Friday, 9 December 2016

The Slough of Despond... and new beginnings

In February of this year, I was ready to push the "Submit" button on my PhD application for pre-candidature. 

All I was waiting on was confirmation from my supervisor that the pre-proposal changes we had discussed, and that I had written up, had hit the mark.

That day, while waiting for this confirmation, I got a phone call. It was my supervisor. "I can't supervise you. I don't have capacity".

"What if we push it back a year?"

"Won't make a difference".

Worse, my secondary supervisor couldn't supervise me, as she was offshore, and Uni regs wouldn't allow a non-resident supervisor. My advisor hadn't finished her own PhD. To say I was pole-axed was an understatement.

Pole-axed because my intended supervisor had heard that I had come up a PhD idea, and had approached me and asked me to develop a different PhD project in answer to a question they posed me. Their Uni would pay my fees, plus a small amount of expenses. I would be the inaugural PhD scholar on their programme. I had been head-hunted.

I felt a bit special: silly, may be, but I had been asked. In return, I felt a duty to do the best for my 'client'. I started by doing lots of thinking and reading.

And after six months of hard work, planning and writing to get to that point, it was ripped away in one five minute phone call. 

The aftermath of this left me in limbo for probably a month, processing what this meant. I had some conversations with academics, fellow-travellers, and after a while, decided to go back to my original PhD idea.

Then I had a conversation with my Master's thesis supervisor, telling him the story. Who immediately said "dump the original idea. It's not exciting" and "do the sports governance thing. It's really topical".

He even suggested a Uni to apply to. 

After a fortnight of thinking about it, I did as he had suggested. I now have two supervisors on my team at that Uni. After some sensible edits, rethinking, refining and clarifications, I pushed the "Submit" button on my pre-proposal.

I am now waiting to hear if the Uni will accept my pre-proposal as it was submitted, or if their Academic Committee will suggest some more edits. 

Into the Slough of Despond (Alcott, 1869, p. 11), again. And apparently out. I will wait and see. 

  • Reference: Alcott, Louisa May (1869). Little Women: or Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy (Fourth Edition, 1915). USA: Orchard House

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