I, like many of my fellow students on MA History programs, aspire to the completion of a PhD in my field. However, with the application deadlines for funding seeming to get earlier every year, I wonder how we are to be expected to produce quality applications in time for the deadline.
As those of us more in need of full funding are less likely to be able to afford a break in employment/funded study between an MA and PhD, we are under increased pressure to apply for a PhD whilst studying for our MA. Only six weeks into my chosen MA course, I find myself already concerned that I am behind on thinking about my PhD thesis topic and preparing the extensive application form for research council funding.
If the purpose of an MA is to prepare students for PhD study, allowing time and providing the necessary resources for the development of research ideas then why are students pushed to make a decision about future research so early? I now find myself in a position where I risk spending too much time on PhD ideas, thus neglecting my MA work, or having to try and find meaningful employment for next year and postponing PhD study. If this is not discouraging for students from a poorer financial background I do not know what is!
With the current fees debate, and the introduction of limited loans available for MAs and PhDs, should we also be considering the ways in which we compete for research council funding, and the impact of such an early deadline for applications? Is not the value of an MA limited if one is not given time for the development of thoughts and research?