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Student Testimonials

Holly Howitt - Creative and Critical Writing

The SchoolboyMy undergraduate degree was in English Literature, and I studied Creative Writing at Master's level, so studying for a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing seemed like a natural progression. My thesis contained a strong critical backbone, but it also allowed me to explore creative writing (both my own, and the work of others) whilst receiving supportive and encouraging supervision from both Dr Richard Gwyn and Professor Martin Coyle. Studying at Cardiff University gave me the opportunity to develop my own academic and creative expertise, and to receive expert guidance when I needed it.

Holly Howitt, who completed her PhD in 2008, is the author of The Schoolboy, Exposure and Dinner Time and Other Stories. She is co-director of the MA in Creative Writing at Portsmouth University.

James Smythe - Creative and Critical Writing

The TestimonyWhile studying for my PhD at Cardiff the assistance and help that I was given by my tutor was utterly invaluable, always salient and always beneficial to both the creative and critical aspects of my work. The feedback and help shaped (or, maybe, beat) the novel into publishable shape - and that novel was published, at the end of 2009. The skills that I learned pushed me towards becoming a better writer, and directly led towards the novels that form my publishing deal with HarperCollins. As a result of my PhD, I also undertook teaching work in a few different institutions, got a contract working on the script for a major computer game, and have had critical/non-fictional articles about writing and the publishing industry published. Last - but by no means least - was the peer contact I had during the PhD, which was perhaps most important of all. Having a feedback and support system offered by other students on the course was wonderful, and really helped push me towards my goal of completion.

James Smythe completed his PhD in 2008. He is the author of Hereditation (2010), and he has a two book deal with HarperCollins consisting of The Testimony (2012) and The Explorer (2013).

Robert Walton - Creative and Critical Writing

Thought-provoking, challenging, enriching – a busy, productive year in which the range and quality of my writing has expanded far more than anticipated. In a nurturing environment, our group enjoyed rigorous, supportive workshops led by professional writers who were generous with their insights and advice. We gained confidence in the presentation of our work at the open mics, while our understanding of the creative processes of writing increased through lively discussions and stimulating reading. The teaching module provided excellent opportunities to extend our experience, knowledge and skills in a variety of contexts, and the Gregynog residential was a very special, memorable occasion.

Dharmender Dhillon - Philosophy

Whilst undertaking my MA in Ethics and Social Philosophy here, I found both the academic and administrative staff very friendly and supportive, and the research environment to be extremely vibrant. Hence, I did not hesitate to apply to undertake a PhD research project in an environment which I was confident would be able to provide me with the expertise, as well as support – both academic and pastoral – in order to successfully complete my research. Now in the second year of my project, my initial expectations have proven to have been well-founded.

The department is constituted of highly knowledgeable academics of international repute, who together deliver an impressive array of specialisms. Furthermore, Cardiff’s postgraduate Philosophy cohort is bustling, with plenty of social as well as more formal opportunities to network and develop ideas. Considering Cardiff’s well-earned reputation as a welcoming, easily-accessible and dynamic city, I would highly recommend prospective graduate students to consider the Philosophy department.

Emily Blewitt - English Literature

I first came to study at Cardiff in 2010 – under rather different circumstances.  I began my PhD as a part-time student; I was working full-time in an office and commuting from Carmarthen every day.  Life was pretty busy! I spent much of my first two years frantically juggling commitments and finding various ‘gaps’ in which to write and research (mostly on the train).  However, the highly supportive staff and students at ENCAP (including an extremely understanding supervisor) helped me to avoid feeling adrift from the research community.  They increased my confidence about my project by showing real appreciation for what I was attempting to achieve and combined that with a healthy dose of practical help.  Many research students balance academic study with work – the trick is to accept that it is a balancing act, and that there must be compromises made along the way.  I was not able to be in the department every day – but evening lectures (such as those run by the Centre for Editorial and Intertextual Research) were invaluable for prompting ideas, and teaching first year undergraduates also helped me feel that I was participating in university life.   

This life changed again during 2012: I managed to secure AHRC funding, and have now become a full-time student.  I work on the representation of pregnancy by women writers (my thesis is entitled ‘Hidden Mothers and Poetic Pregnancy (1792-present day)’) and I am enjoying the chance to immerse myself fully in this research without having to worry about paying the bills.  I feel very lucky both to be in this position and to be at Cardiff.   

