Planning to do your Masters in the UK? You must read this article in full before you select your University.
Pursuing a postgraduate degree opens many opportunities, and it prepares you for the best and the worst. Trust me, I graduated with my Masters during the pandemic, and I have a full-time job in the UK now.
Deciding to do a Masters is a significant choice. And for an international student, it could be one of the most crucial decisions they have ever made. Study abroad not only involves ACTUAL STUDYING (emphasised to a greater extent) but also consists of a lot of future planning.
The most asked question to me in the past year was, how do you choose the right University? How did I choose Lancaster University?
Before we delve into how we choose the right University, let me tell you what will happen if you don't select the RIGHT UNIVERSITY.
- Not enough support
- Being clueless before and after your masters
- Stress and Sleepless nights
- One / two years of your precious time is wasted
- You would have spent a lot of money
- Significantly less return on investment
To be honest, there are many more.
Don't worry. You are in the right place now. I will give you as much information as possible for you to make an informed decision.
1. Course modules
The first thing that you have to consider are the modules you will study for the year. That includes electives as well.
I did my Masters in Management from Lancaster University (52.6 miles North from Manchester, UK). Among the so many modules that I studied, I loved the Business Consulting module. We learned about effective decision making and analysis to improve complex systems within organisations. This module was part of my elective, and was one of the reasons to choose Lancaster University.
a. Because no other university had this module
b. I love strategic planning to resolve complex problems, and I wanted to improve my skills on those lines.
c. and more emphasise on (a.)
You need to identify your true calling for a Masters degree and the subject you want to specialise in.
2. Course structure
From the University that you will apply to, get an answer to this question → How am I going to learn these modules?
Most universities do not publish the structure or the timetable, but they will send you a brief if you ask. If they don't, of course, you have a lot of Alumni to help you with this answer as well.
So why learning about the structure of your course is vital for selecting the University?
A masters program should ideally help you up-skill and prepare you for the job market. 100's of people are graduating every year, how are you going to stand out? The only answer is doing a lot of co-curricular and extracurricular activities during your course of study. This will set you apart from your peers. To do all of that, you need to do a lot of PLANNING for effective time management.
Knowing your course structure will help you plan ahead.
MSc Management at Lancaster University was a block taught structure program scheduled for 9am to 5pm every day. We studied one module at a time, and the module changed every week or sometimes every fortnight. We had assignments, case studies, group activities for all the modules. Additionally, every month, we had exams for the modules that we studied that particular month. This structure is very intensive, but it did make us job-ready.
If you are about to select a course like mine, GOOD LUCK, IT IS GOING TO BE AMAZING. If you don't know that this will come at you, trust me, you will be even more stressed. You don't want that, right? Better understand your structure before you select the University.
3. Method of Study: Online or In-Person?
Thanks to COVID -19, this is on my top 3 on the priority list for selecting the right University.
I am a big believer in learning in person. If you like online learning, please choose UCertify, Udemey, Edx and the many more out there. But for a Master's course, where you spend approximately £22,000 minimum, DON'T DO YOUR MASTERS ONLINE. It is a waste of money. Period.
4. Co-curricular opportunities
Ideally, the University you select should have few co-curricular opportunities like internships, part-time jobs, subject-oriented clubs, and other activities like these. Co-curricular activities stimulate your creative thought process and improve problem-solving, critical thinking, time management, communication and collaboration skills.
For those who do not have any work experience before their masters, co-curricular activities will look good on your CV. During my one year Masters, along with my 9 - 5 classes and exams, I did the following activities.
→ I was one of the Digital Content Creators of Lancaster University, Student Union.
→ I represented Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) as a Student Ambassador
→ Completed a 6 months Digital Marketing Internship at Alan Dick Engineering Ltd, UK
→ Completed a 6 months Marketing and Business Development (remote) Internship at Doodlemonk, India
→ Worked on a 4-week Business Consultancy Project for Two Stories, UK
Though I did not have any full-time work experience with the above activities, I did have transferrable skills to showcase my CV.
5. Extracurricular opportunities
You will go mad if you are studying 24*7. You need some relaxing and break time from all the lectures, assignments and exams. Most of the Universities in the UK does have student unions and clubs.
For an international student, it is very natural to feel homesick during Diwali. I had joined the Tamil and Hindu Society at Lancaster University (LU). We had regular catchups, chai time, movie weekends, Diwali parties, dance, music and many more. At LU, If you can't find one society that interests you, you can create one.
These kind of relaxations are a must for a productive study. So, highly suggest you check the Universities that have such opportunities.
6. Career Hub
In India, we have on-campus placements, companies come to recruit you directly from the University. But in the other parts of the world, YOU HAVE TO FIND YOUR COMPANY. It doesn't mean that you will be left alone. There will definitely be a career hub in all the International Universities. You will want to research the extent of support that your University will be providing.
At LUMS, we have a separate Career Hub just for Management School students. They will help you with your CV and Cover Letter, Psychometric tests preparation, Assessment Centre Preparation, Interview preparation, and they give you a looooottttt of resources for you to research on. Apart from the LUMS career hub, we had a central career hub with all the facilities we can access.
You want to keep in mind that they will not force you to do something, but they will guide you to get the best job.
Wondering as to why ranking is ranked 7th? It is because it doesn't MATTER a lot.
All the Universities are striving to be No.1. Sometimes, the No.1 University might not have the best opportunities for you. You might just be another new admission. For example, if you select a university in the 5th position striving to become the best, they will give you the best resources and motivate you to achieve more.
When I joined MSc Management, my course was ranked 5th in the UK, but when I left, we were ranked 3rd. For the abundance of resources and the support they provide, I am sure that we will rank No.1 soon.
The ranking is just a number, but the other factors should have more importance than ranking.
8. Location of the University
Be it a City University or a University in the countryside, it doesn't matter. Some might disagree with my perspective, but in the current COVID situation, it would be best if one chooses a countryside university than a city-based university.
If you want to head out for a weekend getaway, you can use the fantastic UK public transport. It is inexpensive, and the transportations are very interconnected.
Lancaster University is a Campus-based University. I chose to go to a campus-based Uni because I like to live in the countryside. Everything was inside one campus, so it was easier for me to focus and plan my other activities.
Location is subject to your personal preferences. You might want to check out the difference between City-based Universities and Campus based Universities.
Make a list of all the accommodation options that are available on and off-campus. If you are aware of your course structure and other facilities that are available at your University. Picking your accommodation will be way easier. There are certain things you might want to look at when you are choosing either of the accommodation. Because, it will be your home for the next 40 or 52 weeks.
Choosing between on-campus and off-campus accommodation is subject to personal preferences. But for an international student, I would suggest you go with on-campus accommodation for the first 40 weeks.
10. Financial Support
It will best if the university you select has scholarships on your tuition fees because it might get costly for an international student. Many universities and colleges offer extra money for students. Help from the universities will ease some pressure points.
Research if your University has funding opportunities.
I would advise you to start your research early on the universities because the scholarships are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Unfortunately, I could not apply for the scholarship on time for Lancaster University because I submitted my documents only in June. But for other universities like Cardiff and New Castle, I did get a £3000 scholarship on the tuition fee. So, I suggest you to start early.
I have been talking about the RIGHT UNIVERSITY throughout the article. So, what is that right University?
When you do your 100% research on the mentioned 10 points, the University that scores the best from your study is the right University for you. Be it QS world rankings or FT rankings, your research will prepare you for your Masters. It will set your expectations.
Do your research. You will find your right University. Good Luck.
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