There is a lot of controversy in the university sector about the way that postgraduate degree funding has been neglected by the government. Because of the lack of access to a loan system and a huge decrease in financial support offered by the funding councils, academics fear that postgraduate study may become the preserve of the richer student only.
However, there are still many good reasons to start a taught masters. If you teach undergraduates, this article will help you think how to encourage them to take a masters course, or if you are considering one yourself it will provide some food for thought.
There are many types of taught masters, some in academic subjects and others in more vocational areas. This article concentrates on the academic type of taught masters in subjects such as History or Philosophy and examines the potential benefits of undertaking this work.
Provides a bridge between undergraduate and research work
If you want to become an academic but are unsure about jumping straight from an undergraduate degree to a research programme then a taught masters provides a natural way of progressing to postgraduate work. It provides you with the independent study skills and research skills required at postgraduate level but without leaving you working alone with little guidance. Taught masters programmes allow you to attend classes with a cohort of other students, encouraging group learning and a collegiate atmosphere. While going immediately into a research masters and a PhD might seem daunting, a taught masters is a good option for many students.
Personal enthusiasm, love of studying and love of subject
Although the cost of doing a masters is financially high, many students undertaking a taught masters are doing so for enjoyment because they love the subject rather than for career development. Mature students who have retired from another career still comprise a considerable proportion of masters students. However, this market is most vulnerable to fee rises and their numbers depend on the ability to provide a solution to postgraduate funding crisis. Regardless of your career intentions, these attributes of enthusiasm for studying and for subject are crucial for masters students as without them you will struggle with postgraduate study.
Enhance your chances in the job market outside academia
The main reason for uptake of taught masters courses is that undergraduate students wish to enhance their employability by distinguishing themselves from the rest of the population with ‘only’ an undergraduate degree. Some students have a fixed career trajectory and they know that a Masters will enhance their chances of quick promotion or securing a job. Others are unsure what career they will pursue, but know that the transferable skills acquired when doing a masters will be beneficial. Because a masters course is only usually one year study full time or two years part time, some students believe that the sacrifice of the time and money is worth it in order to boost their CV.
Academic institutions in the UK are struggling to maintain their recruitment numbers as more students become self-funded. Many institutions increasingly rely on part time students who are working at the same time as studying and they recruit from a narrow pool of their own former undergraduates. Some universities are also coupling this with the internationalisation agenda and requiring their programmes to be advertised overseas with a view to attracting overseas applicants. However, the changes in UK visa requirements have made such undertakings much more challenging for overseas students and the institutions that want to attract them.