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Is it worth doing a masters at a low ranked uni?

(26 Posts)
Jellyloveforever Thu 01-Jun-17 00:07:00

I have been offered a place on a conversion masters in psychology in 2 universities that are pretty low down the league tables. (Posted about deciding between them a couple of weeks ago).

I knew when applying that the unis were not highly ranked but having looked at old threads on here I'm starting to get more and more uncertain about what this means. I'm not from the UK and didn't realise the impact of the uni being lowly ranked, the consensus on here seems to be that this could have a major impact on my prospects after the course.
Advice from anyone with more knowledge of this would be greatly appreciated, I feel like giving up as I know I'm highly unlikely to get into a higher ranked uni and don't want my efforts to be worthless

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 01-Jun-17 04:11:36

It depends what you want to do with it.

Also, have you checked that it's low ranked for that subject/that Masters? There are universities that are relatively low-ranked in general, but do well for one or another subject. Broadly, rankings are achieved in two ways.

IME, on the whole, MA courses vary less in prestige than undergraduate (caveat: I'm not in psychology), but if you're going to be applying to jobs, you might be more concerned about what employers think than the realities of how good and useful the course was. I do think there's snobbery there. So if you're doing it to get a better job, annoyingly, university reputation might matter.

Why do you think you wouldn't get into a higher ranked uni, though? Perhaps worth a try?

ScreamLikeYouMeanIt Thu 01-Jun-17 04:23:31

Postgraduate reputations don't work the same as undergraduate, the reputation and 'prestige' if you will are related to the quality of research your supervisor/lab/department is publishing not the uni itself. So for instance studying postgraduate under a leading scientist /engineer in their field means way more in terms of prospects in that you world (it gets.your name out there whilst knowing you've been mentored by the experts in that field). At least this is the case in science/engineer based masters.

titchy Thu 01-Jun-17 07:51:24

The research score is more important at Masters level. If it's very low in your subject I'd be concerned.

Gannet123 Thu 01-Jun-17 12:09:47

If it's a conversion Masters, a lot will depend on how many other institutions offer that sort of course, and how sensitive the relevant job market is to institutional reputation. You want to ask them about progression rates to the relevant professions and compare them with other places. In my field (Law) the institution would matter more if you were doing a 2 year graduate LLB than if you were taking the 1 year GDL, simply because most high ranked universities don't offer a GDL - but if you did the GDL the quality of your first degree would matter more. Other professions may be less worried about the quality of the institution, or more attuned to individual circumstances.
Research prestige is important in more traditional forms of Masters -but may be less so for highly professionally oriented Masters such as a conversion masters.

eatyourveg Thu 01-Jun-17 13:07:05

The research score is more important at Masters level.
I'm interested in this as ds is about to embark on a masters and I would like to know how to interpret the rae stas. His uni faculty has 60% at 4* and 3* with a FTE Catergory A staff submitted of 25.3 (not sure if that makes a difference) - is that good, mediocre or low in the overall sense?

All I can work out is that only 8 instituions submitted (rather specialised subject) and ds's chosen institution was 5th - so bottom half. Oxbridge had 70% a piece at the top and Manchester and Exeter 35 each at the bottom so although I have no idea what it means, I am guessing that as 60 is higher than 35 - his place is okayish? Is that the right way to read the scores? Can anyone translate pls?

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 01-Jun-17 13:41:24

You'd want to look at REF not RAE, for a start, as RAE is from several years ago.

I never know whether the REF means very much in isolation TBH. I would look at several seasons of results (REF, then back into RAE). And I think I would look at the people teaching the course itself. Does it look as if they're doing interesting research, and have most people in the department published recently?

