Going back to Uni – Professional Doctorate Personal Statement

I’ve previously mentioned how supportive the university were in ensuring my understanding of the demands undertaking doctorate level study. The two written undertakings which allow the university to assess my commitment were the professional doctorate personal statement and research proposal. Fortunately, the school were willing to review my submissions in advance, as well as the benefit of ensuring your aspirations can be supported by the university it also makes sure that you’re sure that you’re not trying to fit your square peg in a round hole.

The school provided fantastic guidance in structuring my personal statement, and I thought- especially when I’m demotivated in the future- it would be good to share it here. Especially as it seems it didn’t require amendment, it’s nice to think I got something right first time, which I’m guessing with starting modules in September it’s not likely to continue.

So, here it is, this is me:Professional Doctorate Personal Statement“My aspiration to undertake doctoral level study began when completing my under-graduate degree at Cardiff. At that time I was committed to the idea that undertaking training, and the opportunity education offers has the potential to change lives. Then, as now, I enjoy and find rewarding the process of gaining new knowledge, the commitment to exploring different territories to add context to understanding.

Life took its path, I moved to England for work, and in 2001 I began working in a strategic capacity for an industry training board, an organisation which encourages businesses to take responsibility to upskill its workforce and improve the image of the construction sector to attract new recruits. In keeping with this ethos, the organisation supported me in returning to study, first through a level 5 diploma and later an MBA.

Life again had a path, and whilst I had planned to continue my studies from an MBA into a doctorate programme, my hope of a family also came true- my daughter was due on the same day as my dissertation.

We made the decision to return to South Wales, to benefit from a family support network, and now, with my children in full-time education, I believe the time is right to commence this programme. In my time employed I have honed my thoughts on the benefits of study and the benefits of upskilling from a business perspective. Throughout my employment I have maintained a good level of learning and improvement, my employment relies on my ability to work at a strategic and operational level and demonstrate benefits realised. I have consistently undertaken roles within the organisation which take an idea from concept to realisation, and this ability relies strongly on gaining a sound knowledge base and undertaking a range of communication styles, from reports to presentations to meetings, to ensure the success of the realisation of products, services and guidance. These skills will allow me to apply myself to doctoral study and this will be complemented by the lifestyle we now have in Wales. I am fully supported by my employer in applying for this opportunity, and also work compressed hours which means I will have at least a day a week to commit to the programme as well as employer support around modules and study.

Should I be successful in completing the modules I would like to work on a thesis which contributes to a subject area I believe in passionately, I would like to work on a thesis which supports the idea that training and education is more than a financial transaction, and in the case of my organisation- that training is simply a way to get your levy back in grant. I would like to demonstrate the wider benefits that employers gain from investing in their workforce- at a company, sector, and UK level. Through the roles I have undertaken at work I have learned about the Social Value Act and Community Benefits. I have worked with more philanthropic companies as well as charities, taking forward the economic case of bringing people into work, but I believe the benefits to be far wider- that upskilling as well as employment has an impact on overall success as an economy. I would like to base my thesis around the social value of training and the return on social investment for businesses.

In undertaking this study I would like to make a contribution to my workplace which has a wider impact on the work we undertake.”

Phew. A walk in the park then.

Going back to University – a Professional Doctorate

Once I had decided that I wanted to pursue a professional doctorate, I admit to taking the easy option in assessing the ‘how’.

In 2008 (pre-pregnancy) I had begun talking to Salford Uni about doing a doctorate at Salford Uni once I’d completed my MBA. It was an easy option: I lived locally, and had been working closely with them on a couple of work-based projects, it was easy to make enquiries. Professional DoctorateIn 2015 my first option was to approach my nearest university- Cardiff. I had approached them last July, before all the redundancy stuff became real, thinking the time would soon be right with the boys starting school in September. The university was really responsive in what was possible. And it was positive. This university offer four options in the school of social sciences, two of which offered possibilities for me. But life got in the way, I started a new role at the end of August and found my substantive role was to be made redundant in October.

In February of this year I started exploring with my organisation the possibility of applying to stay. This included what was important to them and what was important to me.

Fortunately they agreed that my desire to undertake a research project was beneficial to both the organisation and me. And alongside my application for a job I also started building my thought process around a research project at Cardiff, and undertaking a doctorate.

Once again, the university was quick to support me. Helping me understand the commitment expected, the work that had to be undertaken to be accepted onto the programme, and my options now and moving forward. The school also worked with me to understand what I wanted to achieve within my research proposal. I was surprised by the work I needed to undertake for my application, especially being outside of academia with limited access to journals and papers. But I needed to demonstrate why my research proposal would add value, and also allow the university to assess whether they were best placed to support me. Fortunately a supervisor came forward and it looks like my research is really possible.

Being successful in my application to stay at work happened quickly, the process of gaining relevant permissions to undertake study not so much. 

Again, the university was understanding. Typically I worked literally to the deadline to submit my application on July 15th.

Which meant – fortunately- there wasn’t so much of a wait to find out if my application had been successful.

On August 4th an email popped into my inbox- an unconditional offer to undertake a Professional Doctorate in Social and Public Policy at Cardiff University.

I may have celebrated with a bottle of Prosecco.

I realise now that unconditional is logical, I’m not undertaking any current study to make it conditional. But wow, do I remember how envious I was who anyone who received an unconditional offer back in the day.

Then the hangover and reality dawned.

Five years of reality.