• id
  • username
  • 2009-06-15
  • UK
  • Warwick University
  • Centre for Translation & Comparative Cultural Studies
  • Susan Bassnett
  • Ubaldo Stecconi
  • Here in the Centre we offer PhDs in Comparative Literature, Translation Studies, and Comparative Cultural Studies.
  • The standard timeframe applies, that is, students register for a period of 3 years and then usually take an additional year for the final writing up. It has been the case over the years, given the fluidity around the concepts of Comparative Literature, Comparative Cultural Studies and Translation Studies that students have registered for one title and then, when they come to present the thesis, request a change because during the period of study their ideas have grown and developed in a different direction. This is something we've always encouraged and I believe that it helps to diversify the discipline. The worst kind of translation studies, in my opinion, is something conceived very, very narrowly and the basis of the Warwick programme is to move and extend boundaries.
  • In terms of admission procedures, we have the following:
    A student is required to fulfil the University's criteria of having a good undergraduate degree at II.1 or above in the UK system and to have or be about to complete a Masters degree. We require, in the Centre, a high degree of language competence and we also require prospective students to complete a proposal form which I am attaching for your information. In our experience, students who have a loose and vague topic at the outset are more likely to encounter difficulties than those who have given serious thought to their doctoral project and this form has been designed to help students to do that thinking in advance.
  • Over the years at Warwick we have had PhD students come to us with a background in Literary Studies, Translation, History, Politics, Modern Languages, Sociology. Our concern is the project and not the provenance of a student's degree. We ensure that all doctoral applications are looked at by at least 2 people. I am the doctoral applications officer in the Centre so applications come to me and then I send them for review.
  • Our students are funded in a whole variety of ways; we have some on government scholarships; some funded by funding councils; many funded privately.
  • We require all students to undergo some fairly rigorous training in academic writing, thesis construction, archival research and there are training sessions provided within the Centre, also at Faculty level and Universitywide. We also urge all our incoming doctoral students to audit the taught Masters courses.
  • Every year at Warwick we hold a Doctoral Conference. This year 8 students chose to offer papers. Last year 14 did so. Prior to the conference I run a session on 'How to deliver a conference paper' and students are taught how to structure the paper for a 20 minute slot. The conference is attended by peers and also by a number of distinguished invited visitors who are there to act as discussants. This year discussants included Professors Mary Snell-Hornby and Klaus Kaindl from Vienna, Professor John Drakakis from the University of Stirling, Professor Rob Pope from Oxford Brookes University. Previous discussants have included Edwin Gentzler, Theo Hermans, Michaela Wolf, Christina Schaeffner, Germaine Greer, Peter Hulme, Tim Youngs, Maria Tymoczko, Daniel Weissbort and many others. The Doctoral Conference is regarded as a highlight of the year. Students take it very seriously and it enables many of them to gain sufficient confidence to go forward to present papers at international seminars elsewhere. Papers are now available in the Warwick Occasional Papers series on our website. We strongly encourage conference participation and can usually provide some funding to assist graduate students to attend conferences if they provide evidence of an invitation.
  • The regulations for writing the thesis are established by the University and are in accordance with standard UK procedures. The length of a PhD is deemed to be 80,000 words, that of an MPhil 60,000. The thesis is normally presented in English and a special case has to be made if a thesis is to be presented in any other language. The time limit, as stated above, is 3 years with an extra year for writing up. Warwick has tightened up its procedures for the granting of extensions and as a result most students do submit within the required time period.
  • Supervision must be done by a senior academic who is the holder of a doctorate. In exceptional circumstances, for example a well-known writer or someone who entered UK Higher Education before a PhD was a requirement, there may be supervisor without a PhD. Younger colleagues at the start of their career eg; those who are still on probation (which at Warwick lasts for 5 years) will be appointed as co-supervisors with a senior academic in order to acquire experience.
  • It is not judged to be particularly helpful for there to be an excessive number of supervisors. We do have a code of practice that sets out clearly what a student can expect from their supervisor and vice versa. If you look at the Centre website this information is provided:
  • In terms of monitoring progress; here in the Centre we have termly meetings at which all supervisors provide a report on each student. We have a Staff/Student Liaison Committee in line with standard Warwick practice. At the end of every academic year all students complete a feedback form on the quality of their supervision which is signed off by the individual's supervisor and they also complete a section of the form which bypasses the supervisor and goes direct to the Chair of the Board of Graduate Studies. This is a helpful safeguard in the unlikely event that a student feels disatisfied with his or her supervision. In short, we have a very well structured system of monitoring students' progress.
  • The University of Warwick assesses PhD in the standard way of other UK institutions, that is the student submits a thesis which is sent to two examiners: 1 external and 1 internal. The thesis is then read and it is normally examined within 3 months from the date of submission. The examination is held in camera, chaired by an independent senior member of the department. In Wales or Scotland, for example, it is usual to have the Faculty Dean chairing such an event. There is no pre-publication evaluation and indeed the thesis is not deemed to be published before it is examined. No grades are awarded. Here at Warwick we can either pass a thesis, subject to minor corrections or we can refer a thesis for re-submission and give the candidate up to 12 months to carry out the changes requested.
  • Although I know that publication is significant in some countries, were a thesis to be published before its submission in the UK it would not be eligible for consideration by the examiners.
  • Virtually everything that I have said about processes is available online from some part of the University of Warwick's website. Some of this can be obtained through the Centre, some of it through Graduate Studies. All our regulations, all our examining criteria are in the public domain and have been formally approved internally and validated externally.

    In terms of strengths and weaknesses of the UK system, my subjective view is that the weakness is in the closed examination system. It is not mandatory to have an independent Chair so you can have a situation where a student is examined in camera by two persons and no independent witness. I think this is extremely stressful for the student and is not good practice because it can be open to potential abuse. We have insisted on having an independent Chair here at Warwick and I believe we are right to do so but I much prefer the more public, more open examination that prevails in many other parts of the world. The strength of the system here is that it is very closely monitored and universities are required to have proper procedures in place. I believe that the UK system is particularly enabling for students and if a student has any difficulties during the period of study then there are enough safeguards in place for him or her to find adequate assistance.

    My own experience of doctoral examining extends to a number of countries including the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India, the US, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy.

    I would be very interested indeed in hearing more about the possibility of further collaboration. As I said at the beginning of this long, rather rambling communication, this is where we want to go and I believe that it is in the student's best interest to interconnect with students from other universities to share ideas and examples of good practice.
  • PhD Template
    Working Title of Thesis
    a. Please state in no more than 400 words the aims and objectives of your research proposal.
    b. Please state in no more than 300 words the original contribution to knowledge that you expect this thesis will make.
    c. Please give an indication of the following:
    (i) Your methodology:
    (ii) The principal authors whose work you will be using and/or the primary texts:
    Any additional information: (300 words maximum)