Erica Moore - English Literature

After submitting my PhD in November 2011, I was fortunate to acquire teaching hours in the English Department at the University of Glamorgan.  I was given the opportunity to present lectures and seminars on 20th-century American literature, a topic related to my thesis.  The work was demanding and required quick thinking, planning and reading, but there are many benefits to learning about the realities of your role as a university lecturer in an incremental manner.  Hourly-paid lecturing is a transitional career step on the academic ladder and gives one a liveable income, as well as the time to continue developing a research profile. After the arduousness of the PhD, it is pleasant to work in academia, but without the pressures and time constrictions of a full-time post.  Once you’ve built up a more impressive range of teaching experiences, and some additional publications or engagements, job applications seem to write themselves.

After my initial stint at Glamorgan, they renewed my contract and I am presently teaching 19th-century American fiction and a writing course for business students, and, next term, a module on the 19th-century novel.  I also teach weekly literature seminars at Cardiff Metropolitan University.  Similar to the PhD process, hard-work, dedication and maintaining a departmental presence are significant factors in acquiring and maintaining work after being released from the shackles of studentdom.  Donning your newly-acquired ‘doctoral’ crown is only a surface gesture that may not even get you noticed.

The PhD process taught me vital skills for the career that I want: communicating orally and in writing to a variety of audiences (students, colleagues, public groups); managing my time and prioritising tasks; and researching and selecting appropriate materials and designing effective learning plans and goals for seminars and lectures.  Most importantly, the thesis improved my writing and solidified my research and writing methods.

Rhys Tranter - English Literature

There are many reasons why people decide to pursue an MA or PhD. For some, it might be a lifelong ambition, for others it could be something new – a welcome change. I think that for me it was a combination of the two, and choosing a place to start was a difficult choice. So, why did I choose Cardiff University? For a start, let’s make no bones about it, Cardiff University boasts excellent research resources: it offers a wealth of archival materials, great libraries, and a strong research faculty. In other words, it offers the kinds of qualities you generally read about in leaflets and brochures like this one. But, for me, the greatest thing about Cardiff is its sense of community. Staff are friendly and helpful, researchers are excellent guides happy to challenge and encourage you, and fellow students become friends that are enthusiastic and supportive. I have found that the research facilities here have given me a strong foundation for my work, but the support of Cardiff University’s research community has given me the confidence to turn my interests into more than just a hobby. 

Ben Saunders - Centre for Language and Communication Research

I completed my PhD at the Centre for Language and Communication Research in March of this year, researching the experiences of young adults with chronic illness, using Discourse Analysis.

Throughout the four years of my PhD I found CLCR to be an extremely supportive, friendly and intellectually stimulating environment. Both the academic and administrative staff are very encouraging and willing to help at all times. The department provides a very friendly, relaxed atmosphere in which to work, and I was also lucky enough to make many lasting friends during my time there.

In addition to the support I received in writing my PhD, there were many opportunities for me to participate in other activities within the school. I was able to teach undergraduate seminars, which was an enjoyable and rewarding experience, and I arranged and ran a postgraduate seminar series within the department, where other postgraduates, staff members and outside speakers would come and talk about their research.

The PhD supervision I received was excellent. My supervisors are eminent researchers in their field and helped me in many ways to develop my ideas and research skills, giving me support and advice in both academic and pastoral matters.

I am currently working as a research assistant at the University of York on a project about people who have suffered serious brain injuries. I am very much enjoying this new role and I hope to continue a career in academia in the future.

Daisy Seabourne - Philosophy

Undertaking a part-time PhD in philosophy at Cardiff University has enabled me to combine work with study. Choosing the part-time option has given me all the benefits of the facilities and teaching at Cardiff whilst continuing with my career. I work in the public sector and my employer recognises the benefits that postgraduate study will bring to me as an employee but also to the organisation as a whole. They allow me time to attend training provided by the Graduate Centre, as well as seminars and meetings with my supervisor and this support has been invaluable. Study at Cardiff University has opened up new opportunities for me and, although it’s hard work, is proving to be an incredibly fulfilling experience.