Postgraduate Study : Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
Studying at a University overseas will be a major undertaking for you, both personally and financially, but it is also a most rewarding experience; intellectually, academically, socially and culturally.
The UK's University postgraduate community is truly multicultural - research students are drawn from many different countries and cultures, and a wide range of professions and backgrounds.
With more than 100 Universities in Britain, choosing the best one for you will be time-consuming. However, the internet will provide you with easy access to different University web pages, British Council information centres and libraries to research your study options and begin your selection process.
You are advised to identify Universities whose academic staff expertise and interests are within your own specialist area. You may also want to check institution/academic rankings, and if you are currently undertaking an undergraduate degree you will also be able to seek guidance from your colleagues and university advisers on where to apply.
Useful websites to start your University selection process include: http://www.postgrad.hobsons.com and http://www.prospects.csu.ac.uk
Many UK Universities also operate a planned schedule of recruitment visits via British Education Fairs around the world. It is worth contacting the Universities you are interested in to find out when they will be available in your country.
Research Degrees: MPhil
A Master of Philosophy degree is usually taken over a period of two years through full-time study. MPhil and PhD programmes are essentially similar, the main difference being the length of the programme and therefore the extent of the research work carried out and embodied in the thesis. It is a common practice for students to be registered initially for the MPhil and to be considered for transfer to the PhD after the first year of study, subject to satisfactory progress and to a review of the proposed research.
All research degree programmes involve an element of research training designed to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary skills and methodological knowledge to undertake original research in their chosen field of study. The training programme includes the development of generic skills relevant to the degree programme and a future career. Although the training element is not a formal part of the assessment for the degree, it constitutes an important basis for research and may take up a significant part of the first year.
However, the main activity is, of course, independent research and the production of a thesis based on it. An MPhil thesis usually consists of 65,000 words. As a research student, you will work closely with a supervisor who will guide and advise you throughout your period of study.
The relationship between student and supervisor forms the core of the developmental process in research degree study, and it is in the context of this individual relationship that your research will proceed from its initial design to the writing of the thesis.
The supervisor will also guide you in writing up your thesis, but you retain the prime responsibility for your own work. Universities will have approved policies on supervisory practice which set out how the responsibilities are shared between student and supervisor.
In addition to your own independent study, you will normally be expected to take part in the general research life of your University department, and may be involved in research seminars, colloquia and other activities with your colleagues and with academic staff. At the end of your period of study, you will present your thesis for examination and be given an oral examination on it.
Attendance at the University for part-time students is more flexible than it is for full-time students, but all part-time students are required to maintain regular personal contact with their supervisor, and provisions are laid down to ensure that the facilities for study and for supervision during periods away from the University are satisfactory.
Writing Your Research Proposal
When making your application for a research degree you will need to prepare a detailed research proposal of about 2,000 words. This by no means needs to be a perfect document - it is fully expected that students may want to refine or change their research focus in negotiation with their supervisor at a later date.
It is helpful if you can match your research proposal to the existing research interests of a potential supervisor (previously identified during your initial University selection process).
The main aim of the proposal is to provide an idea of your research interests and intention, and of your written English. The proposal should usually cover the following points:
- your proposed topic;
- why this is an important or significant area of study;
- previous relevant research or literature, if you know of any such work (however it is not necessary to quote other work in detail);
- two or three major research questions that will guide your study;
- a preliminary idea of the approach and methods that you would want to adopt to answer your research questions (eg a case study involving X schools/ a classroom-based observational study/a policy study/an evaluation study, etc)
Universities are usually receptive to informal enquiry if you wish to discuss your research topic prior to submitting your application.
To gain entry to a postgraduate programme within a UK University, students should have a first degree and a teaching qualification, but Universities are as mindful of candidates' educational experience as of their qualifications. If there is any doubt about meeting entry criteria, candidates are encouraged to contact the appropriate University's International Office.
English Language Requirement
To be able to study at University level you will need to have a good command of English for writing, speaking, listening and reading.
Satisfactory evidence of your ability will be required, and unless your previous education and examination qualifications have been in the English language, you should also possess one of the following English language qualifications as a minimum:
An IELTS score of between 6.0 and 6.5 or a TOEFL score of 230 (575 paper based) or more is usually acceptable.
It is a common misconception that study in the UK is more expensive than other countries, notably, for example, compared to the USA and Australia.
It is important that you should be fully aware of the costs involved. Typical UK Tuition Fees per year range from £8,300 - £10,800 (depending on subject). NB: These are normally payable at the beginning of the academic year and amounts are subject to annual increases.
The cost of living varies from one area of the UK to another. Generally, it is more expensive to live and study in London and the south-east of England.
In addition to tuition fees, single students will need approximately £550-£600 per month to cover accommodation, food, heating, laundry, clothing, books, and all day-to-day requirements. Married students will need more than this, and it is recommended to allow at least an extra £150-£200 per month for a partner and £50-£100 per month for each child.
NB: These figures are intended as a guideline and will vary according to your individual circumstances. They also exclude return travel from your home country to the UK and any medical insurance you may wish to take up. Please also note that before students from outside the European Union (EU) can be formally accepted, satisfactory evidence of funding will normally be required. You will be sent a financial guarantee form for completion from the University to which you have applied.
How To Get Funding
Funding is available from a wide range of sources, both in the UK and abroad. An international student’s own government, employer or industrial/commercial sponsors can be sources of funding. The local office of the British Council is recommended as a good source for first point of contact for any scholarship enquiries. Contact details for all British Council offices around the world are listed on the following website: http://www.britcoun.org/
It is usual procedure that students must have already been offered a place at a University in order to be considered for most awards. Hence, it is wise to submit applications for study no later than 1st March to allow adequate time.
Future Career Prospects
Studying abroad will also undoubtedly widen your sociological development and experience, as well as presenting opportunities to network within your specialism on an international platform. Holding a recognised UK postgraduate degree can aid access to greater employment opportunities as potential employers will be familiar with your academic qualifications. Career options include, for example, within academia (University lecturer), industry (development researcher) and the public sector (consultant).
Article by Angela Hook, School of Education and Lifelong Learning
at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom