Student profile
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Rachel Marsh

"My experience of studying for a PhD at Surrey has been amazing. I rave about my time at Surrey to anyone who will listen."


Creative Writing

"I took on PhD study for three reasons. The first is that I find being in formal education fun; I like that it gives me targets to hit and goals to achieve that I would be less likely to complete on my own. The second reason I chose to do a PhD is career progression; I would like to be a lecturer and having a PhD is strongly recommended. Third, and probably most importantly, I enjoy writing and researching. It was an opportunity to spend three years immersed in a project. As my PhD is coming to an end, I am somewhat sad that this opportunity is over.

Rather than apply to my nearest university, or one with which I was already familiar, I did my research. I looked for one that had a supervisor whose work matched my interests, one with a good reputation and one that had funding options. I also had friends in the area and some who worked at the University, so that helped. When I first phoned and emailed the University's School of Literature and Languages and potential supervisor, I asked questions about things I found important but that might not be on the prospectus. I wanted to make sure it was a good fit, and it was.

My experience of studying for a PhD at Surrey has been amazing. I rave about my time at Surrey to anyone who will listen. As well as my PhD, I have also just finished the Graduate Certificate in Higher Education at Surrey, and the students and tutors I have met on that course have been phenomenal.

My supervisor supported my funding application, which has allowed me to be a full-time student, and this is a big part of the reason I have enjoyed my studies. It has allowed me to put my PhD first. But, the best thing my supervisor did for me was be a great editor. He has helped me to understand what works and what doesn’t in my thesis. He’s had me asking tough questions, and he has been a springboard for some thesis-changing ideas. He’s also given me the encouragement I needed, and at times I think he had more faith in my abilities than I did.

During my PhD I have used the Library through digital access, the Careers Centre, and Research Development Programme (RDP). Plus, the Postgraduate Society was a huge help when several cohorts from my department and I were trying to put on a conference and publish an anthology.

I’m in the Creative Writing arm of the School, but a lot of the collaboration activities spanned the whole School. Our fantastic PGR Rep put together a series of seminars in which we take turns presenting to one another. It’s a way for us to run ideas past our peers before going to conferences. Also, we have a wonderful PGR Director who put on some practical workshops about careers, the Research Excellence Framework, and digital branding. Essentially, it’s easy to get involved with the School as a whole, as there’s always someone around putting together a workshop, seminar or a conference.

As a part of my PhD, I was given the wonderful opportunity to work on the New Writer’s Festival. This is an annual event organised by the University of Surrey Creative Writing programme. This experienced provided me with the opportunity to connect with writers and poets in the Surrey and London literary communities. Some really interesting people were involved in the event, and working with the Festival Director and all those on the project was really great fun.

I taught on the first year ‘Thinking Like a Writer’ course and it was a fantastic experience. Many universities don’t have teaching opportunities for PhDs in Creative Writing, so the fact that Surrey encourages its PGR community to teach was a lovely bonus. Plus, as I’m was commuting PhD student, teaching helped make me feel more like a member of the Department than if I had only come to campus on the rare occasion. Plus, the students were interesting and at times had me thinking about writing in a different way."


Discover our programmes in English literature and creative writing including our Creative Writing PhD.