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Researcher Development

Researcher Development

Part-time PGRs

Let’s firstly establish the key differences between the two types of study.

Full Time
• Costs £4400 per year
• Maximum 4 Years worth of Study
• More focused research
• Strict timetable of study
• More commonly funded positions
• Greater restrictions on outside work. Max 180 hours per year

Part Time Study
• Costs usually half of full time study (depending on FTE equivalent)
• Can choose part time study allowance (starting from 0.5 FTE)
• Maximum 8 years of study
• Flexible timetable due to family and research commitments.
• No restrictions on outside work.
• More flexible for distance learning


As an exercise split a piece of paper into two. Based on the above, write on the left column similarities between part time and full-time study. On the left write what you believe would be differences between the two.

1.2 Similarities and Differences

In practices the differences sound are similar but feel very different. Chloe Bradwell has done Part-Time and Full-Time study. She explains the differences as the following.

Professor Jane Milling, Head of Drama, Communication and Film department also describes the difference between the two modes of study.
Audio to follow

1.3 Environment

One thing that you unfortunately will have different to Full time study is Participation of the Environment of study a research degree. Studying full time makes you part of a cohort. You are able to contribute to your research and to task run by the department. You become an embedded element of the wider team.

Unfortunately, as a part time student you are not able to join in this works to the same extent. You can still take part and be a part of the wider team, but you do feel slightly detached from the department

Here is what Chloe had to say on this matter.

Audio to follow

1.4 What you can do to take part?

Obviously, it’s not all doom and gloom. Work moving online has started to help us feel a part of the culture better. Further to this, there are ways to still be part of the culture from a distance. I would recommend the following

  • Conferences: brilliant way to gain loads of fresh insight, meet academics and build a network
  • Welcome weeks: take a couple of days out and meet new students. Go back an deliver a paper the following year and meet further staff
  • Ppostgraduate Teaching Assistant: earn money and be a part of a teaching team.
  • Watch online talks: join mailing list to watch online talks at the University and beyond. Can add genuine insight into your work

These are quick thing but can help to counter the feeling you might have when you are a part time study.

Key to any successful PhD journey is the relationship with your supervisor. This is why the doctoral college and the faculties have produced multiple training manuals to help you make the most out of this relationship.

I thought it would be important however, to discuss the differences that might occur when engaging your supervisor

2.1 Part Time Study from the Supervisors perspective

Jane felt that the differences between her approach with Part Time students wasn’t that different compared between Part Time and Full Time Study:

You can also download a transcript of this podcast.

This is what Chloe had to say on the matter as well:

You can also download a transcript of this podcast.

2.2 Differences between Part Time and Full Time for Supervisors

Jane had some other views on how working with Part Time Students are beneficial but different:

You can also download a transcript of this podcast.

For further training on working with Supervisors, make sure you look at the full resource on this vital relationship

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Time is your biggest enemy when studying part time. You are trying to balance multiple different elements without letting anything slip. The first thing to understand is


This is inevitable. Even studying full time slippage is just a part of the PhD process. Do not beat yourself up if something slips. This self punishment can make it worse in the end.

This part will look through ways that slippage happens and how you can monitor ways to counter this.

Balancing time is a fine art and very personal. However, the joy of part time study is that it gives you the benefits of time. Here is what Jane thinks of the benefits of time:

You can also download a transcript of this podcast.

3.2 Work breakdown

I have learnt that in part time, you have the benefit of time to think and to ruminate. However, you have to make sure that time doesn’t slip by you. Due to normally juggling multiple different elements

This is what Chloe had to say about balancing time.

To help with this, I used to look at my workload week by week. I used to break down the work into the following areas:

  • Work
  • Social
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Editing
  • Relax

After this I would break the days into four 5 sections: morning, lunch, afternoon, tea and evening.

Please find attached image if one of my weeks looked like whilst starting the write up on my thesis.

There is a template to produce your own version of this sheet. You might want to break up each day differently. Find what works for you.

Gannt Chart can also be useful for long term project. For an in-depth look, please look at the project management module from the Doctoral College – you might see a familiar face there.

3.3 Understanding how you hold yourself back

As part of all forms of work, and life, you have a natural instinct that can be the negative voice constantly undermining you. These voice’s can be especially detrimental when you are trying to balance multiple parts of work, research and life in general.

Luckily these instincts can be broken down into 9 separate personality types, these are the following:

  • Avoider Focusing on the positive and pleasant in an extreme way. Avoiding difficult and unpleasant tasks and conflicts.
  • Controller Anxiety-based need to take charge and control situations and people’s actions to one’s own will. High anxiety and impatience when that is not possible.
  • Hyper-Achiever Dependent on constant performance and achievement for self-respect and self-validation. Latest achievement quickly discounted, needing more.
  • Hyper-Rational Intense and exclusive focus on the rational processing of everything, including relationships. Can be perceived as uncaring, unfeeling, or intellectually arrogant.
  • Hyper-Vigilant Continuous intense anxiety about all the dangers and what could go wrong. Vigilance that can never rest.
  • Pleaser Indirectly tries to gain acceptance and affection by helping, pleasing, rescuing, or flattering others. Loses sight of own needs and becomes resentful as a result.
  • Restless Restless, constantly in search of greater excitement in the next activity or constant busyness. Rarely at peace or content with the current activity.
  • Stickler Perfectionism and a need for order and organization taken too far.  Anxious trying to make too many things perfect.
  • Victim Emotional and temperamental as a way to gain attention and affection. An extreme focus on internal feelings, particularly painful ones. Martyr streak.

We all have parts of these personality wrapped up inside us. However, we have a natural leaning to one of these personalities. Understanding which areas are dominant help us challenge the negative voice.

