There will be NO PhD.

Featured Image: close up of Big Sexy by Leigh

07 Dec 2019

Sounds pretty final right? Well, it is.

I will admit freely that I have been hesitant all along about doing a PhD. It was an idea that would seem exciting and terrifying depending on when I pondered it.

Before ethics forms and SIP, before the PgCert even, I had discussed the idea of becoming part of academia with Renée Gosline, a young Black female Professor (a veritable unicorn!) Her advice suggested some really straightforward techniques, but I wondered… would I be prepared to play a game of politics, back-biting, working around the old boys network and power madness that I had no interest in?

I do not play games well. I’m more of a brutal honesty kind of girl. Thankfully, I landed in one of the most welcoming placements ever and experienced none of the games she mentioned, but I assume that’s down to me being such a small player in the game, no one had time to sneeze on me. I’ve seen the struggle Aisha and Shades of Noir go through. I’ve heard the horror stories from other PgCert Teaching Within peers who’s placements weren’t as welcoming as mine (read: downright hostile).

Attending the Black in Academia event at the British Library was likely my first real insight into the specifics of a PhD, not just academia in general. The statistics for BAME students getting PhD funding, the hard slog to find the right supervisor, the right uni, possibly even moving house, getting more in debt instead of finally earning some money… Believe it or not, these speakers were trying to encourage us to do PhD’s. Leading Routes organised this event

“to strengthen the academic pipeline for Black students”

(Leading Routes, 2019)

The speakers’ achievements were certainly inspirational but they were also quite candid about their experiences, some more painful than others. My whole reason for entertaining the notion of the PhD in the first place was as a means to research and create my exhibition within a framework and network that could support me and add credibility to the work I wanted to do. My thinking was that if I was going to do the research anyway, why not get the qualification with it? But I left that event with one question in mind – Do I want to do a PhD?

The thing that really sealed the deal for me was SIP. To my understanding, the SIP is a pretty small scale research project. It doesn’t delve into methodologies and philosophy but you are required to research your research methods as much as you research your topic and let me tell you, that was my jumping off point. I found myself reading a journal article called The Qualitative Research Interview (Qu and Dumay, 2011) to get some insight into my research method. It took me a full day and I’m still not finished. I ended up having to read it with a dictionary, of sorts. You can read about that mess here. Here’s a line from it to give you a flavour of my torture.

“we draw upon Alvesson’s (2003) re-conceptualization of the interview method from the neopositivist, romanticist and localist perspective”

(Qu and Dumay, 2011)

By 4pm, my head hurt, literally. That was the day I knew without a shadow of a doubt I was not a fan of formal academic research. Or maybe I like research, I just can’t be bothered with all this research philosophy. For me, research is a tool, not an area of interest in and of itself. During the Formative Presentation, my tutor blessedly assured me that I didn’t need to delve into all the isms (methodologies) but she did get excited that I had figured out that my approach was interpretive (thank Qu and Dumay for that). I guess research philosophy is her thing. Good for her! Somebody has to do it, please Lord, just not me.

Which raises a good point. I’m pretty sure that at this point in time when all I want to do is get to creating this exhibition, a PhD is not my best route. This does not mean that a Practice PhD might not be the perfect thing for someone else aiming to create a social change exhibition that inspires action. This might be the perfect route for someone who absolutely relishes the philosophy aspect as much a my lecturer does. Just not me.

And so it is, with the lightest heart possible and the widest smile on my already broad face, that I say definitively – There will be NO PhD.

And yes, I am beaming!


Qu, S.Q. and Dumay, J. (2011). The qualitative research interview. Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, [online] 8(3), pp.238–264. Available at: [Accessed 29 Nov. 2019].

‌Leading Routes (2019). Black in Academia: Staying the Course. In: Black in Academia: Staying the Course. Black in Academia: Staying the Course. London, UK: Leading Routes, p.2.

‌Ross, S.L. (2018). On Academia. [WhatsApp Chat]. Not publicly available. [Accessed 12 Jul. 2018]