Dr Jane Scullion credits sheer doggedness and determination for getting her through the six years of her PhD while facing ‘one challenge after another.’
Life has not run particularly smoothly for Jane since she embarked on her PhD at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) in 2011. She has had surgery four times, cared for her husband as he battled a serious illness, and discovered her home had flooded on two separate occasions.
She has also had the added workload of being elected as a councillor and deputy mayor of Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council in Halifax, West Yorkshire.
But she was determined not to let anything get in the way of her passion for her academic studies.
Jane will graduate with a PhD Doctor of Philosophy in Politics this afternoon (Tuesday). She will be cheered on by her husband, sister, daughter and son-in-law.
She said: “At times it wasn’t easy as there was one challenge after another. It has taken me years, but I did it; I got there in the end.
“As a mature student you often face different and unexpected challenges. I’ve suffered ill health myself; I have had a replacement hip and three other operations. My husband has also been seriously ill and the house flooded in 2012 and 2015.
“When life gets in the way of your studies you have to be passionate about the subject to keep going and fortunately I really care about local democracy. I was also supported by my supervisors who continued to believe in me throughout and helped me to return from every setback.”
Jane’s doctoral research focused on accountability systems in local government and the impact of innovation and social media on local level democracy.
Looking forward to her graduation ceremony, Jane said: “I’m very happy, I’m feeling very satisfied as it’s such an achievement. I’m really pleased to be contributing to public understanding of the role that elected representatives can play through new technologies.”
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Jane, who lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, worked in senior management roles in local authority for 20 years.
She took early retirement and worked as a part-time lecturer and researcher in DMU’s Local Governance Research Unit for three years.
Jane was awarded an English Literature degree at Cambridge University in 1975, a Diploma in Social Administration at the London School of Economics in 1977, then went on to do her Master’s in Public Administration at Warwick University in 2003.
She said she started her PhD as she was ‘missing the academic stimulation’ and really wanted to understand how councillors were managing in the new digital environment.
However, with several unexpected setbacks, Jane found herself having to juggle her responsibilities to fit everything in.
Jane, who has a daughter and a grandchild, said: “I am an organised person, my professional background made sure of that. But with my PhD I also had to perfect my prioritising skills.
“I’m grateful for all the PhD support I got from the department, as well as my family and friends. That’s what makes all the difference; they are the people who journey with you. You really rely on those coffee and cake moments!”
Jane is keen to encourage others who are ‘older’ to take the plunge back into education and reap the benefits of being a mature student at DMU.
“Working alongside younger people is stimulating and provides different perspectives. You develop new skills and it is definitely worth all the hard work,” she said.
Jane says the graduation celebration isn’t the end of the story. She’s planning a series of papers on her research subject, but she’s also hoping to catch up with her friends to remind them that she still exists.
“I hope they haven’t forgotten about me as I am looking forward to having a social life again!” she said.
Posted on Tuesday 23rd January 2018