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Returning to Research Study

05 April 2024

Returning to study between qualifications is common, although many people worry about how they might adjust to student life again after working or raising a family. Returning to study as a mature student has many advantages along with some challenges, and here are some things to be mindful of once you have decided to commit to a research degree. 

  • Have a realistic budget for the duration of your degree. This is particularly important if you are funding your degree and studying full-time. The budget should include funds for unexpected or ad hoc expenses, such as dental bills or conference registration fees and associated travel costs. 

  • Maintain a routine that is conducive to your research productivity while allowing some flexibility. Some research projects involve lab work and/or experiments and have the potential to become sporadic for a period of time, and what works best for you (and your family) would need to be reviewed from time to time. 

  • Accept that the student culture might appear to have changed significantly (depending on how long you have been away from the university environment). These differences could be reflected in the services provided on campus, behavioural standard, and social norms. 

  • Take advantage of your existing knowledge and skills while being prepared to re-learn and expand your horizon. Many skills gained from professional work (i.e. networking, relationship building, project management) are transferrable to the research context and can work in your favour provided that you are also open to developing new ways of engaging with people, tasks, and ideas. 


For those who intend to continue working and undertake a research degree part-time, here are some tips on how to manage work and study concurrently. 

  • Set up a realistic and attainable timetable. Working full-time while studying does require significant discipline and planning. It is best to think of this process as a marathon rather than a sprint to maintain both research productivity and personal wellbeing. 

  • Check with your employer to see if they provide tangible support for your academic pursuit. Many employers recognise the benefits of upskilling their employees through continuing education and may allow additional leave time, flexible work arrangements, and tuition subsidy. 

  • Keep those in your social circle (i.e. family, friends, and colleagues) informed of your workload. There will be times that you need to negotiate family, work, and social commitments in order to meet an academic milestone. Do keep people in the loop so they could work alongside you to re-prioritise tasks and/or events. 


Last but not least, remember that your family and friends are on this journey with you, and do acknowledge their contribution to your health and wellbeing by celebrating your small wins and major milestones with them along the way. 

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