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Focus Report/Education

Masterclass An animated education

Out of left field

5 War and peace

6-7 Gaelic appeal


Wednesday September 23 2009



THE TIMES Wednesday September 23 2009


It’s business as usual

Funding a masters


With confidence returning, finance courses are in demand, says Emily Ford


hen the banks imploded a year ago, commentators were quick to prophesy the end of capitalism. But if the hordes of postgraduates pouring into business schools are anything to go by, confidence in the financial jobs market is alive and well. You may just need to move to China. Cass Business School has seen a record number of applications for its finance courses, with numbers up 25 per cent on last year. “People know that the world is going to recover. Students finishing up have three job interviews,” says Susan Roth, the finance programme director. She believes applicants need to be open-minded about where they work. “Asian markets were not hit as badly and have started to recover much sooner.” Jessica Pok, 22, has just finished the Cass MSc in investment management and plans to go into wealth management. “When I graduated in 2008, the job market was already going down. I decided it was a good time to get a higher qualification so that I would be in a better place when the market started to recover.” At London Business School applications for the MSc in finance, FOCUS REPORTS Editor: Isobel Shepherd Smith, 020-7782 5064. Cover: design, Marta Pérez; image, Kobal

Press for upturn: the financial world is recovering and business school postgraduates are getting job interviews

aimed at people with several years’ experience, are up 7 per cent, 10 per cent on the part-time course, says Estrella Frutos, the programme director. “People don’t want to leave the security of their jobs while they study,” she adds. A rising number of European students commute from their home countries to take the weekend MSc. The school has launched a masters in management aimed at new graduates with no more than a year’s experience. “The uptake was phenomenal,” Frutos says. Applicants need a high

There are very good business degrees in Asia — Shanghai for example

Graduate Management Admission Test score, a “brilliant” academic record and leadership skills, Frutos says — as well as £21,900 for the fees. John Benson, the founder of, says there are glimmers of recruitment activity, with firms “restocking” roles they had made redundant. “That’s likely to filter into a broader recruiting pattern.” His advice to postgraduates is: “Look at where the growth is going to be. Rather than doing it in London there are very good business degrees in Asia — Shanghai for example.”

More money is being pumped into funding postgraduate studies and students can now borrow up to £10,000 through professional and career development loans. It is not all good news, however. Competition is likely to be stiffer and early application is advised. The Government has promised to increase the number of career development loans it underwrites to 45,000 by 2011, compared with 15,000 currently available through Barclays or the Co-operative Bank. But in a recession more graduates will try to escape the dire jobs market by taking a further degree. Students are not guaranteed to be offered a loan, especially if they have a poor credit rating, but Barclays offers an appeal process. Students usually finance their masters through part-time work, borrowing, grants, scholarships and bursaries. The biggest scholarships on offer can cover fees and living expenses. Financial help is also available on a number of courses such as postgraduate teacher training, social work, medicine and healthcare. Students on MBA courses accredited by the Association of MBAs are eligible for an additional loan scheme. Universities are the best source of information about scholarships, bursaries and grants from local charities and local employers. Universities also appoint candidates to research posts funded by the research councils. While some students find fully funded courses, most have to piece together funds from various sources. For nationwide grants from charities and trusts — which may be limited to those from poorer backgrounds or students showing academic excellence — try your library using books such as The Educational Grants Directory and Charities Digest. Sheila Kay, admissions manager at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, says: “Applications for postgraduate study are always fluid. People sometimes get offers and do not take them up.” JENNY KNIGHT

THE TIMES Wednesday September 23 2009




Doctor of digital fun Carly Chynoweth finds a PhD course

in video games and animation


ver fancied being able to hurry your way through a crowd by shouting “Let me through, I’m a doctor of entertainment”? Well, now is your chance. Strictly speaking a doctorate in digital entertainment will not make queuejumping any easier but it will equip holders to be the “techno leaders” of the future, says Jian J. Zhang, a professor of computer graphics at Bournemouth University and a cofounder of the course, which is run with the University of Bath. The four-year programme has been shaped around the needs of video games, animation and special effects companies rather than following the traditional academic model. “PhDs obtained through traditional methods are valued by the industry but the projects that students were doing in their research were not directly relevant to it,” Zhang says. “They have the long-term benefit of producing skilled people but not the same usefulness of being able to step in and start working.” So, rather than relying on lab-based research, students will spend three quarters of their time working on a series of related projects at one of 12 partner businesses. These include Aardman Animations, best known for its creation of Wallace and Gromit; Double Negative, a visual effects company that has worked on films includ-

