Thursday, 7 May 2009

The Masters Experience; Part 1 - The good

I thought I would make my first foray into something that perhaps is more helpful to others, and less of a personal rant. So, I want hereto outline some of my experiences as the seasoned veteran of student life that is The Masters Experience (I somehow feel it warrants capitalisation). With significantly more people turning to postgraduate education, either because of the recent economic slump or just to add another notch in the CV belt, I hope anyone out there considering it finds it useful. As this is quite a long post, I have decided to split it instead into 3 parts in the hope it becomes eminently more readable.

I should perhaps note that my postgraduate course, whilst remaining legally orientated, is not an LLM but rather that lesser beast that is the MA. I say lesser beast, but it is still has the potential to block the road to social life, and occasionally cover one in large quantities of last minute dung. Like having to look after a small child, with the bowels of a hippo. That has been at the chillies.

PART 1: The Good

There are many good aspects to the postgraduate way of things. There is a heavy onus on self-reliance, and personally I find this to be a good thing. Gone are the days of relative spoon feeding, and rigid structure. Instead I have relatively little contact time, and all my contact consists of seminars rather than lectures. Every week, I am therefore required to do work, participate and be self-motivated enough to go away and find things for myself. As a nice corollary to this, the seminar structure rapidly became more fluid, with lecturers letting us mould the syllabus as we wished, and constructed assessed questions with a broad scope so that each person could really explore any area they wished. I have even had the opportunity to completely choose my own questions. For some, this may be similar to undergraduate, but this was not the case for my seat of learning and warranted welcome refreshment from the strict confines of an inflexible syllabus. This is perhaps most true in the dissertation; almost complete freedom to do whatever you want (within academic reason).

Perhaps the most welcome aspect of The Masters Experience has been the chance to really develop in seminars. The people on the course want to be there. After all, forking out all this extra cash must be for a reason. This shows, as everyone has something to say and often the long seminars have flown by as a small number of us battle it out over some point or other, the lecturer sitting idly by. Well I say idly, often grabbing a pen when a particularly salient point is mentioned, and adopting the smirk that says “that will be in my next article, thanks.” Long gone are the hour-long torture sessions of cacophonous silence that were my undergraduate seminars. With a number of students from other jurisdictions, the insights into the way things are done elsewhere has been very interesting, and challenged the often entrenched views of how we do things over here being the best.


  1. This is a very nice informative and encouraging post, a good advert for the postgraduate way of life. Of course there are frustrating downsides - the isolation that comes with self reliance, questions of discipline and rigour and determinaiton - but to my mind the things you've mentioned outweigh these negatives substantially.
    Speaking as a ploddng PH.D student, you have succeeded, Oddy, in reviving my tenuous enthusiasm!! :)

  2. With two pg degrees under my belt and currently limping wimpishly to a third (and definitely last), I would wholeheartedly recommend postgrad study.

    The skills learned through independent, but academically supervised, postgrad study can be particularly attractive to the yoof, whose undergrad degrees are, as you say, likely to have been spoon fed to them in a way which was, for past generations, a style of learning which was jettisoned on leaving secondary school.