I am currently an education consultant, based in London. As well as my EdD in Learning, Leadership and Policy, I have a BA in South Asian Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. I also have a PGCE in Religious Education and an MA in Languages and Literature in Education from the Institute of Education, University of London.
When I applied for postgraduate studies I was employed by the Aga Khan Foundation in Geneva, who encouraged me to study for a PhD. But I did not want to research one narrow topic for three years or more. I then discovered the EdD which enables one to become a ‘scholarly professional’ rather than a ‘professional scholar’; this suited me much more and sounded very interesting given the emphasis on applied research.
The academic environment at Bristol was stimulating and I really enjoyed meeting other students and being inspired by good lecturers. Sessions were often intensive; they came alive when lecturers related discussions to their own research and used practical activities to engage students. The passion of some lecturers was really infectious. I enjoyed all of my units, but found the deep thinking, for instance, on the nature of reality and whether one can really know, particularly stimulating.
I also enjoyed the fact that assignments were based on practice and applied theory. Conducting my research was really fun – I loved going into village schools and facing the intellectual challenge of understanding what the concept of ‘feeling valued’ entailed and how much of it was contextually determined. This allowed me to develop a contextual framework which I could not find in the literature alone.
Discussions with colleagues helped me to grow in confidence and, over time, I felt that I learned to talk about various subjects with ease. I especially remember my lecturer giving me a second class mark instead of a first class mark for my first assignment, so that I wouldn’t think the EdD was too easy!
These are significant memories for me as, when I started the EdD, I doubted that I was ‘doctoral’ material and academic enough to pursue the qualification. They helped me to become more confident and go on to be successful. I was particularly honoured when the external researcher from a renowned university told me that my thesis was beautifully written and contained many good features.
The confidence I gained at Bristol was a contributory factor to me applying for a CEO position with an educational organisation abroad. The position had been unfilled for a number of years and the post was very demanding both physically and emotionally. I was three years into my EdD (variable part-time) when I was appointed, which meant that my EdD was put on hold for five years. Despite this, when I came to complete my postgraduate studies after leaving the organisation in 2011, I was able to base my research on the organisation and discuss what are known as ‘insider-outsider’ perspectives.
Although I knew the organisation well – it functioned much like a ‘western’ organisation within a Pakistani context – as a researcher, I was an ‘outsider’. Being British, but of Kashmiri/ Pakistani heritage, and working in a country with which I was familiar but of which I was not fully a part, I was, again, both an ‘insider’ and an ‘outsider’; I had insights into the culture and language, but was not from the area and did not share the local languages. Although I had taught before, I had not taught long-term in village schools in rural mountainous areas.
I was an educated and successful career woman with experience of prejudice and discrimination from both western and eastern perspectives and had a strong background in prejudice reduction and conflict resolution. But I was working in an area with traditional outlooks on females and had to be sensitive to practices that I might not otherwise have ‘approved of’. All these aspects, and more, gave me ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ perspectives on my research, which added to its richness and helped me to practice an ‘ethical awareness’.
I used what I learned at the Graduate School of Education (GSOE) to prepare a proposal for the British Council; I was lead technical writer for the evaluation of an education development program in Southern Pakistan, which contained both quantitative and qualitative research. It was rewarding that the proposal I drafted utilised my existing research knowledge.
In the future, I plan to conduct consultancies in the area of educational development; I have already drafted a proposal to evaluate an educational program in Pakistan for an international British organisation. I also plan to write two or three articles based on my thesis and a chapter on insider-outsider perspectives in research.
I would advise prospective students to study the EdD full-time; make use of the intellectual discussions with other students and staff as well as the facilities and research sessions. And, be organised. Set yourself a timetable with targets and keep in touch with your supervisor to discuss any worries.