My Journey to a PhD - Catching up with Jon Winfield
Jon started studying BA (Hons) Health and Social Policy on our 2+2 Degree Pathway with Partner College, North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College in 2014. Graduating last year from the Centre for Lifelong Learning, Jon was offered a scholarship to study a Masters in Social Research and has recently been offered a funded PhD. We caught up with Jon to see how he is feeling about his recent PhD offer.
CLL: Congratulations on your recent PhD offer, can you go into more detail with what you’ll be studying?
Jon: “The research will be a collaborative piece of work between the Institute for Employment Research (IER) at Warwick and the Living Wage Foundation. The aim will be to discover what makes ‘good work’ for people on low wages and precarious hours – effectively zero hour contracts (or very low hours contracted) and minimum wage. The Living Wage Foundation currently say a living wage outside London for full time work should be £9per hour. The work, I think will be to try and help employers understand why it is beneficial for them to offer a living wage.”
CLL: Where did you find your interest in the subject?
Jon: “It was in the second year I got the bug for research and the module on widening participation during my third year really got me interested in inequality, although this was just a continuation of the Health and Social Policy taught in years 1 and 2. The subject matter was different but the many evels of inequality and the reasons people end up being disadvantaged really opened my eyes. Another module which demonstrated the inequalities and obvious greed of industry was Food- Critical Perspectives.
CLL: Did you always set out to study a PhD?
Jon: “During my final year on the 2+2 I decided I wanted to work either in research or for a third sector employer- failing that as a researcher in government. Many of the job vacancies wanted skills I did not have which was why I decided to do the MA in Social Research – it would plug the gaps in my knowledge. I had thought about a PhD but my plan was to focus on my MA, then take the following year to work out what I wanted to do, however we received an email across the department for the PhD Studentship. It ticked all my boxes, working on research, with a third sector charity and gaining a qualification. I really did not expect to even get an interview but I did and was offered the role. No one was more surprised than I was.”
CLL: When you started studying at Warwick, did you imagine you would be where you are now?
Jon: “No a PhD was never on the agenda – my goal was to get a degree and figure out what I wanted to do next as I knew what I had been doing was not right for me. Immediately before starting I was not working - but previously I had worked in sales, as a retail manager for Somerfield and also at McDonalds.”
CLL: What are the benefits of returning to education as an adult?
Jon: “For me, I found it was useful to have life experience; this was particularly noticeable when I did a politics module with traditional age students, they frankly had no experience at all! Right or wrong they had no idea just how divisive the Miners’ Strike and Thatcher had been.”
CLL: What do you hope to achieve from studying your PhD?
Jon: “At this point I have no idea, it might be that I have had enough of research or it might be that I really enjoy it. I would like to get some experience teaching during the course so who knows where this will go.”
CLL: What have you enjoyed most about studying?
Jon: “I really enjoyed working on a project in my second year which was a policy report on Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. Even now I will read something which is at odds with work I read for the project- different perspectives and different views. This sort of knowledge never leaves you- I have been able to use some of it in a module this year.”
CLL: Have you took part in any extra activities with the University?
Jon: “I work as a student ambassador for CLL as well as the Warwick Welcome Service. I also worked as a library steward during term time. The other piece of work I did was as a digital skills mentor for CLL, the highlight was getting unsolicited hugs one sunny day from two of the people I had helped. I will continue to do this as long as they will have me.”