Academics without PhDs are common in developing countries and among lecturers from marginalised communities, yet the literature on doctoral education largely ignores them. This qualitative study aimed to address that gap by interviewing academics without PhDs in South Africa and Australia. Their narratives of betwixt and betweenness contribute to theories of liminality as well as doctoral education. Liminality is traditionally conceptualised as a linear, vertical process with clear rites of passage. However, in our study, the interviewees were not only facing a vertical trajectory between non-PhD and post-PhD status but also a lateral trajectory between staff and student identity. The research confirms the importance of distinguishing between transient and permanent liminality in an occupational context. For those who had given up studying, liminality was permanent. Liminality was also affected by dynamically interconnecting factors including age, gender, race, ethnicity, relations with supervisors, time and location.