Lakshman Wimalasena is an Assistant Professor in Human Resource Management, in the School of Management and Languages, Heriot-Watt University and obtained his PhD in Management also from Heriot-Watt University. He is also a graduate in human resource management (HRM) and also holds an MBA (with merit) and a postgraduate diploma in social research methods (with distinction). His main research interests are meaning of work (MoW),social inequality, agential reflexivity, and habitus. His doctoral study explores the MoW within a postcolonial society – Sri Lanka. This study which develops a new integrated framework to the study of MoW, also extends the applicability of realist reflexive theory and contributes to the ongoing debate ‘can reflexivity and habitus work in tandem’.

Starting a PhD is a big thing! Different individuals may start a PhD for different reasons. I thought sharing my own experience of deciding to do a PhD might help. My circumstances were particularly different to many of the other doctoral candidates due to various reasons. As an individual growing up in a rural village that offered only very limited social bonuses my journey was not a cake walk, I knew education was the only way out but I had no much guidance or information available. I kept on finding information on how to do a PhD and what was required. For me, there was no direct access to a PhD straight away from my undergraduate degree but via doing a masters’ degree. So, understanding your personal and social circumstances, and what needs to be done in order to enable where you want to be is vital.

Secondly, I come from a different country with different cultural backgrounds, I did not have the privilege of the English medium education until much later in life, until I entered the University, this was challenging. Those who are in similar circumstances, who may come from an Asian or another European country, need to think about the level of English language skills that will be required. I have many examples relating to my PhD colleagues and my own that suggest how challenging it could be. Therefore, my advice, if you are in this situation, is that prepare yourself well in advance, it may even take a few years.

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Finally, the research idea. I had no money to do a PhD, so a scholarship was the only avenue which proved to be the biggest hurdle in my case. I was concerned about where and how I could find scholarship offers and I found it via jobs.ac.uk website, so I recommend that to you too. If you are planning the scholarship route, particularly with a background like mine, then you need to be ready to compete with other candidates and demonstrate your ability/suitability. It is very challenging to secure a scholarship as so many high-quality, talented candidates from all over the world tend to apply for UK open scholarships. It is through your PhD proposal that you can make sure you stand out. Follow standard guidelines of a proposal, ensure all the required aspects are covered (our own blog will be a great resource for you). Make sure the research idea addresses an on-going debate and that it is current, interesting and novel, this you may achieve by actively committing to read. You could also propose a novel research approach/methodology that may also be of interest to selectors.

My experience suggests, it is the potential in the candidate the Universities look for rather than the exact research idea you are proposing, in granting a scholarship. You can do it!

Picture by Joshua Rappeneker under CC license.