Hannah McGill, from Edinburgh, is a full-time PhD student at QMU, focusing on Film Festival Programming in the Division of Media, Communication and Performing Arts (Centre for Communication, Cultural and Media Studies).

Before coming to study at QMU, Hannah completed her first degree in English Literature and Film and Television Studies at Glasgow University in 1999. She then had a busy media career, including roles as a music editor for The List, TV critic for The Scotsman, and film critic for The Herald, as well as freelance work.

Hannah then spent four years as Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival until 2010. She’s since returned to freelancing and now has four-year-old twin daughters.

Why did you choose to undertake a PhD at QMU?

“I’d long wanted to return to academia, and have always wanted to put what I learned an experienced at the Edinburgh Film Festival to some sort of use. However, I wasn’t in a financial position to self-fund, so I needed an opportunity that both suited my interests and expertise and came with funding.

“The bursary scheme made it feasible for me to apply, and the department was looking for work in areas that tie in with my journalistic and film festival experience. I approached a couple of QMU academics for more guidance and information and everyone was extremely helpful and welcoming.”

Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh/Scotland?

“Because I live here! As my family is settled here, I was looking for something within easy travelling distance to Edinburgh.”

How do you think your PhD is helping you with your personal development?

“I’m ready for a new career path away from journalism after twenty years and because of the culture changes and declining opportunities in that field.

“It’s giving me a return to the deeper level of thinking and analysis I so enjoyed during my first degree.

“It also offers me the opportunity to engage with and help undergraduate students and to learn from their very different experience of film and media.”

How did you find the workload?

“I’m still at an early stage and getting used to independent working. My supervisors are excellent, although my mind boggles at the demands on their time.”

Are you working during the course?

“My course is full-time. I still do some freelance journalism and broadcasting work on the side. I also teach in the department as part of the terms of my bursary.”

Do you benefit from any financial support as part of your studies?

“Yes. As a freelancer in a dwindling industry, with a mortgage, raising two pre-school kids, I would not have been able to undertake any post-graduate study without funding - so I’m incredibly grateful for it and hope to prove worthy of the investment. The PhD Bursary also means that I teach, which is an additional workload but I think is really good for keeping my thinking fresh.”

How do you think your QMU degree has equipped you with the skills/knowledge to development your career?

“I don’t know that yet, but I’m hoping to develop my academic thinking and writing and my research skills, and to have the chance to look at different employment opportunities in the future as a result.”

What is your top tip for future PhD students based on your own personal experience?

“If you’re old, like me, and have been doing different things with your life, don’t underestimate how different university will be on a purely technical level from how it was when you studied before. I’m a rabbit in the headlights when it comes to everything being digital, online and virtual. I can’t even get to grips with a smartboard.”

What are your plans after completing your PhD at QMU?

“I don’t know. I’d hope that in the course of my study I will discover whether I want to remain in academia and whether I possess the skills to do so, and I will take it from there.”

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