To help you understand how yourself sabotage yourself, please follow the links below to get some insight into your three most prominent ways you self sabotage your self. Whilst this test isn’t 100% accurate, it can give you a quick insight into how your personality works, thus giving you tools to challenge that negative thought patterns that develop and hinder you managing your work.

Complete assessment here. 

As Part time students, the necessity of work is vital. As shown earlier in this training every member involved in your PhD journey is conscious that you have to work to survive, and other priorities might take precedent. However, this section will hopefully help provide a small overview of our experiences of balancing work and study

4.1 Benefits of different work

It’s a hard thing to balance work. You have to ensure you have money and something you enjoy. However, you don’t want something too demanding it constantly undermines your research and how you are progressing.

Here are my brief thought on this subject, based off my experiences:

You can also download a transcript of this podcast.

4.2. Finding the Right Work – Exercise

Its good right at the beginning of your PhD to think about firstly what is the priority from your research.  To do this generate a mind map that looks at the following areas:

  • Aims of research
  • Materials needed to conduct research
  • Personnel needed to conduct research
  • Time needed
  • Personal developments needed

Next grab a new piece of paper. On this split into three column. At the top of each column put three jobs that you could be doing whilst studying your PhD. I would recommend putting:

  • Current Job
  • Research Related Jobs
  • Non research related jobs

For example, I had put at the beginning of my studies Open Day Events Manager, Theatre Officer, Office Assistant. Under each column put in how the job matches the aims of your PhD journey. This should give you an overview of how the job could match your research and feed into each other. You might find your current role is perfect for your PhD journey. You might need another job

I would review this the beginning of each year. As I have stated in the recording, sometimes you will need that job that feeds into the research can be beneficial. However, sometime sticking with your current job, as I found, was detrimental for the PhD journey.

4.3 Child Care

Balancing work alongside Child Care adds an extra pressure beyond work. Here is what Chloe had to say on balancing this, alongside

It’s interesting to note for Chloe, childcare took her away from what she sees as her most productive hours. This is where the planning in the previous chapter could help. It can help force you into doing work in your in productive hours, ensuring that you are still moving forward in your delivery.

Here is what Chloe and I have to say on this balance and having to accepting what’s immovable:

You can also download a transcript of this podcast.

Teaching is a vital development tool when you are studying for your PhD. If you’re looking to go into academia after your studies, it adds vital tool and experience to add to your CV. Even if you’re not looking to join the academic world, working with students on core modules can help you gain further insight to the subject matter your teaching. Students can challenge your assumptions, provide genuine insight and help your perfect your critical argument skills.


However, whilst studying part time you already have multiple priorities that this can easily be put to the back of priorities. You should make time for this. Not only can it be a vital element of your study, it pays pretty decently as well.

This section breakdown teaching at Exeter and what you can gain from doing this.

5.1 Why Teach?

Jane has provided a brilliant list of all the reasons you should teach:

You can also download a transcript of this podcast.

5.2 Other options

For those who are distance learners, where travelling to teach on a weekly basis is not possible, there are other options to hone these skills. Chloe for example does mentoring for students remotely. Listen to what Chloe has to say on this:

You can also download a transcript of this podcast.

Again the experience of teaching and mentoring has led Chloe and myself to develop and see a different experience of the PhD experience

The PhD should come with a health warning. These were the infamous words of my PGR tutor when I was struggling. Struggle is a major as part of the PHD process. Be it academically, mentally or physically, wrestling with your research question does becoming an all-consuming task. Even when your brain is “switched off” it isn’t really. The work stays with you. You mulling over ideas constantly. And this takes its tool. Thus, you always, always need to build in breaks from work.

6.1 Importance of Rest

These issues are compounded when working with a part time study. You are trying to balance work, life, research and teaching. You can easily burn yourself out. That is why rest and recuperation is vital for your successful PhD.

I have found that my best re-examinations of my work have come from holidays. Whilst I have been away, and purposely not doing ANY work, you give your brain time and space. You cant stop thinking about your work. Even when you lock it

The PhD Life Raft Podcast did an amazing podcast on rest with psychologist Alex Soojun-Kim Pang. I found this very useful.

They also did one on burnout and why it is common amongst PhD students.

Rest becomes vital. As a part-time student you need to give yourself the space to deal with the other complexities of your life. Give yourself a break and appreciate

6.2  How to build in breaks.

It is hard to build in breaks when you’re studying. There is a constant nagging feeling on your shoulder saying you can always do more. However, I have always found a good strategy is to take a break after a piece of writing. If it’s a small piece I have submitted, I will read and do less taxing elements of the PhD process. If it was a big bit of writing, I would give myself a good couple of days off and then start to read and prepare.

Chloe takes a slightly different approach.

You can also download a transcript of this podcast.

My key advice is to figure out what you would like, works and is most productive of you. I wound use the first year of study to do this. It’s a great time to find your feet, understand the demands of a PhD

Being part time makes you feel extra guilty about rest. DON’T LET IT. You need rest to function and to make your PhD more reflective.

6.3 Moving with change

As the pandemic has shown, there are something that are out of our control. Part Time study however provides the benefit of time to help reconceptualise and move with these changes. Here is what Chloe dealt with changes and how you can think about how your

Here we are at the end. Chloe had some final top tips for the doing your study Part Time.

You can also download a transcript of this podcast.

James Woodhams

James is a researcher, theatre maker and project manager. He has projects managed across multiple types of events and projects, from long terms intervention projects, film and site specific theatre. He has also worked within Higher Education as a facilitator and teacher, leading sessions on producing and directing events. He is currently working at the University within the Innovation, Impact and Business department as the commercialisation manager for the new HASS faculty, helping research turn their research into sustainable funding.

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