Doing enough fast enough

There’s a lot of talk within academia about how the PhD alone is not enough. No. As well as completing an original and rigorous thesis, we are also supposed to gain experience in teaching, administration, and event coordination, have a track record of publications and conference presentations, and have mastered professional social networking. All in three years. No wonder we often feel like we’re not doing enough.

Well into my third year, with the end of funding looming ominously on the horizon, I am feeling these pressures like never before. Fears scrutinising the gaps in my CV pierce those 1am churning thoughts. I’ve checked off many of the requirements; and I’ve got a fair few to go, including the biggie – completing and editing the thesis. But what I’ve realised is that no matter where I am, I’ll always feel like I’ve not done enough. This could partially be due to the changing requirements of a PhD graduate. I guess that’s how the world functions, especially with developing technology and changing job roles. This is even more the case within academia where teaching and research is no longer enough, and academics are forced under mountains of administrative paperwork, the need to bring in crucial financial support, and the ever-present demands of social impact. And if we want to make it in academia, us PhD students have to adhere to these demands too. In such a competitive environment with scarce job opportunities, doing enough is no longer enough. Like UCAS all over again, we have to do more than enough. Without even knowing what enough actually is.

And more than that, we have to do it soon enough. With under a year of funding left, I’m starting to get asked that question about when I’m going to finish and hand in. And all too often, when coming from outside of academia, it’s accompanied with the implication that passing this ‘deadline’ constitutes a failure. Indeed, a renowned academic within my department highlights that finishing “on time” is more important than getting teaching or publications. But what does “on time” even mean?! And where does this lie in conjunction with the three years of funding and the fairly widely accepted notion of a writing up year? Obviously a PhD cannot be prescribed temporally given that it is a personal journey of research, as is reflected by the year long hand-in period given me upon starting the PhD. I guess that leaves me chasing moving goalposts. And never quite knowing where I am.


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