PhD – Philippine holiDays

Holidays are good. Travelling provides time to relax, experience new things,  see work from a different perspective and have fun! Due to these positive effects, I intend to take holiday time throughout my PhD.

I had a 3 week holiday last month. I met up with friends and saw a part of the world I’ve been wanting to visit for years. If I didn’t have such an interest in science I think I would be spending a good proportion of my time travelling.

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Though this is something that doesn’t sound too unusual, I’ve found that it an sometimes be taken as a point of contention. As I’m funded by a university scholarship I follow their guidelines on holiday allowance: ‘Twenty-five days holiday a year, in addition to days when the University is closed’. Other funders may have differing guidelines for example: Research Councils UK state a ‘maximum of eight weeks in the year including public holidays, should be allowed for by supervisors‘.

Though time allowed differs between funders and PhD formats (lab, fieldwork, theoretical), the point is all PhD students are entitled to holiday. In all the cases I’ve identified, holiday allowance is more generous than most other job contracts. This is something to celebrate, in my opinion it’s a perk of doing a PhD.

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My issue is that in several labs I’ve worked in, students have been discouraged from taking holiday. Holiday allowance is under the discretion of the supervisor. In the last 3 months of your PhD it may be inadvisable to take a 4 week trip, but why ‘guilt trip’ students into not taking advantage of a generous holiday allowance they’re unlikely to possess again?

I gave 6 months notice for my holiday and my proposed dates of 3 weeks were not questioned, something I was very pleased about. Though nearer the time supervisors couldn’t resist telling me how they had never taken a 3 week holiday or hadn’t had a holiday in years. I’ve seen students … in asking for 5 days off. In a different job, submitting a form to request annual leave would be unlikely to cause this much stress.

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There’s something about the PhD that makes everyone feel guilty for leaving the lab, especially for extended periods. This can be made worse when an advisor questions holiday time. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that your superior always worked harder, for longer hours and for less pay than you do; though this may be true it’s not a culture that should be passed on. I’ve definitely noticed a difference in attitudes between institutions and I think the situation is improving but there’s still work to do.

With Queen Mary University of London ‘considering whether PhD students might be counted as employees in the future‘ there is the prospect of considerable change to the way those undertaking PhDs are seen by universities and importantly, how they see themselves.

Students should be responsible for deciding on the balance of holiday time: work time needed to maintain motivation and happiness but allow adequate progression. 

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Has anyone had an experience of animosity towards holidays? Are holidays encouraged by your advisor? Do you declare your holiday or take days as and when?

Happy holidays everyone!

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