck ;-)

User: jepsonclough - 02 October 2010 19:12

Quote From beercat:

I found some other threads on the lines of "too old to do a PhD" (one of them was from a 30-year-old!) and it seems it shouldn't be a barrier if I go about it properly.

It really annoys me (and I know that is pretty petty) that all these people who are still wet behind the ears saying is twenty whatever too old to do a PhD. I so want to slap them around the face with a wet fish (maybe we could get an icon for that!)

User: jjdempsey - 03 October 2010 15:55

Hi I'm 54 now and started my PhD earlier this year, it's part time and I work full time in Ireland while the Uni is in Bristol, so most of my contact is via email, skype etc. I dont think it matters what age you are provided you can show a knowledge, interest and ability to carryout whatever research etc you need to do to achieve your aim.

User: pjlu - 09 November 2010 08:51

Beercat, I will be well and truly into my 47th year when I commence my part-time doctorate next July/August. Just for the record, I will have just learned to run 5 k's regularly this year as well-another long time life goal.

If you are self-funded and part-time and choosing to do all of this for you...then provided you have people who can supervise you in your SUBJECT (note nothing related to age-it's topic that is important), you will be fine. For the record, while I plan to have a few months gap between completing my Masters and commencing the doctorate just so I get my new job and some other things sorted, I had no problems with my state university checking out my prelim proposal and happily accepting it-once my Masters thesis is passed and I graduate. They were not worried about age at all. It was all to do with whether they had people with some expertise in my general area.

Good luck and go for it...I presently work with two people who completed their doctorate in their mid fifties and sixties and have no regrets whatsoever.

User: bignige - 20 November 2017 11:01

I am 56 and starting my part-time PhD next year.

Been made an offer by the OU.


User: chaotic1328 - 20 November 2017 19:30

deleted. Didn't realised that the OP was from 7 years ago.

User: pm133 - 21 November 2017 16:13

Quote From chaotic1328:
deleted. Didn't realised that the OP was from 7 years ago.

True but these sort of ridiculous attitudes towards age persist to this day and it probably isnt a bad time to raise them again.
The problem with age stemmed from a time when people retired at 65 broken from 45 years of backbreaking work.
We simply dont live in those times anymore but people, especially young people, seem to be struggling to understand this. Old age now is when you are well over 70 and in some cases 80 or older. People are better educated and in better health. Both have improved to a point where today's 50 year olds are in a totally different league from their parents at the same age. Intellectually, people in this age group can not only compete with people in their 20s and 30s but are perfectly capable of routinely outperforming them. There is absolutely nothing special about those two younger age groups. Personally, I didn't peak until this current period of my life now and I there is no obvious reason why i wont continue to improve as I enter my 50s in a couple of years.
It is all about attitude.

User: Pjlu - 21 November 2017 20:16

Just read my post from almost 7 years ago with a mixed response of horror and amusement! Horror that it appeared and amusement at my own reaction to its emergence. Given we are rambling on about age (and I support PM133's comments about how we react to these numbers), I thought I might add that after taking off a whole year between the Masters thesis and commencing the PhD mid October in 2011, I have now completed it bar the final gasps of examination and corrections.

I have since had three positions and promotions since that post and have sold house, moved states, bought a 'future townhouse', and am renting it out while I work in the country and learn all about rural politics and lack of services in remote areas and the impact this has on the students we teach (secondary school students). Have also started travelling internationally every few years.

I am now training for a half marathon next year and have been regularly running distances of 10-14 kilometres in fun and charity events. (Had to slow down in the last year only due to thesis and work commitments and now the thesis is done, I can increase my running goals).

All goals achieved later in life, and if you asked me at 30 whether I thought this was all possible...I would have thought I was dreaming. Life is/can be good at all ages and stages.

User: chaotic1328 - 22 November 2017 03:07

For what it is worth, I will be 55 when I start my PhD (fingers crossed that the funding comes through), and not one of the potential supervisors out of the numerous that I approached mentioned that my age might be a problem. Mostly, it was about the lack or fit between my topic and their areas of expertise, or the difficulties in obtaining funding. I was lucky that I found someone who took a shine to my ideas, and helped me to revise my proposal to to ensure I have the best chance of getting the funding application through. It is now (or will soon be) in the hands of the god/s. Let's hope s/he/they smile on me.

I don't know about any concealed age-discrimination (for obvious reasons), but I've had nothing but encouragement so far from all those that I have approached. If anything, the process has somewhat restored my faith in human nature, at least in UK academics.

User: pm133 - 23 November 2017 08:34

Quote From Pjlu:

All goals achieved later in life, and if you asked me at 30 whether I thought this was all possible...I would have thought I was dreaming. Life is/can be good at all ages and stages.

In fairness at 30 years old, with the best will in the world, most of us were/are as dumb as bricks with next to no experience of the wider world. In my experience, the majority of young people are too self absorbed with their own perceived importance to take the time to look around them and recognise the value of older people.

User: Lewlyn - 28 November 2017 09:11

First you need a research proposal. If you need help let me know.
1 to 15 of 17 PhD Forum Posts

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