The last 3MT and another meeting

It’s done and I’m never doing it again. On 5 September I delivered my last 3MT. What began as an important way for me to think about my work has become redundant (I’m confident in my direction now) and it’s just heart breaking to do when you’re not a natural science. I mean, how can you compete against people who can save lives? It’s stupid. However, the competition is not for social sciences, but the exercise is worth it. Every year the 3MT process has helped me clarify and articulate my thoughts about my thesis and for this I will be forever grateful. I just don’t see how a social science can win.

Then yesterday, 17 September I had another supervisor meeting where apparently I’m still going in the right direction. This is exciting for both me and the supervisors (I think). Good for me because it means my ideas are sound I just need to keep getting them down on paper and good for them because it’s not a train wreck they have to rescue (yet!).

I have also just completed the compulsory APR process. They have redone the form and it possible it is worse than last year. Questions I didn’t understand that didn’t apply that I had to answer to be able to save and move on. Honestly. Shit governance leads to shit data people. Get your governance together if you want something meaningful. Anyway, I did my usual passive resistance and my primary supervisor was supportive so all is well that ends well. Until they kick me out for non compliance I suppose (full of hope today clearly!).

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WiP is done – and another chapter meeting complete

On Tuesday 16 July I complete my work in progress seminar (WiP). It went well. I spoke okay (had a dreadful cold) but what was awesome was when I got asked questions I had answers. I know that my seem weird, but it was the first time I’ve been confident in my question, my data, my analysis, to the point I could answer questions. I mean, I’d always had a go before, but this time I actually could say “Oh yes, well as I show in the model here….” or “Yeah, I know what you’re saying. I’ve not had time today but there’s this reading…..” or “Interestingly the data is not going in that direction and my thoughts are….”. There is something empowering in knowing that you just know your shit!

Then today I had a supervisor meeting which went so well! Basically we all agree I’m on the right path, I just need to do more and find my voice. This is an interesting problem to have. After 13 years in the public service, changing my voice for whatever senior manager desired I’m not really sure I have a writing voice. What was more interesting is my supervisors said the way I presented at the WiP should actually be my voice in my thesis…now that’s food for thought. I’m being encouraged to write as me. For those who have ever been part of the government you will know that never happens! Anyway, deadlines are looming and I need to get more analysis done so no time to waste. I’m off to find my voice!

Questions over time

In the interests of never giving up (and because I’m still in that bloody hole of not knowing what I’m doing) I have been looking and have found (well sort of)! Following are two versions of the subquestions for my thesis. So while I don’t have the actual thesis question over time, I can at least see what I was thinking in the detail. Have put this here so I can find it next time I get lost.

Feb 2016:

  1. What are the current expectations of university education as presented in the literature, given the impact of modern day commodification?
  2. How can expectations of actors within the interested parties of universities, Government and industry, be used to build an understanding of commodified university education?
  3. Do the expectations of interested parties align with commodification?
  4. If not, why has commodification become the dominant discourse of university education?
  5. If they do align, why is there so much concern in the literature regarding the future of university education?

Nov 2016:

  1. What does the literature say has happened in university education over the last 30 years?
  2. What do universities expect of university education today?
  3. What does Government expect of university education today?
  4. What does the accounting profession expect of university education today?
  5. Do the expectations of questions two to four meet the reality as described in question one?
  6. Are there issues in the differences/similarities between expectation and reality that need to be addressed for university education?

Omissions are painful

I met with my supervisors three weeks ago and haven’t posted about the meeting. It’s not that anything bad happened, in fact quite the opposite (I now have a little model I’ve built based on the feedback which is helping to form my problematisation chapter), I just have been short on time. The advice from my supervisors was useful and has helped shape some of my data analysis as well as totally restructured how I’m thinking about the Context Chapter. What has happened though is I’ve fallen into a hole.

To get out of the hole I thought I’d use my blog as I remembered putting my question here somewhere so I would be able to see it change over time. Only the problem is I haven’t. I have no tag of ‘question’ (well I do now because I created it). This has dug my hole deeper. I was hoping there would be a tether here to guide me back to the whole point of my thesis by showing how my thinking has progressed over time. Turns out I omitted it. The pain will continue. Stupid omission.

