Choosing A Postgraduate University
When deciding which university to attend, there are a few general things you may want to consider before researching more specific factors. These might include:
- Whether you want to attend your local university or move way from home. If you choose to leave home, how far away do you want to be?
- Does the university have all the facilities you require, such as a gym, outdoor sports grounds, car parking, etc?
- What are the university's resources like? Do they have a good library with plenty of online journals, and copies of the necessary specialised textbooks?
- How big is the university itself, and how many students attend? Would you prefer to go to a larger or smaller institution?
- Where is the university located? Do you want to go to a university in a big city or somewhere quieter? Remember that the cost of living will be higher in large cities, which may affect your budget significantly.
Research Assessment Exercise results
Unlike undergraduate courses, there are no league tables that allow you to compare postgraduate courses.
However, you may find the 2014 Research Excellence Framework results for universities in the UK useful in seeing which institutions are ranked highest for research excellence, as research quality plays a more significant role at postgraduate level than undergraduate degree level.
Student support and services
Check whether the university offers all the necessary support to postgraduate students to maintain their well-being – this includes careers advice, a personal tutor system, counselling, a safety bus, and a union society.
Some universities have dedicated resources, societies, etc. for postgraduates, so take a look at what each institution has to offer.
Be wary of universities that are dominated by undergraduates, as this may mean the university places less emphasis on the well-being of their postgraduate population, so research carefully exactly what amount of support you can expect to receive.
The social side of university is a very important part of student life, so it's important to make sure the range of social, sports and cultural activities and clubs offered by the university match your requirements.
Taking a Masters isn’t all about studying – you need to balance your life as a student with some fun! It may take you a little while to find the right balance between working and socialising, but you will find your feet eventually.
Making a final decision
Having already decided the course you want to do will make narrowing down a university to attend easier.
If you are still uncertain what course you will be taking, it is worthwhile checking out the teaching quality, facilities and social aspects of universities and compare them to try and pinpoint some specific areas where you would be interested in attending university.
You can also visit the universities you are thinking of applying to by going to one of their Open Days.
These will be advertised on their website, and will allow you to get the feel of a place by going on a tour with one of the attending students, as well as offering you the opportunity to ask questions about the social environment, facilities, and any other aspects you wish to know more details on.
Don’t forget to contact the university for a postgraduate prospectus, or grab a copy on the open day, as this will have information on all the courses available and the institution in general.
Looking at the factors above, it’s important to realise that you should consider many things when deciding on your university – there’s no point making a decision based on one or two characteristics, as you are likely to find it doesn’t meet all your needs.
Each university is unique, although won’t appeal to every prospective postgraduate student – it may take a bit of research, but hopefully you will find a university that attracts you more than others, and you will know this is the right one for you.