By Richard Parfitt |



Continuing our long-running series of articles on ‘Which of these non-academic things is a metaphor for your PhD?’, and helping me to come up with a blog amidst my Saturday-night writer’s block, I’m going to consider what this year’s batch of Strictly celebrities would be like if they were doing PhDs. Not all of them, because there’s loads, but all the ones for whom I can think of a funny gag. Let’s do this.


Susan Calman

Your PhD is a bit off the wall. Your structure is all over the place, nobody is entirely clear about the relevance of your research to the wider field, but when you get up there at the conference you clearly enjoy yourself. Your presentation style entertains everyone, and if there’s one thing you prove it’s that anybody can give this a go if they try. When you’re criticised for not researching your own social stereotype, you are as dignified as you are badass. Keep it up.


Charlotte Hawkins

At first glance, your research has all the makings of a sophisticated piece of work. You probably work in Classics, or Theology, something with intellectual rigour, but you struggle with the sexy stuff. You’re a bit stiff and awkward when it comes to making your research sound exciting and interesting to a general audience. You’re much more comfortable with the smooth, ballroom dances (i.e. the purely academic bits – this metaphor is working).


Aston Merrygold

Let’s be honest, you’ve done this before. Every conference, every paper, every discussion, you just seem to know it all already without any effort. Chances are this is your second PhD, or you’re an expert in your area already and this was just a way to give your arguments a bit more intellectual weight. There’s nothing technically wrong with this, and you seem like a perfectly nice person, but it’s annoying for those who are struggling (Simon Rimmer).


Reverend Richard Coles

You’re bored in your old age, so why not just do a PhD? You were probably very successful in your previous career, and you’ve got no knowledge of your subject area, but you’ve got the time to kill and you don’t mind making yourself look silly. Your supervisors have their concerns, but at the conference dinner you’re the life of the party.


Alexandra Burke

You seem to be very good at this without being unlikeable, which in research as in reality TV is a difficult balance. Your work is innovative, relevant to the public, and widely published. You work hard, get good results, and really impress your supervisors. At conferences, you probably take time out to give advice to others, because you just seem like that sort of person. You’ll probably get a JRF, you lucky thing.


Joe McFadden

Sneaking up the inside, you wouldn’t have been a front runner to do well when you joined the University, but while the others are showing off and talking about postmodernism, you quietly get on with it. When they peak, you could fly past and get a cracking piece of work over the line. Your work is probably subtly insightful, but also very accessible.


Keep writing/dancing!


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

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