I have not written for a while, mainly because I have been trying to convert from a Masters degree to a Ph.D. degree, which is the topic of this article. This might sound strange but that is the normal way of entering a Computer Science Ph.D. course at Melbourne Uni if you do not already have a Masters.
I begun this process in mid May but have been working (or at least looking) towards it since February. So far, as of the 12th of July it is still not complete, even though I thought it was and told Twitter and Facebook that it was. What follows is a blow-by-blow summary of this process.
- Mid May
Wrote my conversion report (roughly 3,000 words), this was easy especially since it will spend its lifetime in a filing cabinet where no one will read it.
Booked my conversion seminar, since I am now the CSSE Postgraduate Seminar Coordinator this was also easy. On a side-note, I became seminar coordinator due to a twisted interpretation of democracy whereby the CSSE postgrads voted for the first guy nominated so they could eat pizza sooner, and I did not decline the nomination loudly enough. I did promise to be corrupt and allow the power to go to my head, to my surprise this has not happened yet.
- 3rd of June
I gave my conversion seminar. This went well despite some computer trouble; the screen saver kept starting and the computer insisted that due to some newly installed updates that it had to reboot during the presentation. I held the seminar coordinator responsible.
The seminar itself went well; I was initially nervous but soon got over it. The audience seemed to be interested and asked the sort of questions that show that they were paying attention. I was also surprised with the turn-out.
The conversion seminar was followed by a meeting between my two supervisors and a committee member to decide whether I should continue my studies as a Ph.D. student. It is unusual that the supervisors will decide against this, it is more usual that they will choose to conditionally accept the student. Apparently half way through this meeting I was to be invited back in but I could not be found. I had gone out to have coffee with a friend who I had not seen for a while, which was worth it. The second phase of the meeting had to be held the next week.
- In the middle of the following week
After finding a time when all four of us were free again (somewhat like waiting for planets to align) the meeting was concluded. I was prepared to defend my work, but no attack was made, my supervisors decided that I should be allowed to continue unconditionally. I had waited for this closure for about five days it came as an anti-climax. We completed and submitted the paper work, of which there is two forms, one quite large, meeting minutes, two reports (one is a short copy of the other plus transcripts from RMIT).
Here's where the bureaucracy begins. Some papers were to be submitted with the department office, others with the school of graduate studies (SGS). The SGS informed me that they no-longer handle this particular set of forms and that it would be forwarded to the faculty office, which was okay since they would forward it for me. The set lodged with the department have to be signed by people of varying ranks within the department before being sent to the faculty. All this takes a number of weeks.
- First week of July
The whole university has been upgrading its Student Information System, by which I mean replacing. These changes happened to occur just before my forms made it to the Faculty of Engineering. This meant that the computer had somehow changed my file and marked me as a part-time student rather than a full-time student. This was straightened out quickly.
The forms were checked and stamped by Engineering and sent to SGS, whose job it is to prepare a letter of offer to send back to Engineering.
- 5th of July
My last day as a Masters student. Masters enrolments last for 18 months, this time has now expired and my scholarship payments have been suspended.
- 8th of July
In theory engineering should be able to adjust my records to say that I have been made an offer and then I should be able to use the computer to accept this offer from the comfort of my office. The new computer system failed, I could not locate or accept an offer using the computer, it either showed that I had no-such offer, or presented me with an error message.
David Strover (Engineering) has been very helpful and did the most reasonable thing anyone could have at this point, sent me an old fashioned paper form that I can fill out using a pen in lieu of using the computer system. I spent the afternoon of the 8th trying to convince the printer to print this file without crashing so that I could fill it out.
- 12th of July
I managed to print the form, fill it out and walk it over to Engineering where I passed it directly to David. This is the point at which I announced that I had leveled up, although my scholarships have not yet been reinstated I thought that was just a phone call away and that I had beaten the system.
David called me later that afternoon to say that Student Admin would not accept a paper form and I must enrol using the computer. WHY IS THIS SO HARD!! Tomorrow morning I have an appointment to use the online system to attempt to accept my offer and enrol while someone is watching me and the errors generated by a computer. Common sense would say that I, being someone who is eligible to become a Ph.D. student in the field of computer science would be able to recognise that the computer system is broken and needs to be worked around until it can be fixed. URGH
David is doing a good job. I would like to point out that he is not be bad guy here, he is trying to do his job and make it easy for me to do mine.
I will write again once this is all sorted.