Melanie Simms

Melanie consolidated her position in academia through her doctoral education. She is now an Associate Professor at the University of Warwick, working in the industrial relations group.

"I studied for my doctorate at Cardiff Business School, researching how trade unions have organised service sector workers. Before my doctorate I was already working as a research associate at Cardiff Business School. I registered for a part-time doctorate and completed it six years later. During that period, my research post at Cardiff came to an end, and I got a job as a lecturer at the University of Kent.

"My doctorate helped me to consolidate my position in academia. My appointment at the University of Kent, for example, was based on the assumption that I would complete my doctorate in the first year or so. While at Kent, I also completed a postgraduate certificate in higher education (PGCHE) – and the combination of this and my doctorate were pretty crucial later in landing a job at the University of Warwick.

"Where my doctoral research has been particularly helpful is in providing data for solo-authored journal papers, which is important for demonstrating an ability to develop and lead a research area. As I was already an academic when I started the doctorate, I was aware of how important such articles were for Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) submissions – and so I specifically structured my doctoral research to provide the data I would need.

"I am not convinced that doctoral research is the only appropriate apprenticeship for academic social scientists, although most university employers see it as essential. It provides experience of designing, implementing and running a research project from start to finish, writing practice, and an extended research monograph. However, I gained greater experience in managing a research team, securing funding, and of internal academic processes from being a research associate.

"My doctorate gave me confidence that I can manage research interests alongside the more routine academic responsibilities of teaching, administration, etc, that can sometimes consume the energy and focus of less experienced academics. Anyone undertaking a part-time doctorate will need to take a pragmatic approach to the topic and the process – do what is most efficient. Doctoral research is practice for processes you would otherwise probably tackle later in your career, such as managing a research grant or writing a book. You should make space to publish – ultimately this is what you’ll be hired on – and learn to teach as well."