The Path to Postgrad: Alan Smith

With the end of undergraduate study only a mere year away for many, we on the Beyond the Walls team have decided, we would like to help any of you looking towards the future in postgraduate study. As part of this initiative, we will be talking to those who know the path best: actual MA and PhD students at YSJ itself, to paint a helpful and guiding picture as to what can be expected if you decide to continue your study beyond undergraduate level.

Our first interview is with Mr Alan Smith, a mature PhD student in Creative Writing:


How did you get into PhD study?

”I started all this off with the hope of writing professionally plus obvious enthusiasm for the project I am undertaking, as yet my enthusiasm hasn’t left me and I’m very pleased with things so far.

I completed a Masters degree in Literature Studies a few years ago and wouldn’t have been confident in starting PhD work if I hadn’t. I’m not a typical PhD student (is there such a thing?) in that I was 60 when I started and largely because of ill health only come in to the university when I’m seeing my supervisor or need to access the library”.


What differences did you encounter from undergraduate study?

”I’m not following or attending conferences presenting papers etc. A further difference in my experience as opposed to most doctoral candidates is that I’m following a part-time practice-led (creative writing) route and in that I’m one of YSJ/ Leeds pioneers in this area.

What is most striking when you embark on what I’m doing is that it is the individual who has to devise their own structure/ work pattern – there are, especially in the area I’m working in, few rules to adhere to. My supervision at YSJ has been good but academic staff have increasingly heavy work loads and you can’t expect to be cosseted.  As with all aspects of study, organisation is key to progress and you soon realise that you are very much becoming the expert in the niche area that you’re working in”.


What would you say is required of you as a postgraduate student?

”The content of my programme will comprise of the adaptation for a television series of four short stories by Thomas Hardy plus the writing of one original, all the material coming very much from the ‘darker side’ of Hardy, a side ignored by television/ film adaptations. My scripts will be accompanied by a thesis of at least 15000 words. In April of this year I will have done three years of study”.


Expect our next interview in the coming week.


YSJ MA Information Evening 26th November

Come along to this free information session to learn more about studying on the MA in Contemporary Literature and the MA in Creative Writing at York St John University.Policies and Regulations

26th of November, 5.30-6.30pm

York St John University, Skell 037

Hear from recent students about their experience of postgraduate study and listen to staff talk about their research specialisms and the exciting and diverse range of MA modules on offer. The session will provide essential information about both MA strands on offer through the department of English Literature and Creative Writing.

There will an opportunity to ask any questions you might have about the postgraduate experience, and there will also be refreshments provided and time for informal discussion with both staff and students. Do come along if you are interested in continuing your studies, or thinking of returning to study after a break from education. We look forward to welcoming you on the 26th November.

Book your FREE ticket here