Considering postgrad study – check out the facilities
Are you thinking about postgraduate study? Claire Gascoigne from MastersCompare has some tips about what to look for as you explore the facilities institutions offer their postgrads:
As you start your search for a postgraduate Masters course or PhD, as well as investigating the courses on offer, it is also important to look at the quantity and quality of facilities dedicated for postgraduate students, as these can vary between universities, level of study and subject areas.
A good place to start would be to ask yourself what is important to you. Clearly, your academic and social needs as a postgraduate student, particularly if undertaking research, won’t be the same as those of undergraduate study, and so your priorities and requirements will have changed.
If you can, visit the institutions which you are considering to see the provision and in particular ask about social and discussion spaces, and where the postgraduate community meets. Where this is not possible, see if virtual tours of the PG facilities are provided on university websites.
A few questions you may find it helpful to ask include: Where are the facilities? What are the opening times? Does the level of access work for you and how you will be studying? What opportunities are there to meet, network and work collaboratively with other postgraduates?
Key facilities to look out for include:
Postgraduate Study Space
Outside of your own subject area, universities sometimes have postgraduate-only workspaces in their libraries, as well as in other areas of the campus.
If you are doing a science or engineering, you will be likely to spend much of your time in a lab or working in a group, with other Masters and PhD students, research assistants and possibly other academics. Having that support is invaluable, particularly as part of your PhD, but you’ll need somewhere to escape to, as well as your workspace.
If you are doing an arts, humanities or social sciences PhD, you may not be working in a group in the same way – traditionally, PhDs in this subject area have been lonelier experiences. You’ll need a space where you can meet other PhD students away from the library or office.
Postgraduate Social Space
As a postgraduate, it’s clearly ideal if you have the opportunity to socialise and network with peers, and keep up to date with upcoming research related and social events specifically for postgraduate students. Having a designated space away from your official workstation where you can discuss your academic work and your experience is really valuable.
Some Universities provide these social spaces close to where you work within the University, so you don’t have far to go, whilst others provide it more centrally, to encourage students to meet others from different subject areas. This can be particularly helpful where the research is interdisciplinary.
If you are part of a Doctoral Training Centre, with a cohort of students starting their PhD in that subject area each year, these social spaces will often be an integral part of your PhD experience.
Should a University have a Graduate School, the services provided differ in each institution, and can include study and social space as well as skills training. Graduate Schools tend to be more for PhD students than Masters, but some do provide support to both. They are usually an administrative contact point but may also have postgraduate study and social facilities.
Although skills training is not a facility, it is an important issue for postgraduates. Skills training and workshops are provided by a Graduate School or the University Careers Service.
You will use the Library in a different way as a postgraduate student. Check the library has a stock of publications and, in particular, the journals you will need for your research.
Some universities now provide postgraduate-only accommodation, including families and couples. There tends not to be as much accommodation for postgraduates as undergraduates so you should contact universities as early as possible.
Some universities have specialist Careers Advisers for postgraduates and/or PhD students. Look at what dedicated guidance and advice is provided relating to careers, employability and personal effectiveness.
Claire Gascoigne – PostgraduateStudentships, MastersCompare and MyPostgradApps
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