ing Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; and Frontier, one of the UK’s largest independent games developers and the company behind titles such as LostWinds and Elite. This will allow them to work on industry-related developments while still studying a particular area in enough depth to maintain academic rigour. As an added bonus, students will get a salary from their employer to top up their £15,000 annual stipend. “We want to make sure that they are remunerated properly,” says David Walsh, the managing director of Frontier, which plans to take three doctoral students over the next couple of years. “I am not looking at it as low-cost labour. We don’t want someone to come in for three or four years then drift off. We want to keep them for the long term.” He sees the new doctorate as a way to build talent within companies like Frontier and a way for the company to stay in touch with the latest developments. “A real benefit is that students will be in contact with their tutors, which means they are in touch with what is happening there and they can call on them if they need help with a problem,” he says. Steve Willey, 22, has just been offered a place on the course linked to a job working in the research and development team at Double Negative. He has always enjoyed working

LostWinds is one of the video games developed by Frontier, which will take on doctoral students from the course

with computers — he finished his degree in computer science at Bath in June — but it was becoming involved in the university’s TV society that made him think about a career in film. “I started getting into animation and developing my creative side a bit more,” he says. “This programme seemed the perfect opportunity to work on creative things with a technical backing. “One thing I discovered when doing short films was that I do have creativity and imagination but I do not have artistic flair. I cannot actually model things myself but I can build

tools that let other people do it.” He is not intimidated by the thought of balancing a doctorate with working in an industry known for long hours. “You can throw as much work at me as you like and as long as it’s interesting I will plough through,” he says. “And I can’t see how working in special effects will be anything but interesting.” The course, which has funding for 50 students over the next five years, is still accepting applications from people with relevant academic or professional qualifications. Getting on it is not as straightforward as having

the right grades, however. Part of the selection process is finding the right partner employer for each candidate. The course directors match people according to their skills and interests and the partner companies’ needs, although candidates can express a preference for a particular employer. Walsh says one of the most important things for prospective applicants interested in Frontier is to have a strong focus in their undergraduate work. “We want applicants who are among the top people in coding, art or animation.”

sourcing the materials, how and where it will be manufactured, what the market is, the distribution costs and its sustainability.” This requires students to come up with ideas and be able to put them into practice. “The technology is important because even if you are not directly involved in the manufacture you will need to speak to engineers,” says Glasspool. “You need computer skills but we are not interested in just churning out CAD jockeys. Most good design comes from an idea that you can scribble down on a bit of paper.” Bournemouth used to offer a separate MSc in sustainable product design. But sustainability is now so mainstream that the concept is incorporated into all the courses. “You might think you have designed an ecological product because it’s made out of sustainable bamboo,” Glasspool says. “But you also need to know about the

manufacture, the employment conditions of the people who will make it, how it will be recycled.” Keen to ensure that students commercialise their ideas, Bournemouth has employed a

folding bikes, and more than 200,000 have been sold. Career prospects in product design are varied and may depend on the emphasis of the postgraduate course. Simon Sommerville, course leader at the University of Central Lancashire’s Northern School of Design, explains that a product can be viewed in terms of its “A surfaces” (how it looks on the outside) and “B surfaces” (how it works on the inside). “Traditionally the MA students will be more interested in the A surfaces and go on to work for consultancies, while the MSc students will focus on the B surfaces and go on to work for large manufacturing companies,” he says. “However, the barrier between the two is meniscus-thin and it’s quite common for people with a BA or MA to end up with ‘engineer’ in their job titles.” MARK HUNTER

Designing products for the real world


ith the design guru Philippe Starck, right, fronting the BBC’s reality show Design for Life, it appears that a qualification in product design has become the latest ticket to fleeting celebrity. Back in the real world, students who have not been graced with a personal invitation to join Starck’s Paris-based school of design have a host of postgraduate courses to choose from. Product design is a broad church. Both MAs and MScs are available and their emphasis spans highly technical computer-aided design (CAD) and prototyping technologies to more art-based creative conceptualising. Lesley Morris, head of design skills at the Design Council, says this diversity reflects the increasing prominence of product design within modern life. “Designers have a real influence on the products and the services that we all use every day,”

she says. “They are also tackling the key issues such as climate change and social and economic concerns, both here and in developing countries.” Morris believes that there is a need for multidisciplinary design teams with an emphasis not only on creativity and craft but also on analytic and strategic thinking, managerial skills and consumer research. According to Chris Glasspool, senior lecturer at Bournemouth University, the principle that links the technical and creative sides of product design is that it must be possible for the product to be mass-produced to meet a market need. “It’s product design, not object design,” he emphasises. “While the original object may be interesting you also have to look at

