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Our PhD Students

Owen Coggins

It felt like a real achievement to have followed those threads all the way from the initial idea, to planning the methods, conducting fieldwork, analysing the material.

Hi! My name is Owen Coggins and I was a PhD student in the Religious Studies department at the OU.

There was a lot that was rewarding about my PhD at the Open University! Having supervisors in both Religious Studies and Music was just right for my project about mystical discourse and ritual in an underground music culture. The opportunity to propose, design and pursue my idea for a PhD project was really valuable: it was exactly the research I wanted to do, and this was made possible by being supported and challenged by my supervisors to ensure it was methodologically rigorous and critically well-grounded, while also centred on the things I thought were important.  

It felt like a real achievement to have followed those threads all the way from the initial idea, to planning the methods, conducting fieldwork, analysing the material and developing themes right up to writing and editing a finished thesis.

This was a great foundation when I worked as a researcher for a couple of years in the charity sector after my PhD, helping me contribute to different aspects of research that were sometimes in fields new to me or centred on new kinds of approaches or goals. I now have a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Brunel University, where I’m conducting another project that relates to understandings of religiosity in music cultures, so the training I had during my doctorate at the OU definitely prepared me well for this.

Sarah Flew

I loved doing my PhD despite the intellectual difficulty of the task! Above all, I’m grateful for the rigorous training I gained in skills relating to research, writing and presentation.

Hi! My name is Sarah Flew and I was a PhD student in the Religious Studies department at the OU.

I loved doing my PhD despite the intellectual difficulty of the task! Above all, I’m grateful for the rigorous training I gained in skills relating to research, writing and presentation – all of which have been of great benefit to me at work.

It was the thrill of discovery that I enjoyed the most: looking at a document in the archives that no one had read before; developing a theory from data analysis; and illuminating the data with stories of ordinary individuals who had been forgotten.

In my current role, I oversee Imperial’s philanthropic fundraising across the spectrum: individuals; trusts and foundations; and corporates. Having a PhD has undoubtedly helped me in my role. Firstly, it means that I have a closer appreciation of the academic role in terms of the burdens on their time and the importance of bringing in research funding. Secondly, the research skills and writing skills gained through my PhD mean that I’m able to synthesise academic writing – in a subject I’m unfamiliar with – into a clear proposal. I did this so successfully recently that a professor was convinced my PhD was in bio-chemistry! Thirdly, and most importantly, I feel that it gives me more authority with the academics and the confidence to rewrite their proposals, shape the project and overall take a more directive approach.

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