IN THE UK
sort of courses can I do as a postgraduate student in the UK? What will the
experience be like? How can I get the most out of my time in Britain? How will
this contribute to my personal development? What support is available? Will
further study be valued when I return home?
Most postgraduates in the UK are studying for Masters qualifications lasting one
or two years. These courses serve a range of needs from vocational training to a
preparation for further research. One characteristic common to all is the
opportunity to work in small groups and contribute to an exciting mix of ideas
Teaching and learning on taught courses may be in the form of essays, project
work, industrial or business placements, problem classes, lectures, tutorials or
discussion groups. They may also include a project or research dissertation
which you work on individually or as part of a group.
It is important that you check the content of courses and are sure that they are
suitable for you. Courses with the same title may be very different in their
aims and methods and different institutions have different strengths.
British Universities have a long and respected tradition for research. Many
Masters courses contain a research element and some are dedicated to research
with little or no formal teaching. The most advanced form of postgraduate
research is doctoral work which is intensive and needs strong commitment in
terms of time, dedication and finance. Full time study at this level will take
at least three years.
Whatever course you choose research in the UK is characterized by close contact
with academic staff and personal research supervision either working with one or
two academics or part of a research team. If you are considering doing a
doctorate in the UK you must make sure you are very clear about your reasons and
motivations. The work is intense and demands a high degree of independence of
both thought and working patterns. Choosing your supervisorís) for doctoral
level work is very important. You will have a close working relationship with
these people for several years so be sure to make sure the people you choose
will be best suited to your needs.
In recent years much more
emphasis has been placed upon gaining a broad range of skills appropriate not
just to your specific research project but to the your subject area generally.
Do take advantage of these opportunities as they will put you in a stronger
position when it comes to seeking employment whether within academia or in other
Whatever your course you will have the opportunity as a postgraduate to develop
your skills both formally and informally. All institutions offer a range of
supplementary courses in addition to the training and teaching you will receive
as part of your study.
What is often not
recognized are the skills you will develop informally through studying in
another country at postgraduate level. Postgraduate study will enable you to
develop your personal skills in areas such as presentation, report writing,
organizing work effectively, managing others and communicating ideas clearly.
Also the experience of simply studying in another country and being part of a
different culture is something that cannot be learned elsewhere.
The UK Government has recently made it easier for international students to work
while studying. The most obvious way of earning extra income while studying is
doing teaching work. With the rapid expansion of higher education in the UK over
the last decade there are many more opportunities for teaching at all levels
from demonstrating and laboratory work to tutorials, seminars and sometimes
There may be limitations
on what teaching work you can do as Masters student and more opportunity exists
for those doing doctoral research. Remember, though, that teaching can be time
consuming so be sure to balance the attractions of teaching work with the needs
of your course or research. You should expect training and support to be
provided from your department or institution to help you teach.
It is important to remember that when you are studying your academic work is
only part of your life. All institutions in the UK have an organization run by
students and usually known as the studentsí union or association. They are a
focus for student life and provide social and sporting facilities as well as
acting as the voice of students at the institution. Most institutions have a
postgraduate society and a wide range of other clubs and societies.
The first places you
should go for information and support are your institution and its studentsí
union. There are also several national organizations for students in the UK.
The national body for
postgraduates in the UK is the National Postgraduate Committee (NPC) which is an
independent organization offering support, advice and guidance to student
unions, institutions and individuals. The National Union of Students (NUS) is
the largest student organization in the UK but does tend to focus more on the
needs of undergraduates.
Be part of it!
There is unprecedented interest in higher education at the moment and a real
commitment to widening opportunity and expanding the role that higher education
plays in society and the world. Postgraduate study and research can serve
different needs from career training to the development of original and exciting
ideas through research and collaborative work. This is an exciting time to be
part of a learning revolution that can benefit you as an individual and society
as a whole. The UK has a deserved reputation as one of the best places to do
postgraduate work in the world. If you are clear about your reasons for study
and make the most of the opportunities available you will have a rewarding and
enjoyable experience. Be part of the learning revolution and come and study in
the UK. Itís an experience you will never forget.
By: Jeremy Hoad
General Secretary, National Postgraduate Committee (UK), 1998 - 2000