Doing a program of PhD studies in the social sciences is a strange and in many ways unnatural way to learn. It is based on traditions with roots in Greek antiquity and aspires to ideals first taught during the Enlightenment. These include freedom of thought and speech, the power of reasoning, the standards of evidence, and guidance from bodies of theory. All are legacies we should not take for granted. At the same time, the relevance of higher education is a cause for concern, as are questions around social inclusion and scientific accountability. What research is for and who it is for are critical questions neglected in the university teaching environment. My experience studying anthropology at university confronted a few of these limitations and hinted at new pedagogical strategies that later became important to my professional development and to the approach to action-oriented research developed by Jacques and myself.