Kevin O’Gorman is Professor of Management and Business History and Head of Business Management in the School of Languages and Management in Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. He trained in Glasgow, Salamanca and Rome as a philosopher, theologian and historian. His research interests have a dual focus: Origins, history and cultural practices of hospitality, and philosophical, ethical and cultural underpinnings of contemporary management practices. Using a wide range of methodological approaches he has published over 80 journal articles, books, chapters, and conference papers in business and management.

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What is a Scholarship PhD Project?

Project based PhDs are not normally an open call for projects, academic staff will offer specific and clearly delimited PhD proposals which the successful candidates will be expected to carry out. These PhD projects will normally include some direction around: aim and objectives, theoretical and contextual literature, and data collection plan (including access to data). With a fully funded three year full-time PhD Scholarship, you could expect to see included: PhD fees; maintenance allowance which are often tax and national insurance exempt and is expected to cover normal living expenses; a contribution towards conference attendance, and additional funding may be available for research training. Research training is central to the PhD process and any training necessary to undertake a PhD will be delivered through a variety of means including attendance courses, sometimes in the form of a PGDip in Research Methods, supervised and directed training, even external courses as appropriate.


Why are these Scholarships offered?

Research project need researchers, and PhD students play an important part in the academic life of any department / faculty / school / college.  Originally universities were established with advanced degrees being offered in the vocations of medicine, law, and theology.  Over time, the universities have adapted to accommodate changing economic and social structures and demand for skills.  Indeed, Whitehead (1932, p. 138f) in an essay welcoming the opening of the Harvard Business School observed,


“The universities are schools of education and schools of research.  But the primary reason for their existence is not to be found either in the mere knowledge conveyed to the students or in the mere opportunities for research afforded to the members of the faculty…  The justification for a university is that it preserves the connection between knowledge and the zest for life, by uniting the young and the old in the imaginative consideration of learning…”


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When the Harvard Business School began, the university was the learning environment and some compromise had been reached between the idealist liberal vision and what Cardinal Newman called “the disciples of a low utilitarianism”.  However, there is no such thing as a free lunch (although free food is the easiest way to get PhD students to turn up things) you are normally expect to do some teaching (or equivalent) over the academic year and contribute to the life of the department.


How do I spend three years?

I recommend to my PhD students they spend their time doing four different things during the three years, but always have the goal of finishing within the three years! So this is my very rough plan for how I get my students to divide up their time:



These four components (PhD, Teaching, Publishing and raising some Funding) will make you eminently employable in an academic post at the end of three year. That said the singularly most important advice I can give, is always follow the advice of your supervisor, as every project is different, for example, there might be the requirement for an industry report, depending who the sponsor is.


What do I need to be considered?

Well, every project is different and different skill set may be needed, however, amongst other things we are looking for someone who:

  • has the potential (and will realistically expect) to achieve a 1st Class Honours degree or a distinction at MSc level
  • wants to undertake a prolonged period of research
  • could contribute to the life of the department
  • has an aptitude to teach
  • can work independently with good time management skills
  • bright, witty and would make a good colleague!


Make sure you know what you are getting into, remember these are fixed projects with specified outcomes, make sure you are interested in actually doing that project or it will be a very long, dull and depressing three years.  Actually, there is a fair chance that is going to happen whatever the project is, so you better make sure you are actually interested in it!

Picture by Martina TR under CC license.