When does a PhD end?

When does a PhD end? This is a bit of an awkward question. I’ve now handed in my thesis, typed, proofed and bound, and am waiting to have my viva on 2nd October 2015. My PhD isn’t officially over until my examiners, Tiffany Stern and Christopher Tilmouth, decide that my work is good enough and allow me (after completing any corrections) to receive a doctorate at a ceremony most likely due to take place in November 2015 at the earliest.

So my PhD ends in November 2015. Or does it? As far as the University of Cambridge and my college are concerned, my PhD ended when I submitted the thesis: I no longer have to pay college fees or university tuition, and my grant has come to an end as well. This seems right too, particularly as I now live and work several hundred miles away from the Great Saint Mary’s (the traditional point for measuring one’s distance from Cambridge).

So my PhD has already ended. I think my examiners would disagree. And, to be frank, so do I. Indeed, I’m beginning to wonder now if PhDs ever really end, even once has gone through all the rituals of closure. Like others before me, my thesis will hopefully constitute the basis of my first book and my continuing research and teaching interests in the years ahead. Quite how many years that may be, I can’t possibly know, but a quick mental survey indicates that the number is likely to be quite high.

I ask these questions here because this post introduces an already advertised shift in the identity of this blog. Rather than something tied to the trials and tribulations of a PhD, it will become a more general space for academic reflection. As my opening paragraphs have just shown, this might even be a more honest approach to the nature of one’s development as a researcher, which rarely follows the boundaries of administrations or qualifications.

Some changes are in order. They are:

  • A new category “Thesis”, which will replace both the awkward categorisation by chapter, which never really worked, even if it now makes an interesting record of what shape I expected my dissertation to take between 2012 and 2015.
  • Further recategorisation by subject, to make it easier to find material and to connect past and present work. This includes removing the label “Outside thesis”, for obvious reasons.
  • A slightly different look to the website and an update to the master pages (“About”, etc,)


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