It appears that my application for a PhD will not be successful, predominantly because I was going to be doing it from Mongolia. This is understandable, but I am a little frustrated. Frustrated that it has take 11 months from the submission of my MTh to get to this point, and frustrated because I am not sure what to do next.
Option 1: Apply for an alternate Australian institution
I could apply for another Australian university. The problems here are similar. (i) I would need to find a department that is competent and willing to supervise something in Late Antique Christianity, (ii) and a supervisor willing to supervise in that area, and (iib) willing to supervise a student not in-country. The pro would be financial, I should be able to do an Australian-based doctorate at virtually zero personal cost.
Option 2: Apply for a distance PhD program from a UK institution
I think this would alleviate some of the problems of the Australian difficulty – there seem to be a small number of universities more willing to do distance-education PhD students, and I could possibly to probably get a supervisor in my field. The main drawbacks are (i) I would need to pay International student fees, so something like A$8000/yr part-time, which is a lot, and (ii) the probably need for annual or so trips to the UK.
Option 3: Delay starting a PhD and later take time out to tackle it full-time, residential.
The drawbacks to this option include (a) there is still a funding issue, especially if outside Australia, though scholarships are more likely, (b) financial viability of studying full time in my late 30s is not great, (c) taking 3 years off the mission field will really dent the progress of our ministry work, and it would cause problems in terms of our mission support.
Option 4: Attempt to pursue a PhD sneakily (aka by publication)
This is a sneaky option in my view, possibly but improbable. It would require working independently, with a strong sense of purpose, to get a dozen or so inter-related papers published in peer-reviewed sources. Problems include (a) I don’t really approve of these peer-reviewed journals and their locking up of knowledge so that the world can’t have it, (b) this is not a popular approach for awarding PhDs, so I would still need to do some hard yards at the end of the process to convince a university of the merits of my application.
Option 5: Forgo a PhD
Part of me thinks this is a great option – stuff the academic establishment and its pointless pieces of paper. The thing that drags me back to reality on the issue is that the aim of our work in Mongolia is bound up with providing greater academic gravity and opportunity for Mongolian believers. So that piece of paper does count for something, even if the something is not ‘meaningful academic contribution’.
Option 6: ???
Of course, perhaps there are solid alternatives I have not considered, perhaps even some that you have thought of. There are always options out of the box.