What’s it like studying part-time?

By Emma Manion

The impending threat or relief of post-degree life can be felt keenly in those last frantic months of exams and dissertation writing. Maybe you already have an incomprehensible job title on a competitive graduate scheme. Or are planning to make your great escape through a Tefl course.

Perhaps, like me, you are resistant to leaving books and learning all behind just yet. Getting to the end of my undergraduate degree at the University of Bristol I felt only then was I starting to understand what I was really interested in studying, as well as finally getting the hang of this essay writing lark. No, I was not ready to leave just yet.

Of course, I faced the challenge many undergrads experience when considering whether to pursue a Masters – how can I afford that? Not only course fees, but those little essentials like food and rent… Exploring the loan options available at the time they didn’t give me the flexibility post-masters that I needed. Going part-time, giving me the ability to work 3 days a week, seemed like the most viable option.

Now I’m into my second year and studying part-time has been a great experience for me. It has enabled me to work, which on a practical level is a necessity, but it is work I also enjoy (youth work). It has meant I can take a more relaxed approach to studying, giving me the time to read around subjects, absorb and take greater care in my work and for myself and my health.emma

There have, however, been some downsides to studying part-time. Sometimes I feel less engrossed in the academic world – the physical experience of running from a meeting in a school to a seminar can be mentally divisive too. Moreover, it is like I only receive half the story, my knowledge less full and fleshed-out than those studying full-time.

Nonetheless, I am happy with my choice to study part-time, because otherwise I wouldn’t be studying at all (or would have had to wait a few years with no guarantees). I have had mixed feelings approaching this second year, wistfully watching friends from my undergrad move on from life in Bristol, but equally eager to return to studying and continue on with ideas and work started in first year. I think it is imperative that a post-grad education should be an opportunity for all who have the desire and the potential, and that academia should continually show itself as place for those who assume it is “not for them”. For me, studying part-time has opened up a new space for learning I would otherwise not have been able to access.

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