Thursday, 14 July 2016

I'm now a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Not long after I submitted my PhD Thesis for examination, I signed up for the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PgCAP). Now in hindsight, it is not something I would advise doing between submission and the viva.

Thirteen months after I first started the PgCAP, I submitted my final assignments and was told I had passed (subject to the board of examiners). On the 1st July 2016 I graduated - in absentia- with my Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice. Not long after, the postman delivered my certificate.  :)

The PgCAP is an accredited course with the Higher Education Academy.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Talking about the European Union (EU)

So now I am being tormented with the Remain and Leave campaigns. I've now lost count of the number of campaign leaflets that have been put through my door.

There is an ongoing debate in the UK about whether the UK should stay-in or leave the European Union. The referendum on the EU will take place on the 23rd June. Much of the current debate (sovereignty/democracy) is the same as the discussions I was having ten years ago as an undergraduate student.

What I am hearing is conflicting information, unsupported arguments and general one-up-man-ship being played out between the Leave and Remain Campaigns. Considering I have a degree in Politics (part of which was studying the EU), an MSc in African Studies and I am currently finishing my PhD - If I am confused in my attempts to understand 'arguments' put forward by the campaigns then what hope does the average member of the public have. 

I have watched some of the debates/discussions and found myself shouting at the screen - some of the arguments being put forward are founded on a poor understanding of EU politics/economics and general misrepresentations. I'm yet to hear or read an argument which is evidenced through facts and figures and actually demonstrates comprehension and understanding of the subject area....oh wait...that is what is expected in an academic essay....not necessarily from our politicians. 

The spin that is being wheeled out by the campaigns (and I think this goes for both sides) does not begin to scratch the surface of what EU membership means for the UK. I have realised that I am actually looking for the arguments from my experienced, peer-reviewed, published and competent academic colleagues. Not the empty, rhetoric of Cameron, Boris and Farage whilst they point score and treat their respective campaigns like it's an Eton debating contest where the loser gets the chores to do for a month!

Now I realise you probably want to know how I am voting - well I will be voting for the UK to remain as part of the EU. For many reasons but mainly because I believe that EU memberships has many more benefits for the UK (Jobs, travel, funding, trade) and that economic immigration should be embraced and welcomed. 

Also, the arguments I have heard from the Leave campaign say nothing for how the UK would contribute on the world stage as non-members of the EU. They focus only on what leaving does for the UK by keeping the rest of the world at arms length - I have yet to hear a convincing argument for leaving the EU.

I am Scottish, I am British, I am European but most of all I am a member of the Human Race and a citizen of the World. 

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Escaping Child Marriage...children should be allowed to be children

My friend Crystal is the CEO of the Olare Orok and Motorogi Trust and is based in the Maasai Mara, Kenya.  We keep in touch via facebook and I am accustomed to seeing her posts - usually they make me smile; this one had me in tears. 

Natii's story

Natii is 11 years old. Her father died when she was young and since then her eldest brother has sold all of the family's land. Three years ago she decided that she wanted to go to school but her family wouldn't let her. She ran to her community leader for help and he enrolled her in her local primary school. The cook at the school took pity on her and bought her a uniform. She had been doing well in school for the last three years, until 5 weeks ago.

Late at night some men came to her village and Natii heard them talking, She realised that her brother was marrying her off to one of these men in secret. She was even more shocked to find her future husband was 55 years old. Natii fled in the dark and ran 6km to the next village where she found their chief. The following day the chief called her brother, mother and proposed husband together to say that the marriage could not go ahead.

Since this time Natii has returned to her family's homestead but she says that she feels that they do not love her anymore and they treat her very badly because she betrayed them. Her dream is to go to a boarding school so that she can live there away from her brother. She insists that she still loves her mother but despite this, she does not feel safe living at home. Her brother is an alcoholic and is using his siblings to try and make money. Even Natii's 8 year old brother has been sent out to be a shepherd for another family nearby. 

The next school term starts in September and Crystal is desperately trying to raise the $1800 (£1160) that will provide everything Natii needs to reach the end of primary school. The trust will continue to support Natii and will work with her to find the most appropriate route for her to fulfill her potential in life. 

All the money raised will go towards helping Natii and if more than the target amount is raised, this will be put towards helping Natii's siblings attend school. If you can, please donate! 

US Donations - - you will be connected to the network for good portal. As the designee within this please put 'OOMT' 

For any further information, please email Dr Crystal Courtney at

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Disappearing Psoriasis: A non-PhD related post!

WARNING:This post is not a PhD/academic/writing related post. I've been having phototherapy for the last couple of months and wanted to share the progress! 

I have the autoimmune condition Psoriasis. I have the most common form plaque psoriasis, which basically means I get patches (or plaques) of thick red skin with white scales. 

I count myself lucky that my psoriasis doesn't generally itch - and on the odd occasion that it does, some moisturiser usually keeps it under control. I've had it since I was 15 so I've become so used to having plaques on my arms and legs, that I never really felt the need to cover them up and I never made a conscious effort to hide my skin.

People would ask if I had a reaction to something, or had sunburn. Explaining that I have psoriasis; it is not contagious and it doesn't hurt, usually answered the majority of any questions I was asked. 

Recently I started having phototherapy treatment or light treatment. Here's a few answers to the FAQs

1. I am having narrowband Ultraviolet B (UVB) light treatment

2. It's not the same as a sunbed. Though I do have to stand in what is best described as a sun-bed like machine

3. I go to the clinic two mornings a week for treatment. I am 'exposed' to the light for a set amount of time. I started at 15 seconds and now up-to having 1 minute 17 seconds

4. I will have approximately 15 weeks of treatment 

5. It's not a cure and I don't know how long the effects of the treatment will last! 

Here are some photos of my progress (left arm and elbow)

Before Treatment

Week 1 

Week 5

Week 8
Week 11

Week 13
Some Useful Links

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Why I can't write during a Writing Retreat...and at other times

OK well let me start off by saying that the title of this post is not really true! I started writing this blog during a writing retreat! 

The main reason I found I was not able to write during this latest retreat was because I was the retreat facilitator. It turned out I'm actually quite good at helping other people to write (or at least appear to be writing), I could just never really find my own writing rhythm.

I have to say facilitating the writing retreat has been a steep learning curve and also a great experience (@thesiswhisperer did warn me about that). There was some really useful and insightful discussions and lots of words written by the group as a collective. Just not so many words written by me. I did however learn quite a lot about when I write best.

Writing retreats (or bootcamps) are great, especially when they offer the space to work on your writing in an a conducive environment alongside your peers. The sense of tension during the 'shut-up and write' style writing times felt a bit like an exam. 

This afternoon, I found myself sitting in an Edinburgh cafe for what was supposed to be the inaugural meeting of a Shut-Up and Write Group. The only thing, I'm the only one who turned-up. I was sitting on my own at a bench table with my laptop trying to look like I was doing something of vague importance. I came to the conclusion my friends and colleagues decided there were other things to do on a Sunday afternoon. Oh Well! 

As I settled down to write, with my ginger beer, I felt quite happy.It was nice to be out of the flat and not in the office and I couldn't be distracted by the F1 GP at Silverstone. I got quite a lot done and with no-one to talk too, I had no option but to write.