My YCEDE Advocacy experience

by Adam Chen, PhD candidate with the Strategic Joint Studentship between the University of Birmingham and the University of Nottingham

Upon completing my undergraduate in Sociology at the University of Sheffield, I realised my aspiration to start a career in research. This realisation motivated me to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Research. After a few weeks into my Master’s program, I was determined to continue my academic journey by pursuing a PhD, which led me to begin drafting a research proposal and starting my application to the University of Sheffield. By the January deadline, I successfully secured a PhD position; however, I was unable to obtain funding. Consequently, I decided to pause my applications and concentrate on my Master’s studies. When I resumed my applications, I discovered the Yorkshire Consortium for Equity in Doctoral Education (YCEDE) and its Advocacy Scheme through my University’s workshops.

The matching process with YCEDE was remarkably straightforward. I had a preliminary concept for my project and sought to explore additional opportunities in related fields. Following this, George reached out to me with a list of potential advocates across multiple different institutions in the YCEDE. I eventually selected Antonios Ktenidis due to his expertise in the field and because of his affiliation with Sheffield. We exchanged several emails to discuss my project and my objectives for participating in the scheme, and we arranged an in-person meeting. During our meeting, I explained my situation and setbacks, and Antonios shared his own experiences of applying for a PhD and detailed similar experiences and difficulties. This interaction bolstered my confidence and determination, allowing me to overcome my initial setback. After our meeting, Antonios provided me with potential contacts within Sheffield who could assist in refining my research proposal and strengthening my application. Towards the completion of my Master’s dissertation, I set out to revise my project with the improvements provided by Antonios and his peers and applied for funding once more.

Regrettably, I was unsuccessful in securing funding on this attempt. Nevertheless, this did not deter me from pursuing a PhD. I attended additional workshops run by the YCEDE focusing on funding and other potential avenues for PhD opportunities, which equipped me with further insights. I then applied to various advertised projects. This effort led to securing two interviews, and I ultimately accepted the Strategic Joint Studentship between the University of Birmingham and the University of Nottingham. In September, I will start my PhD investigating the social determinants of suicide among young people in the UK using mixed methods.

The guidance and support from YCEDE and colleagues at the University of Sheffield played an essential role in my perseverance. The additional guidance helped me navigate the world of graduate research, particularly in the fields of social science. Overall, it gave me invaluable insight into the available opportunities and the inner workings of graduate school scholarships, ultimately allowing me to seek advertised projects and secure a studentship.