Bath has a great reputation - I've known for years that it would be the place I would apply to.

Emma Williams, studying for a DBA in Higher Education Management, tells why she chose Bath and what it's like combining work and a career.

Emma Williams, DBA Higher Education Management
Emma Williams knew that Bath would be the best place to do her doctorate, when the time was right

What is your current role?

I’m Director of Academic Quality and Records at Aberystwyth University. The department I look after includes admissions, schools liaison, student records, quality assurance and collaborative provision. It’s very varied. I’ve been here about four and a half years.

Why did you choose to do a professional doctorate?

I’ve worked in higher education for over 20 years. I started at Oxford Brookes where I had the most dynamic and inspiring line manager who instilled the importance of professional development in me. I had no idea what went on behind the scenes at a university to make it work before I joined Oxford Brookes. He encouraged me to do a part time MBA in practice management and a leadership development programme too. It was he who got me interested in the relationship between theory and practice and that’s what keeps me inspired and motivated today.

The MBA was tough, managing study with work, and I originally thought ‘never again’. I saw the DBA course at Bath many years ago and would put it on my staff development form every year as an aspiration. The time was never quite right though. I moved locations and or jobs a fair bit after the MBA and so it didn’t feel right to tackle a PhD as well as managing other changes.

After two years or so in my current role during my appraisal (with my form still saying do a DBA at Bath) my line manager urged me to look again, offering me financial as well as study time support. It all just came together and here I am. I started the part time DBA in Higher Education Management in 2016 and expect to finish in the next three to four years.

We’re still at the taught modules stage of the DBA but I’m already shaping my ideas for my thesis. So far, in my assignments about globalisation and policy development, I’ve focused on students as consumers and the impact that this is having on universities. I think this is the area I would like to explore.

Why did you choose the University of Bath?

Bath has a great reputation and I’ve known for years that it would be the place I would want to apply to. I’d never seen a course like it that appeared to be so directly related to me. The people and the content seemed great. The mix of a cohort experience, residentials and hard deadlines work well for me. I could see that it would be something I could succeed at. People I knew enthused about the DBA at Bath – the Registrar at Falmouth where I worked for a while is doing it and said how great it was. In fact many of the people in my current cohort know someone who recommended the course to them.

What do you like about it best?

I like the mix of professional and academic staff in the group. They are all so different but equally so inspirational in their own way. It’s not like the undergraduate teaching experience – it’s more of a discussion when we get together and it’s great that people have such diverse experiences to share.

The international mix is amazing too - it allows you to see things in a context you never knew about rather than being UK centric. I’m not aware that there’s another course like it. There are people in my group from China, Taiwan, Nepal, Pakistan – I love seeing the subtle differences of how policy can impact on universities around the world. It’s so special and I just don’t think you’d get it anywhere else.

How do you find combining research and a career?

It’s really challenging and you have to work hard at managing your time – you need to get really organised and be protective of the time you have set aside to study. You need to find out how you work best and make a plan to fit that. For example, I’m not good at working in short bursts – grabbing two hours after a busy day at work for example. I tend to set aside weekend time and if I need to ‘write up’ I’ll book a block of study leave. Some people I know work best the other way: little bits here and there – it’s just what’s best for you.

‘Bath has a great reputation and I’ve known for years that it would be the place I would want to apply to. I’d never seen a course like it that appeared to be so directly related to me.’
Emma Williams, DBA Higher Education Management

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