I've taught on a well-regarded MPhil course for three years. I have no publications to my name (I'm getting there) and I wasn't included in the department's REF submissions because 1) I wasn't there for the last REF and 2) I was in a temporary post. I don't think my teaching was the worse for it. But the teaching was balanced, so yes, there was me, with no research profile yet (just out of PhD myself). But at the other end of the scale, there were two profs doing some of the teaching, and three or four mid-career academics at different levels. To my mind, that's a good healthy balance. What you wouldn't want was to get the sense that all the star researchers and bright young things are doing the PhDs and undergrads, and the MA course is farmed out to Dr So-and-So who hasn't actually published anything since 2005.

titchy Thu 01-Jun-17 13:52:16

Yes you are correct in that 60% of submissions being 4* or 3* is better than 35%. However double check your figures - i can't find any Unit of Assessment where Manchester had only 35% rated 3* or 4*.

60% for context would be around two thirds the way down the rankings if this was the overall score an institution had.

The FTE of staff isn't really relevant - though the proportion of staff submitted is, sort of...

eatyourveg Thu 01-Jun-17 16:51:32

The overall score was 66 on ref although the website states it is the worlds leading institution for the study of XXX confused Hope ds did his homework and wasn't swayed by the website hype. Manchester doesn't appear under the same assessment unit for ref which seems to be very broad as opposed to the quite specific au on rae. Yes miscalculated as you thought titchy. 35 was for 2* and 1* whereas 4* and 3* score was 60 blush

Thanks all - hopefully the uni reputation for his subject will count for more with an employer than the actual stats which don't seem so glowing

Waitingforsherlock Thu 01-Jun-17 17:39:49

Please could you link to your other thread. Is be interested to read it. Thanks

Jellyloveforever Thu 01-Jun-17 21:33:06

eatyourveg I can't even find either of the unis I applied to on that ref table for psychology confused

I'm a bit stressed, because as people have said I'm concerned both with the actual quality of the course, and with job prospects, so perceptions of the uni matter. I'm definitely not going to get into a higher ranked uni because my grades in the final year of my degree were pretty terrible (I had some extenuating circumstances, which my referees have noted). I just wonder now if it's worth my while doing the masters at all.
waitingforsherlock, no one really replied to the other thread, blush

Waitingforsherlock Thu 01-Jun-17 21:43:56

I'm also thinking about the same thing. It's a lot of money to pay out and by all accounts a tough slog when you do the course. What is your first degree in? I've done a taster, (60 credits of undergrad study), I found it to be very science-based. Absolutely fascinating though.

Jellyloveforever Thu 01-Jun-17 21:59:23

I know it's so difficult to decide whether it's the best thing to do or not, for me as well the stress of moving to the UK for something that won't turn out to be beneficial hardly seems worth it! I studied speech and language studies, and really love the psychology modules that were part of it. I quite like maths/science and was always kind of discouraged from pursuing it at school so that part of it appeals to me! What unis are you looking at?

impostersyndrome Thu 01-Jun-17 22:15:20

This Times Higher guide might help, as it does the rankings by subject:

Jellyloveforever Fri 02-Jun-17 09:11:01

Thanks, I've had a look and my university appears on the overall list, but not on the individual subject list. I imagine this is not a good sign!

eatyourveg Fri 02-Jun-17 09:46:16

Oh it looks from that link as though ds's subject is probably under a different assessment unit to the one I thought it was - (Most likely comes under International studies as opposed to Area studies) Rae breaks it down to be much more specific. So it seems in the new au, his place is in the top 10 for impact although the overall rank is lower - none of it makes sense to me and I will have to trust ds is confident he has signed up for something that will get him to where he wants to be.

FP239 Fri 02-Jun-17 10:02:00

I have a family member that is exactly half way through a 2 year conversion MA and to be honest they have no idea what so ever when it comes to what they are going to do afterwards. It will be related to their field of study in terms of the honours degree but in order to work in the field of psychology, realistically, they are going to have to do an extra course or two ON TOP of their MA just to be able to leave the field they did their BA in. It is VERY science heavy, especially in the biological side of it so if you intend to go ahead do lots and lots of extra reading before you even start. The work load part time over 2 years fitted in well with my siblings family life style, one full day a week and then lots and lots of extra study at home. The biggest difference between their BA and the MA in psychology now is that to do an assignment the research factor has to be roughly trebled. I was amazed at the stack of books, 30 + journal articles and other stuff that was piled on the table for the first assignment! But, its paid off and all work has been between 60 and 82s. They are concerned though about what they can actually DO with this degree afterwards.

