Matthew Williamson

Mathew has a doctorate in information science. He has previously worked as a lecturer, and is now an education adviser at Queen Mary, University of London. As part of this role he undertakes educational research.

The following text is a transcription of a career story collected by interview.

"My name's Matthew Williamson, I'm the Education Adviser at Queen Mary, University of London, and I work with anybody in the college from lecturers, PhD students, to help them improve their teaching.

"The college has certain strategies that we have to meet, but they are very widely framed, so things like improving the quality of teaching and how we choose to do that is up to us. The dissertation I was doing at college was thought to be, by my tutors, thought to be might be suitable for funding, so we put in an application and I got funding to do a PhD, so I did my PhD and then when I was finishing my PhD the college, university I was working at said there was a job coming up as a lecturer – do you want to apply for it? So, it was sort of, I rather fell into it rather than erm choosing to do it I suppose.

"My job as it is, is very sort of self-managed, I, I, because I work in development it's one of those things that things are going on anyway – so if I weren't, I suppose if I weren't there people would still be teaching, the university wouldn't come to an end if I weren't there. So I have to make an effort to make a difference. So the PhD in terms of making sure that you manage your own time and you motivate yourself has been really helpful.

"Apart from anything else it shows that you are able to commit to a sustained period of work on something. You are unlikely to have to sustain for as long as you would on a PhD in employment. But I think just that you can't be a fly-by-night and do a PhD because you've got to be able to concentrate on one subject or one topic for a period of time. Erm, and I think also the discipline that a PhD gives you, you've got to be able to do things, you've got to be able to manage yourself and work yourself and organise in a lot of cases quite complicated projects. You know liaising with lots of different organisations, liaising with different people to get things working.

"You've got to want to do whatever it is you are doing in terms of the project, and that's my big advice. 'Cause I've seen so many people who want to do a PhD, or think they do and then they start a project and then they realise when it's too late that actually they can't live with this project for the next three years. And I think if you're going to do a PhD you've got to be committed in some way to the actual subject matter that you are going to be looking at.

"As part of my job now, I do research. I'm, I sort of run the research function for our college in terms of educational research. So I am now, I've just been doing a big large scale project looking at students entering higher education. So I am still doing research even though I'm, it's not my main part of my job, but it's a sizeable part of my job now.

"I haven't planned what I wanted to do, but I've ended up doing something that I enjoy and that I would never have, if I'd been planning, I would never have ended up here ‘cause I didn't even know this kind of job existed. Where I work, it's quite important to have a doctorate. It gives you credibility amongst the staff, if you are working with people who are Professor this and Professor that. If you are at meetings and you don't have a doctorate you are just down as Joe Bloggs, whereas if you have a doctorate you are down as Doctor Joe Bloggs. And erm it's quite formal and being able to say, being able to say I've got a doctorate, and also to be able to say to the PhD students when I am doing, training them to teach, I've been through what you've done, I taught when I was a PhD student, I've done that, I know what its like, I know what the pressures are like. And it is doable, you may not think it is at the moment but it really is, and those sorts of things, I think it is really worthwhile and really helpful to people.

"I think that a lot of people think the only option is to go into academia erm, and I think having talked to employers in various different ways, through things like employers forums and liaison bodies and having been validator on various courses around the country, I think there's definitely a, you know people look for PhD students or are quite happy to employ PhD students in jobs that aren't in academia, and I do think people tend to think, oh well if I'm doing a PhD the only thing I can do is go into academia."