PhD in Philosophy
I have commenced a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Bristol after considering several universities both in the United Kingdom and Australia (my country of origin). Bristol appeared to offer the right combination of specialisation, interdisciplinary collaboration, international standing and social life, and nearly a year into my course I can say these expectations have been borne out. My area of interest, the philosophy of science, is a case in point - there are frequent interdepartmental seminars between the physics and philosophy departments, a rewarding arrangement that is not always found in other universities. I have also been impressed by the size and strength of the postgraduate community and the busy schedule of seminars that could easily fill your week. Within the philosophy department itself there are several programmed weekly seminars each of which focuses exclusively on a particular area of philosophy, making it easier to keep your finger on the pulse of new developments. As a research student I have considerable freedom of action but I try to structure my work around the periodic (in my case fortnightly) meetings with my supervisor. It is important to keep focus on the direction of your research as the terms can drain away surprisingly quickly when you don't have the markers of set coursework.
Bristol has two universities and there are a variety of commercial facilities that cater to its sizeable student population. The student house letting market is well developed and complements university affiliated accommodation. If you want to find a room in a share house you might want to try the Accommodation Office’s bulletin board or classified advertisement websites such as Gumtree. There are also numerous letting agencies that specialise in student housing. It can be very expensive staying in temporary accommodation while you get things sorted out so you need to be proactive with this. Socially, Bristol has heaps going on with many options and venues, some directed at the student community and others at the general population. Music in particular is a strong point. And from the several universities I have attended I would have to say that Bristol University has the most extensive societies scene. As well as the usual suspects there are some more “specialised” societies that involve activities such as knitting and eating cheese. I think it is safe to say there is something for everyone. Bristol’s location, history and standing as a hub of the south west makes it a tourist attraction in its own right, so as well as providing you with options it also makes visits by friends and family a more attractive proposition.
When contemplating post graduate study you should, of course, have a clear financial plan. This is particularly important if you are coming from overseas and are unfamiliar with the cost of living in the United Kingdom. For example, if you choose private accommodation or plan on travelling frequently you can easily run into unexpected levels of expense. When formulating a budget be sure to leave a reserve for surprises and be aware that there are often cheaper ways of doing things. Local knowledge is useful for finding things like websites that offer off peak train and coach tickets so be sure to talk to those who have trodden this path before you.