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.

Going back to University – again

University is one of those really odd prospects.

When I was younger, I think it was just a given that I would study for a degree.

I don’t think it was as much a given for my older brother but he did, he took the decision to study in England. Now, too many years on, he has built a successful career on the back of his degree, and since he graduated has probably only spent a handful of years living in the UK.
My younger brother didn’t go to uni, and I believe his success outranks mine and that of my older brother. My little brother is a creative, an innovator, and appears to have work life balance completely in control.

I think about my children, and whilst currently there are no university fees in Wales, I can’t help but think this won’t be the case long-term. I consider now that going to university has to completely align to an aspiration of going into a profession, given the debts it is likely attendance will stack up. Compared to a degree-level apprenticeship, where in the right occupation you will earn more and be more credible by gaining employment whilst you earn rather than going to university.

That said, like any amazing parent I don’t practice what I preach.Back to universityI think I was in one of the final years in the UK where a non-profession based degree had currency in employment. In more recent years I have found myself recruiting people with higher academic qualifications to do lower level jobs. There seemed to be a time where academia became overrated.

It would seem for being born at the right time (even as an August baby!) I am grateful.

I graduated from Cardiff University in 1999, in the same year I also graduated from Glamorgan University. The former with a BA (Hons) the latter with a HNC.

In 2001 I started working for the organisation which still employs me- despite everything. My degree was not relevant to my role, but the commitment to achieve it obviously had currency.

And fortunately the organisation invest in its people. In the time I’ve been employed I have added a string of qualifications to my bow which have stood me in good stead.

The one of which I am most proud is my MBA. I am not really sure what inspired me to commit to it, but I gained so much through the achievement.

It saw me through some of my toughest times personally and professionally. It saw me gain a promotion. It allowed me to understand fully the camaraderie of classmates. All of us in jobs trying to get a work-study balance. Many with families, many gaining partners, and families. It also enabled a once-in-a-lifetime study trip (ahem) to Beijing, where I think I spent the first days in complete disbelief of where life had taken me. MBA university students in BeijingIt saw me become pregnant, and trying to balance work and a dissertation with my impending due date. Fortunately CM went overdue which meant I managed to graduate, and graduate with my 4 month old daughter. MBA university graduation with 4mth babyAnd that was it.
My life became absorbed with family.

And whilst I have done a few courses since- and loved them, I have tried to sign up to longer term qualifications and  known at induction that I was not committed to them- you have to want to study, there will be compromises. And up until now I haven’t been able to make them, I haven’t wanted.

But with impending redundancy came reflection.
I remembered that before the dream of a family was the aspiration of a doctorate.
Thoughts cemented around a research area.
With compressed hours, living back in South Wales, and the children now immersed in education. 
Well, it seems the timing is right.

Teachers Homemade Gifts- Ice Cream Hamper

I’m not sure why it started but creating a hamper at Christmas and the end of year for the teaching team at school has become a bit of a thing.

At the end of the last school year we had fun creating a gardening themed gift, this year with the weather pretending we were going to experience a sun-filled summer we decided on an ice-cream themed hamper.Teachers Ice Cream HamperOne of the things I always struggle with is what to put our hampers in. As we make hampers for the LSAs and teachers, this for us totals 8 (and I hate to think what it will be next year with B & E going into separate classes!). Baskets tend to add to the expense, and yet aren’t what the gift is about. This year, coincidentally I bought the children a load of shoes in the Clarks’ sale and I decided to use them by covering the boxes in brown paper and getting the children to decorate them and lined with tissue paper. Perfectly individual and really, really low-cost.

We filled the hamper with:

  • Ice-cream sprinkles
  • Salted caramel sauce
  • Malteser Vodka
  • Ice-cream tubs
  • Ice-cream spoons
  • Napkins
  • Cocktail umbrellas

There were other things we could have included, such as ice-cream cones or an ice-cream scoop, or you could go with sundae glasses if you had more pennies to spend. As it was for us, the contents fitted perfectly in a shoe box, and we wrapped with cellophane as the lid wouldn’t fit.

I did change the presentation from the version above by separating the tubs and placing the sprinkles into the tub.Teachers Ice Cream Hamper GoodiesThe tubs, napkins, spoons and umbrellas all came from Dotcomgiftshop. The sprinkles were from Asda and Morrisons. I thought they’d look better (and cement the clue that there was an ice-cream theme!) putting them in cellophane bags (from The Works) and adding a topper which matched the tubs and napkins. I created them on Picmonkey and printed them as nine to a page of card which seemed to work. I then cut them folded in half and stapled them over the filled cellophane bag.Confetti ice-cream hamper printableFor the home-made gifts I must admit to finding convenience this year over previous experiments.

Both the vodka and caramel sauce were presented in jars which needed sterilising. 

I sterilised them by washing in hot, soapy water, rinsing, and them placing in an oven, fan heated at 120 degrees celsius for 15 minutes.For the Malteser Vodka I added 70g of maltesers per 100mls of vodka and mixed in a Nutribullet until blended. You do need to do this a few days in advance and shake every day as it’s really about the maltesers melting into the vodka. Using the Nutribullet takes the stress out of the process with (according to Mr J) delicious results.
Teachers Ice Cream toppersThis year I decided to try making the caramel sauce using a slow cooker. The results definitely worked but were a little trial and error.

The best way was to put baking paper in the bottom of the slow cooker, put tins of condensed milk on top, fill with water until the tins are covered. Either put the slow cooker on low for 18 hours or on high for 10 hours. 

Take out of the water and leave until completely cool. Open the tin and fold in sea salt to taste.

Fill up the jars and seal shut.

 

And they were hopefully well received and consumed!