PhD English Literature (Distance Learning) – Selena Rathwell


My name is Selena Rathwell and I’m a member of the PhD distance learning programme, my focus is English Literature, and right now I’m researching the work of expatriate novels written in the Middle East but in English. I chose to research in English because I’m incredibly passionate about the subject, I’ve been teaching English Literature for the last six years and I really wanted an opportunity to teach at university too, and PhD is the best avenue for that, also was kind of stuck in my research field and I thought I had something unique to offer living in the Middle East so I thought it would be great to continue onto the PhD. Well the University of Birmingham has a fantastic tradition of research in English Literature particularly, it is really well-respected, it has a fantastic international reputation, and it was also able to offer me the kind of flexibility I need. I currently live in the Middle East and a lot of universities wanted me to come to campus for the majority of the research but Birmingham had allowed me to be much more flexible. The University has a really really great structure to support PhD learners, you’re assigned a supervisor immediately and you’re given a co-supervisor and a mentor, so those three people really help you in your research both academically and with any administration. The distance learning community at Birmingham is a real mix of people with people in the English Department, in Classics, in Theology, in Law, it’s a large group and everyone is very very social and supportive of each other. I think the residential programme at Birmingham is one of the most important parts of the distance learning PhD because for two weeks we’re really really immersed in academia and immersed in the kind of environment that we all wish we could have access to more permanently. There’s a variety of seminars that they put on for us including teaching, EndNote referencing, copyright issues, diversity and equality, and through all of this you’re with the same cohort, so it’s again it’s building that community. It’s not only about coming here for the kind of nitty-gritty parts of the PhD but also for social aspect and to build relationships with people. I really enjoyed being part of an academic community as a researcher you have access to room, special rooms in the library, you have access to staff house which is a really great restaurant on campus, and you are always surrounded by a community which really really helps when you’re working in isolation as a distance learner you want that support, and I feel that Birmingham really offers that. After I complete my research I’m going to sleep for about two years and after that I will continue publishing and hopefully apply for a position teaching at a university, I’m looking at universities particularly in the Middle East but also because Birmingham is so international looking at universities in Canada and the United States.

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