Making the leap from full-time work to full-time PhD study

Jacqueline Jenkins had told herself she was finished with full-time education after completing her MBA. However, the pull of further learning proved to be too strong, and once she discovered a funded PhD opportunity at Birmingham City University, Jacqueline knew that a return to education was the right decision.

Securing a funded PhD opportunity

Jacqueline enjoyed undertaking research projects and discovering new information, and the idea of embarking on a PhD was always tempting. “I wanted to do a PhD and once I’d completed my MBA I found I was missing exercising my brain,” she says. “I had told myself that I was done with studying after graduating from my Master’s, but I ended up missing it.”

However, there were further obstacles to overcome, namely the fact Jacqueline had a secure job in higher education. Fortunately, at the time Birmingham City University were advertising a series of STEAM scholarships, interdisciplinary research projects with full-time funding. It proved vital. “Having my fees paid and receiving a bursary meant I could make that jump from work into studies,” Jacqueline says. “Having seen so many of my colleagues struggle with balancing work with their PhD, I knew I wanted to immerse myself in it on a full-time basis.”

Jacqueline is incredibly thankful to the University for the opportunity. “I believe it demonstrates how inclusive and supportive the University is in the opportunities it provides, as I wasn’t the youngest of students when I started,” Jacqueline says. “I am so grateful to my supervisory team for showing faith in me.”

Assessing architecture and photography career paths

Jacqueline’s PhD focuses on two creative industries, architecture and photography, and principally aims to uncover the role higher education plays in shaping the career paths of those pursuing said industries. “I have spoken to undergraduate students in their final year to ascertain how higher education has helped prepare them for obtaining work in their chosen industry,” Jacqueline says. “This includes being or becoming self-employed or working on a freelance basis. I have also spoken to architects and photographers to better understand the factors that support their career progression, including the role of higher education.”

In the long term, Jacqueline hopes her research findings will have considerable influence. “I hope it can provide insight into how higher education shapes entrepreneurial outcomes within the creative industries,” she says. “I am also interested in how higher education can support and develop students’ employability skills, including freelance work.”

Helpful PhD support

Jacqueline is now writing up her findings and has already secured a teaching position at another university. Being a mature student and living away from campus, Jacqueline has made the most of the utilities available. “I use the online library and other facilities a lot, and have also joined several online PhD groups to feel part of a community,” she says. “There have been times where I’ve felt like an imposter, but my supervisory team have been immensely helpful, and I have been impressed by their knowledge and continued guidance.

“The journey has at times been challenging, but it’s one that I am so glad I took.”