By Richard Parfitt |


With the start of the new Premier League season approaching, and my next Pubs and Publications post due, it’s that time when we ask the really important questions. The questions that change the way we think about higher education, about the process of learning, and the very nature of knowledge. Questions like “If Stoke City did a PhD, what would it be like?”


With that in mind, which of these PhD football teams fits you best? 




You’re stylish, well-dressed, and you present beautifully. You’re a joy to watch at conferences, and your articles have an almost poetic quality. Your finances are secure, you work in state of the art facilities, and your research has always had a healthy following. You draw on a lot of internationally influenced methodological approaches, especially from France.


Sometimes people say you could achieve a little more, and there’s a growing feeling that your supervisor needs to retire so that you can fulfil your potential. Nevertheless, the talent is there for further success in the future.



Man City


Sorry, your research grant is how much? You’ve got so much funding you’re doing fieldwork that isn’t even necessary. You have multiple research assistants who sit at home earning money they don’t need. You’ve done a lot with South American academics recently.


You’re desperate to do well at a big European conference, but it hasn’t happened for you just yet. You’ve hired some more research assistants to try and get that extra edge. Fingers crossed!



Man Utd


Your research is well-respected, you have a solid publication record, and you usually attend the right conferences. Some of your rivals suspect that your abstracts get accepted when they don’t deserve it, but you’ve won so many awards and gathered so much material that you don’t care. Your research has a surprisingly big following in China.


You’ve struggled a little since your old supervisor retired, and your new supervisor is a bit grumpy, but a well-received paper at a European conference last year has got your confidence up.

Stoke City


You didn’t go to a top university, you aren’t methodologically sophisticated, and you’re not afraid to play dirty with your fellow academics to get ahead. Despite all this, you get the job done. Even on a cold, dark winter day when you’d rather stay in bed, you get up and you do your work. You probably don’t even turn your alarm clock off on Christmas Day, just because you like to stay in a regimented routine.


Some academics with more exciting, buzzword heavy research think that your methods are boring, but you’re consistent and it works, so who cares?




You constantly overachieve. You go to a small university, you’re probably self-funded and you’ve had to fight for everything. Your young, innovative supervisor has really inspired you to do great things. Your papers always get a good reception, and providing the supervisor isn’t signed up by one of the bigger universities, there’s no reason to think your success can’t continue.


It gets a little tedious, sometimes, that everybody is constantly surprised by your success, but that’s academia. Another good year awaits.


Huddersfield Town


You did it! You made it to the PhD! Nobody really understands how, it was by the skin of your teeth, but you did it. The pressure is off now. You can do your PhD knowing that you’re not fussed about what happens afterwards, you just want to enjoy it while you’re there. You can go to conferences and enjoy the biscuits without feeling the need to network with people you can’t stand.


Every abstract accepted will be a bonus, and there could be the odd paper where you take on the views of an established academic and really show them up. Cherish those moments.




You’re great. You’re so great. Everything you do is great, your research is great, and you look great in blue. God, you’re so great.*



Have I missed any out? Send us your own PhD football teams.



*It’s possible that the author’s prejudices may have impacted upon some of the conclusions drawn in this blog.



Richard Parfitt is a committee member for Pubs and Publications.  You can find him on Twitter and on

Images: (;