Emma Jane is a doctoral research student here at Bradford and has been part of the Bradford family since starting her undergraduate degree in 2016. In her blog, she tells us about the journey from undergraduate, through her Master’s, to being the research student she is today.
I started my first degree in Community and Public Health in 2016. I then went on to complete my postgraduate taught (Master’s) programme last year and am now five months into doctoral research training as part of a postgraduate scholarship funded by the Faculty of Health Studies at the University of Bradford.
It felt like a natural progression to stay at Bradford for my postgraduate study. I had spent three years taking advantage of the facilities and it made sense to continue my academic journey where I felt comfortable.
Student support services at the University are comprehensive. Counselling and Mental Health Services, Disability Services, and the Careers and Employability Centre have all helped me at some point, not forgetting the Library team, Students’ Union and student social spaces that are welcoming for all, even to me as a mature learner.
Catching the research bug
I have the research bug! When I signed up for my undergraduate degree, my goal was to wear the cap and gown and become the first member of my family to do so. Once that goal was within reach, I set a new one, which was to go beyond undergraduate and see how far I could take my academic career. I completed the Master in Public Health (MPH) which gave me the research skills to support my PhD training. I guess my new end goal is to be successful in my doctoral studies, celebrate with a different cap and gown, and of course I’d like to continue with a career that involves research.
The right thing to do
Continuing with my studies felt like the right thing to do for me. When making the commitment to take on a degree, it is really important that you can make space in your life to embrace it fully and the time was right for me in terms of my family commitments. I knew that if I didn’t carry on, life would throw me a new challenge and I probably never would.
I stayed with the University of Bradford for my Master’s because I enjoyed the undergraduate programme. The MPH was extra challenging as the step up between levels is a big one. The University advertises scholarships, something I would never have seen had I studied elsewhere. I saw this as an opportunity to take another step so applied and committed to another three years with the University.
Adjusting to more independent learning
There are elements of undergraduate that feel like going back to school. The structure of lectures and workshops, the extra modules that incorporate study skills, and careers advice and working collaboratively with other students to deliver projects were all part of the learning experience. Being a mature student, this became frustrating at times as I needed to manage not only my timetable on campus and for my independent study, but I had to manage the commitments of my family, my peers and somewhere in there find some time to rest.
At postgraduate level it is very different. It is expected that postgraduate students are mature, independent learners and there is more freedom to manage your own study journey. Meeting deadlines with this level of autonomy doesn’t come easy to some, meaning it can be stressful at times. For me, the sudden urge to clean, or do anything other than sit and read or write was something I had to deal with very quickly.
Some students start a PhD on completion of their undergraduate degree, but I felt that the extra year on a postgraduate taught programme was worth the effort. It prepared me for complete independence in designing, planning and executing my own research project and I am thoroughly enjoying being able to choose my own path.
Building connections in Bradford
I have spent the last five or so years developing an in depth understanding of health and social care. Generic modules such as Psychology and Sociology, Project Management, and Organisational Structure and Culture. These types of module use the same (or similar) theory regardless of where you are in the UK.
On the other hand, there are elements of training that need to be applied to one community in order to be understood fully. This is where the opportunity for building connections with your local area can open doors for future careers. Networking opportunities created during undergrad have helped immensely when building my research career.
I study close to where I live and consider myself connected to the health and social care community in ways that would never be possible if I had moved between cities. The University of Bradford is passionate about developing partnerships with other universities and this has allowed me access to a wider training programme with different academic communities whilst staying part of the Bradford family.