PhD by Publication

Today I can christen this mug which was sent to me by my friend and collaborator, Mariana Funes (herself a Dr of long-standing) at the end of March, when I was told by my examiners that I had been awarded a PhD subject to three minor revisions.

This evening I have heard that these revisions have been accepted. Here’s the proof:

I have viewed the revisions to Jenny’s thesis submission suggested by the examiners at her viva on the 30th of March. I can confirm that they have been undertaken thoroughly and the account and justification of her contribution to knowledge is clear. I recommend that she should now be awarded the degree of PhD.

Professor Murray Saunders, Internal Examiner, Lancaster University, UK

I have a lot to reflect on and say about this PhD, principally because it was a PhD by publication – a bit of a different animal. I still have to be formally awarded this PhD by submitting a bound hard copy to Lancaster University (UK) library and attending an award ceremony in December, but given the revisions have been accepted, I now feel I can add PhD to my signature and post my PhD here on my blog.

But most important for me at this stage is to acknowledge my collaborators, without whom this PhD would not have been possible – I will write more of this later – collaboration and PhD aren’t two words that normally go together. So here is a copy of the Acknowledgements section in my submission.


I have been encouraged and supported by many people since I started researching learners’ experiences in MOOCs in 2008. Everyone acknowledged here has played a significant role in the act of retrospective coherence that is this PhD submission.

John Mackness has been a staunch critical friend throughout this process. Matthias Melcher has also, over these years, been hugely supportive, challenging my thinking and broadening my perspectives through ongoing online discussion. Stephen Downes, Mariana Funes, Debbie Simpson and Roy Williams all provided comprehensive and very helpful comments on my final draft. Many thanks to you all.

All my work has been collaborative. I have learned so much from the generosity, friendship and expertise of my collaborators. Special thanks are due to Roy Williams, with whom I have collaborated on many papers, for his unerring courtesy and kindness and for introducing me to new ways of thinking. I am also indebted to all my other collaborators; Frances Bell, Mariana Funes, Karen Guldberg, Simone Gumtau, Regina Karousou, Liz Lovegrove, Sui Fai John Mak, Elpida Makriyannis, Matthias Melcher, Jutta Pauschenwein, George Roberts, Rhona Sharpe, Charlene Tait, Carmen Tschofen and Marion Waite. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with you all. It has been a privilege.

Thank you too to Allison Littlejohn for her timely advice on applying for a PhD by published work and to my supervisor Professor Paul Ashwin for encouraging and supporting my submission for this award and for his astute feedback on my drafts.

Final thanks are due to my External Examiners Professor Sian Bayne and Professor George Veletsianos and to my Internal Examiner, Professor Murray Saunders.

And here is the whole document – Jenny Mackness PhD (Pub) 2017

As with all PhDs the process has been a significant learning experience, which I have recorded as I have gone along, starting in December 2015. I will be writing more blog posts about this process as a PhD by publication is still not a very common route to this award and certainly not a PhD for which the papers have been written before applying.