I got accepted onto a MA course myself yesterday and am doing mine full time for pleasure as opposed to academic or career progression ( but that may be a pleasant benefit).

Feel free to Pm me if you want to know more .

Waitingforsherlock Fri 02-Jun-17 11:26:16

Hi Jelly due to family commitments, I am looking at online providers.

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Fri 02-Jun-17 11:36:55

My main questions would not be about the quality of the course- but will a conversion in psychology Masters allow you to do what you want to do next? Psychology is governed by the British Psychological Society and often to onto the next stage you need the Graduate Basis for Registration which is usually got through an undergraduate degree. You need to check if your Masters course allows you to gain this graduate registration, and if so/if not, then do you need this to go on further. I don't know the current requirements, as have not been in the area for a few years, but this is more important than 'where', at least as an initial starting point- where may be important if you want a research career and so on, but it may also not be the most important thing, depending what you want to do next.

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Fri 02-Jun-17 11:40:11

This allows you to check all the courses.

I think it depends what you are going to do next whether the place is that important- things like being able to do voluntary work, be flexible for placements and having a high grade may be more important than where if you are competing with others say to become a clinical psychologist (not saying that having a Masters from somewhere good doesn't help, just that it may not be the deciding factor).

Jellyloveforever Fri 02-Jun-17 19:25:45

FP239 I'm not too worried about the academic side of it, although perhaps I should be! I know it will be full on, but I feel very motivated, my main concern is the prospects afterwards, which as you say are uncertain. Good luck with your masters,
what are you going to study?

Thanks for that foureyes, mine is accredited by the BPS, so perhaps I shouldn't worry!! I think I am going to go ahead and do it, I just don't want to end up back in a dead end job after investing so much money and energy hmm. but probably would be better served to focus on how to maximise what I can get from the course, through volunteering and placements, as you say! I'm currently volunteering a few hours a week with a cognitive programme for adults with dementia, and really enjoy it so perhaps should try to find something like this near the uni.

BrexitSucks Sat 03-Jun-17 10:15:08

I hope you don't mind the stalking... are you still deciding between Glasgow Cal. & Sheffield Hallam? In both cases, I would ask them about employer destinations after course finish. They should collect statistics on this. I've heard a lot more about SHallam than GC, makes me wonder if SH has better links to employers.

Ktown Sat 03-Jun-17 10:25:56

Depends what you want to do
I do think there are some very dodgy masters out there and they are targeted at overseas students deliberately
If you get a distinction or merit it will be of some value but if the course isn't dedicated to a particular job it may well be a total waste of time

Jellyloveforever Sat 03-Jun-17 13:29:27

brexit I don't mind the stalking at all hah! I have decided more or less on Sheffield because the course is a masters where Glasgow is a postgrad dip, so I'm thinking this may give me more options. I Haven't yet officially declined Glasgow so would be open to being told I'm wrong about this!

ktown this is my major fear!!!! As I'm from the EU I'm not too worrying about unis trying to tempt me as an overseas student since (for now!) I'm going to be paying the same fees as a U.K. student, but it's quite difficult to navigate selecting courses from outside the country, without the benefit of knowing anyone who has attended or being able to visit the uni.

Yayne Sun 04-Jun-17 18:58:02

Just a recommendation to stay away from a pg dip. The most common reason for having a pg dip is failing a masters, so exiting with the lower degree as a consolation prize. Only few students set out specifically on the pg dip route if a masters exists in the subject.

Sheffield and Glasgow are both very highly regarded universities so you shouldn't need to worry (or is it Hallam? Still not a bad place and wouldn't cause you issues)

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