To Masters Degree, Or Not To Masters Degree?

While this is definitely me studying, it’s most definitely not my university.

I love my university. I love the people, my course, the campus, and the experiences it has given me. But the history department here is small, and the university itself is very enterprise orientated. So where does that leave me in terms of further study?


When I say our history department is small, I mean that the staff fit into two fairly average sized offices, and that I have come into contact with pretty much all of them throughout my university career. That doesn’t mean we’re all best pals or anything, it’s just small, and because it’s so small it’s very student orientated. My lecturers know who they’re teaching, the biggest module I’m in this semester contains around 40 people – but split (unevenly) over two classes, meaning that my class is still small. Therefore my university history undergraduate experience has been very personal and I’ve felt supported at every step. The discussions are informal and the doors are always open, and yet it’s never felt like the university you see on the big screen, or what you imagine you’re filling out your UCAS application. For my masters I am thinking of applying to much bigger universities, with large faculties and more than six modules on offer each semester. This has left me wondering how I would manage the transition, not only from undergraduate to postgraduate, but also from student focused to an academics lead institution.

Life after graduation?

This brings me on to my seconds point. My current university is very career orientated, taking on the task of preparing its students for the ‘real world’, and this works for them. In terms of humanities graduates, over 90% are employed within a year of finishing their degrees, and in our second and third years we have compulsory modules on graduate and employability skills. Now this is very useful, and I’m not for one moment saying that it’s not. I like being able to pop into the careers office for a chat about my CV or help with an application, and this kind of support is what makes students from all the different schools employable. Where I feel it falls down is the promotion of further study as a valid pathway after graduation.

Apart from a few fantastically helpful people, postgraduate study (that is not a PGCE) has never been presented as a proper option. It’s been on the outside of our corporate based careers fairs, and for the two compulsory career conferences I’ve had to attend for humanities, those representing postgraduate study have failed to attend for various reasons.
I know that if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. I also know that postgraduate degrees in this country aren’t cheap, but this is why I wish the promotion would have been there. So prospective students could discuss options for funding and financial support, and pick the brains of postgrads who have gone on to take a number of different courses at different universities.

At this moment passion is my driving force, and I am being helped by some amazing individuals so who knows where I’ll be this time next year. All I know is that I have loved (and continue to love) my undergraduate experience, I would have just liked a little less of the ‘you-will-graduate-and-be-a-successful-high-flying-business-person’ approach, and more of a ‘look at all these options you could be considering!’
But then again, I’m coming to the end of my last semester as an undergraduate.
Maybe all of this is just an existential crisis?






This is purely based of my own experience and an afternoon of thinking a little too hard.
Is your university particularly employment/academics leaning?
How have your options been presented to you, if it all?  


2 thoughts on “To Masters Degree, Or Not To Masters Degree?

Add yours

  1. Saw your tweet this earlier and felt compelled to read what you’d written. What you’re saying makes perfect sense – potentially as newer universities such as Beds, Herts, Northampton etc. are trying to distinguish themselves. As they’re never going win on kudos from Oxford, Cambridge etc, the only way they see to differentiate themselves as institutions is to quote how many undergrads they got into employment straight after uni (just sit on the average UK train to see the posters proclaiming this ad nauseum), so they will be forever pushing, and what you’re seeing, forever neglecting the possibility of further study.

    I’d say, do what you want to do! I went from a course for 4 years with four of us on it to a job where my employer paid for my second degree. So every option is open and out there if you want to take it.

    1. Thanks for this Dom!
      I’d never thought about it in that way, a way of making their own mark on the industry (to speak in business terms), but from what you say it is a common practice among newer universities/old polytechs.

      As for your advice, I spoke to a lecturer at a prospective university who said pretty much the same thing, so you’re in good company! He had the opinion that we’re a long time dead, so there’s complete validation in doing a masters just because you want to. Especially, because as you suggested, you’ll never know what’s at the end of it or what’s next.

      For financial reasons, I’m heading for employment for the next year or two, but I’m also seeing it as a chance to gain life experience after many years of schooling. Who knows what will happen, but it’s nice to know that there are people out there who see the value in just doing what you want to be doing!

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