Should I stay, or should I go? Follow my supervisor or swap?

I started my PhD at the University of Portsmouth, where I have been very happy. At the end of last year my PhD supervisor, Dr Yi-Ling Lai, told me that she had been offered a role at Birkbeck, University of London, which left me a choice; stay at University of Portsmouth and swap supervisors or apply to Birkbeck, University of London and, if accepted, remain with my supervisor.

Birkbeck were very good, saying they would look on a move favourably, as long as I had completed my major review, got ethical approval for my research and had commenced it, which I had. However, there were many things I needed to consider.

First of all, I would need to learn about another University. I don’t know about anyone else, but I found Universities make a number of assumptions that you know the area, know their acronyms and, by some form of osmosis, you’ll understand their IT system. I know it is a comfort factor, but once I’d got used to a process, did I really need the distraction of learning another one.

Next, what about my emails? When I started my PhD I was given a University of Portsmouth Gmail account and transferring would mean that getting ‘switched off’.

Finally, although it sounded like an informal process, that rarely happens in academia. So, what if i didn’t get accepted? I was given the same counsel as I give employees of companies; “don’t resign from one until you get a written offer from the other”.

Well, I decided I would like to stick with my supervisor, so I decided to step out of my comfort zone and make the move. The informal interview went well, but was predictably followed by the bureaucratic process of completing the ‘War and Peace’ application form. Well, it all worked, as today (24th August 2020) I have enrolled with Birkbeck.

I cannot deny, it is unsettling still being between Universities. I’ve finished the term at Portsmouth and the next term at Birkbeck doesn’t start until October. For me, the relationship between my supervisor and I is a key necessity, so I am looking forward to the next chapter of my journey.

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