Losing the -ly

I have a deadline of 30 April for this chapter to my supervisors and it’s been problematic. I have had the basics of this chapter for about three years but trying to put it together in a way that made sense proved more than I could handle. And then as always happens when you play with words for long enough – the breakthrough.

I’m not convinced this is going to survive contact with the supervisors as I’ve done something a bit brazen. However, for my way of thinking about the thesis and how it’s coming together with the data I actually think this is not a bad way to go.

I am suggesting my whole context chapter (literature review) is about setting university education up as a ‘good’ and universities as the business selling. I’ve ended up here because every time I tried to do a history section and then the funding section and then the policy section and so on, it all became a mess. Everything in university education is connected to everything else. Making university education the good to be bought and sold centred all the rest of the ideas and made the literature tell a story. I think it works – but only time will tell (and the proof reading which I’ve not done and we all know how wrong that can go).

I’ve also done something I’ve not done before with this chapter. I searched for words with -ly. I did this because one supervisor doesn’t like adverbs and -ly is the easiest way to find them as it is often at the end. Turns out I do use them a lot! Also turns out removing them tightens up the language no end and makes a stronger point. There are occasions where I’ve kept them for emphasis, but it turns out listening to supervisors is a good idea!

Even when it’s good it’s complicated

I had a meeting with my supervisors on the 25th of March (I suppose I should have posted about that before now) to discuss my theory chapter. Turns out it wasn’t too bad. Let’s not say good, but the feedback was much less critical than I expected. What did raise its head again was this bloody field of research (FoR) code. Because I’ve used Weber substantially as my theoretical base, apparently I am no longer cross-disciplinary I’m sociology only. I can see the point about not being cross-disciplinary because of theory, but I’m not actually sociology either. So now the simple feedback I thought was manageable is actually complicated.

On top of this I need to do my work in progress seminar (WIP). When I asked David about it he asked to which School I wanted to present. In our Faculty each School runs their own presentations for research students. So even though I’m in the Business School and the School of Government and Policy, I have to choose. Well, this morning I made up my mind. I’m going to run my own session. I’ll book a room over the Winter Term, invite the Faculty and see who wants to come along. After all if the whole point of my thesis is that university education can’t be discussed in one discipline alone if there are going to be positive changes, then what message do I send by only presenting to one School? The fact I fight against the system I research is tiring. I think it’s time I really looked at the FoR codes and started making some choices.

Excitement is new!

I’ve had an odd experience over the last couple of weeks, I’ve got lost in my writing. I actually almost missed a tutorial last Tuesday because I was so sucked into my chapter and I hadn’t set the timer for the 25 minutes like normal. All turned out okay but still, it was a new feeling.

Part of the excitement I believe is linked to the data. It’s great to be in the data and seeing the patterns and building my understanding of what I’m actually going to say. It’s also interesting¬† I’m more able to articulate where I’m going and what I’m actually trying to achieve because I have data.

I was with Michael for breakfast and we were talking about my thesis and I put a sentence together about what it was about and he expressed how that was the first time I’d been able to put something coherent together that sounded like a plausible thesis. His words were kinder than that because he’s nicer than me, but that was the general gist.

I was then having breakfast with Jason (I have a lot of breakfasts out) and mentioned how I think it’s mean to ask people about their thesis until they are in data collection because it’s only then that you actually know what you’re doing. He commented that surely you must know what your thesis is about all the time. I realised then that I didn’t really. I had a gut feeling for where I wanted to go and an idea about how to get there, but until I got my hands on the data I was lost. I was drowning in the concept of research – the theory, the methodology the literature. The data has given me the excitement. It has tethered me to the idea of what I’m trying to achieve.

And what I’m trying to achieve is a shift in the debate on university education. There is so much complaining about university education and the way it is delivered, but the data shows me that what we have is actually what we want. So everyone needs to stop complaining about university education and how bad it is and actually ask, what is the university education we need? So much effort in research and media and people generally is going towards complaining about what we have. If we, as a society, policy makers, academics, education administrators, put that effort into discussing what we need rather than what we have, well, then we might get the university education we both want and need. Until then we’re all just whining. My thesis is showing people there is no value in whining. The data shows us we have what we want. You can’t complain about that!