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Experiences as a PhD student in the UK

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Last updated on: July 09, 2007 13:48 IST
Judging from media reports, Indians in the UK have had a rocky few months.

First, students were left in the lurch by a Hotel and Tourism college that suddenly went out of business. Next, Indian professionals, including doctors, faced visa difficulties, and in extreme cases, deportation.

Now, a handful of Indian doctors have been implicated in last week's terrorist attack at Glascow airport.

But what's the view from the ground? How are Indian students getting on in UK universities?

Are they facing racism? Are they able to afford their studies?

Chindu Sreedharan, PhD student and lecturer at the Media School, Bournemouth University, joined us for a chat on July 5th to discuss the tumultuous times, living as an Indian at a UK university.

For those of you who missed the chat, here's part one of the transcript:

Sandip asked, What are the requirement to get into UK univ. for PhD in Engg? Tell me about getting schlorship, Living expences & Good univ.

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
Sandip: Most PhDs are selected on the basis of your proposal. Unlike India, where many universities insist on a Master of Arts and a Master of Philosophy, and sundry other silly entry requirements, here what they look at is whether you are capable of doing what you say you want to do.

So if you can demonstrate in your proposal that you would make a good researcher, they will look at you. Now having said that, you would need to demonstrate you are capable -- in other words, you would need to show them you are capable of analytical thinking, perseverence, etc etc. And that would be easier if you were familiar with the system of education here. For instance, it would become easier if you have a Master's from here, or an undergraduate degree.

sachin asked, How do the placements work in UK?DO colleges have placements program/cell?

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
Sachin: Yes, colleges -- or rather universities, or Uni, as it is known here -- do have placement programmes. And a lot of our students do get placed through campus interviews. 

But it is tough for a foreign student to get such placements -- tough, but not impossible -- because a foreign student, unlike a European Union student, needs a work permit to work here. And work permits must be obtained by the company you are working for.

One criterion they look at is this: Is this a specialised job for which we cannot find an applicant from the European Union or Britain? If yes, they might be willing to apply for you. If not, they are required to hire a local.

Maju asked, about climate

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
Maju: Climate, ah, it is very English. :-)

Read, quite a bit wet at times and fairly cold, theoretically. But let me add a rider to that: it's not all that bad. The English like to moan about their climate, but to be honest, for someone who has lived in, say, Delhi, it should be no problem.

Winters, you don't really feel it so much as you would in Delhi. Because, at home, at the uni, in public transport, everywhere indoors, it is centrally-heated. It could be a bit of problem, though, if you are in the habit of going for a walk at 3 am in December, especially when it is raining and without your jacket. :-)

Maju asked, what was your first experiance when you reached UK

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
Maju: Check this out when you get time. It should give you an idea of my first experience in UK: http://in.rediff.com/news/2004/mar/09diary.htm

ABC asked, DO you have an idea about the Uni of Southampton?Which is the best university for Engg.?

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
University of Southampton is one of the best universities. There, possibly, you might get to rub shoulders with the great Tim Berners-Lee. Well-reputed for the research they produce, and the quality of the staff.

msn asked, i m 31 year old wanna to pursue master degree in uk. is it possible to get admisson in this age?

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
Of course! Age doesn't matter at all -- besides, by the standards of this country, 31 is quite young. I think I have had students for undergraduate degrees older than 31.

Gnan asked, am architect-urban planner with 4+ exp in infrastructure and real esate management. Am planning to do my MBA?..pl. advice. do i necessarily need to take GMAT??..

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
In UK, I think, with your experience, you will be able to get through. I think the best way is to write to the university of your choice, to the course leader, or the person who heads the MBA programme, and ask them directly.

Cavn asked, Chindu, what career possibility does your PHD provide? Wasn't it difficult to give up professional career to go to UK? Why did you do it?

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
Cavn, this PhD is for myself. Regarding my career, in my field having a PhD doesn't automatically get me better recognition -- in fact, just the opposite, possibly. But like I said, my PhD is in an area that I am personally very interested in, and so I am quite happy to pursue it. Future? I am sure I will figure something out. :-)

reema asked, I have done Mtech in mechanical engineering from IIT. I would like to know details regarding the universities offering Phd in Mechanical engineering preferably in london. Could you please tell me the procedure for applying for Phd in UK Universities. What is the eligibily criteria. I would also like to know about scholarship offered while pursuing Phd.

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
Do take a look at my response to Sandip. About scholarships, or bursaries as they call it over here, there could be a few. You need to find a university that has a department in Mechanical Engineering. I suggest faithful Google.

Check out the department sites; most should have a link to upcoming bursaries (if there are any). A good idea would also be to take a look at the staff in your area who offer supervision -- again, you should be able to find them on the university web sites -- and initate a conversation with them.

A PhD works this way: the supervisor has an area of expertise, interest, which s/he would like to explore in detail. Now if your interest is also in that field, and you can convince him/her of that, then something could be worked out. But mostly, if they have bursaries coming up, they would announce on their web sites. And you would need to put in a proposal, be interviewed -- you know, the regular route.

The other option is that you pay for your PhD. But I wouldn't really advise it, since you would be paying double the fees (foreign student pays double the fees of a European Union or English student) and over three-four years that would be way too much.

Achin asked, I have completed MS in Quantitative Economics from ISI, Kolkata after a BSc in Economics from Presidency College, Kolkata. I want to pursue an MSc from London School of economics. what is the procedure for applying and what is the scope of the above course? Also please mention the scholarships available.

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
Achin, the best way is to look at the LSE web site. If there are scholarships, it would be mentioned there.

Harish asked, what are the prospects of passing MBA from Oxford.

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
Like everywhere else, that depends entirely on you.

gg asked, I am 33 and have 12 yrs exp in mfg. an I do mba with scholarship. Also my wife have 3.5 yrs exp and wants to do mba. Please advise

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
You would need to apply and get a scholarship. I am not sure how many universities in UK offer MBA scholarships, but there might be a few. From what I know of, the Leeds Metropolitan University does offer ONE full scholarship. I suggest you take a look at their web site. A good way to begin is, shortlist the universities that do offer MBAs, and start checking out each -- and perhaps write to the programmer leaders and check with them personally.

UmaK asked, Hi Is there racial disdiscrimination out there?

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
Uma, I am yet to be knighted, so do please skip the 'sir' bit! :-)

Incidentally, over here, few students -- correction, no student, I would think -- address their lecturers by that title (of respect, which in India we do). They call you by name, so feel free. To answer your query, I am sure there's racial discrimination -- just as much as there's in India, or anywhere else. I also see something quite funny here (and in the US) -- a kind of reverse racial discrimination, wherein foreigners club together and exclude the English! :-)

Aly asked, I want to study nursing in UK..how to start the process??

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
Apply to a university. Most universities would be happy to have a foreign student, since, like I said before, you pay double the fees of a native. They might ask you for an IELTS or something along those lines, which is fairly easy.

Caves asked, Sir, how would you describe education system in the UK? IS it narrowly defined like in India. For example, I've done science most of my life, now only options in science field. I, however, want to do public debate and policy. Would UK allow me to transition? Or Am I stuck with science for rest of this lifetime.

Chindu Sreedharan answers, 
Yes, it would, I am sure. It's up to you to choose what you want -- provided you are confident you can pick up as you go along. For instance, quite a few of the MA journalism students here are from other disciplines. So no worries on that score, Caves

Part II: Tomorrow