Debunking the ‘PGRs can’t take holidays!’ myth
As postgraduate researchers, we are given lots of independence in setting our own work timetables. Whilst this is great for the most part (if you’re struggling, this post has some useful tips on time management), for many this means that days are rarely set aside for holiday and relaxation. Even when they are, we can feel so guilty for taking a break from our important research that we end up not enjoying it anyway! But holidays are of vital importance to your success as a PGR, and should definitely be included in your PGR experience (even the official guidelines say so too!).
The official guidelines
Perhaps one difficulty is knowing exactly how much holiday PGRs are actually allowed to take. So, what’s the official policy on this?
A really useful source that all PGR students should be aware of is the PGR Code of Practice. This document spells out what is expected from us as PGRs, as well as what we can expect from those involved in our PGR journey. Covering topics such as the role of supervisors, student wellbeing, and guidelines for thesis submission, the part that is important for this post is the section on Annual Leave (pp. 15-16). Here it states that: ‘Postgraduate Research Students are entitled to take a maximum of eight weeks annual leave, including public holidays.’ Yes, that’s right, that’s a total of 56 whole days!
This is of course subject to the circumstances of individual PGRs, so make sure you are aware of holiday clauses that are stipulated in any of your funding, visa, or employment contracts. Whilst the amount may vary, it tends to be similar to what the University allows. For instance, the College of Social Science Scholarship generally follows the same provision for eight weeks of holiday.
You should also check with your supervisors that they are happy with your holiday arrangements. From personal experience, they are very supportive as long as you are within the official allowances and show that you have overall been keeping on top of work. On this point, remember that ‘keeping on top of work’ does not mean ‘over-working’ – and taking no breaks at all is definitely part of the latter!
Why and how to take breaks
As several of my blogging friends have pointed out, without factoring in any breathing space, you can take serious risks with your health as well as the quality of your research. Indeed, if you find that you are struggling with inspiration or experiencing the dreaded writer’s block, unplugging and doing something entirely different is one of the best pieces of advice.
Thinking past our PGR programs, there will undoubtedly come a time when we are in a position of responsibility for the welfare of others, whether other members of staff, students at a school or university, or our own friends and family members. Taking care of ourselves is an important start to practicing and demonstrating that we have the skills to do this.
If you’ve been stuck in a routine of working day and night, week in and week out, and have long forgotten how to even engage in anything that is not targeted at your research, don’t fear! We have plenty of great info and tips on places to holiday, and guest bloggers have provided loads of suggestions for ways to get away from work and stay active at the same time. Don’t forget that these activities can be a great way to meet new people too, especially fellow PGRs who can relate to you and are also in need of a break from research (check out this post on UofG’s new PhD society).
Make the most of PGR flexibility
Lastly, yes, PGR independence and being able to manage your own time is a huge bonus, so make the most of it. All of us probably have very different ways of relaxing and organising our free time. Whether you like to bash through all your work in one go and then take a week off before diving back again, or engage in small leisure activities throughout the week and taking a few days off here and there, the important thing is to find a way that works for you that manages to maintain that work-life balance while still enjoying your entitled holiday space away from research.