Most good design comes from an idea that you can scribble on a bit of paper previous product design student, Philip Robinson, in its Research and Enterprise Centre. While still a student, Robinson designed a bicycle pump that fits into the seat post. It has now been licensed to Dahon, the world’s largest manufacturer of



THE TIMES Wednesday September 23 2009



High-profile help in the battle to launch careers Stephen Hoare looks at an alumni mentoring scheme

W Sarah Hodgson had to contend with stiff competition in her job search

Clear thinkers with gift of the gab needed Jamie Shea, Nato’s director of policy planning, advises postgraduates to get significant professional experience before completing a masters. This helps them to see where their aptitude lies. It helps to be on the spot when job hunting. “Being phoned up or having a postgraduate turn up in my office asking for an appointment is a much better way of

getting my attention,” he says. After a six-month internship with Nato in Brussels, many postgraduates move to short-term assignments with other organisations, emerging a few years later as staffers. “In my view, career success is helped by basic bureaucratic skills, clear conceptual thinking, an ability to write well and a gift of the gab.” STEPHEN HOARE

ith a University of Sussex MA in international education and development plus three years working in the field for overseas NGOs, Sarah Hodgson has the perfect combination of academic theory and practical experience. If Hodgson, 27, had graduated in any other year she would have been snapped up by an aid organisation. But 2009 has seen recruitment in the charity sector drop significantly in the wake of world economic turmoil. “I’m still getting job interviews,” she says, “but a recruitment consultant has told me that I would be competing with recently redundant managers with 10 to 15 years experience of aid work. If I didn’t tick all the boxes I’d be out of the running.” This term the University of Sussex careers department has increased the help it gives to postgraduates with an alumni mentoring scheme. PostGrad Plus has enlisted highprofile Sussex alumni from business, politics, law, media, science and inter-

national development, including Richard Wilson, QC, the Environment Secretary Hilary Benn and the director of BBC News Helen Boaden. Their masterclasses will provide postgraduates with insider knowledge about finding suitable career openings. The scheme also offers oneday workshops on employability

Alumni can offer tips, advice and short cuts to a particular industry skills. Enrolling famous alumni to provide advice is seen as a two-way street, giving those at the top of organisations an insight into the hurdles today’s postgraduates face and a way of connecting to that talent. Catherine Reynolds, senior career development adviser at Sussex Uni-

versity, says: “Our alumni mentors bring a light touch and can offer tips, advice and short cuts to a particular industry.” She emphasises the importance of students seeking unpaid internships to gain experience in their chosen field. While unpaid work experience is now common, it is the quality of that experience and personal networking that counts, she says. So far, interest in planned alumni events has been encouraging and the majority of the 2,000 or so Sussex postgraduates will be attending sessions. If nothing else, PostGrad Plus will inspire confidence and provide that all important support network. The scheme provides full careers support one year out from a degree for postgraduates who have not found a permanent job. The good news is that Hodgson has just landed a temporary placement with Save the Children. She has been hired to organise Brighter Futures, a youth conference aimed at breaking down barriers to higher education for refugees and asylum seekers.

THE TIMES Wednesday September 23 2009




New ball game Nicola Woolcock

finds a basketball masters in an unexpected place

M Mick Donovan designed the course in partnership with Lithuanian experts

ention basketball and most people think of lanky American superstars. Not of Lithuania — or the English cathedral city of Worcester. But the first European masters degree in basketball coaching is being offered by a partnership between the University of Worcester and Lithuanian sports experts. Basketball is the national sport of Lithuania and is followed with a passion by its people. Most Lithuanians start playing basketball soon after they learn to walk. Nearly all the country’s basketball coaches are graduates of the Lithuanian Academy of Physical Education (LAPE), which has helped to establish the new course at Worcester. The course will take two years to complete, and students will be taught in both Worcester and Lithuania. It was designed by Mick Donovan, head of the Institute of Sport and Exercise Science at the university, and Mindau-

gas Balciunas, doctor in basketball at LAPE, and secretary-general of the Lithuanian Basketball Federation. Most students are likely to be potential coaches or professional players, and the course is being endorsed by the Federation for International Basketball in Europe. Donovan says the university has worked in collaboration with Lithuania for more than a year in devising the degree. “We will deliver the lectures for the course out of the playing season. In the summer the students will go to Lithuania for the practical element. “Online classes and tutorials will be available throughout the year. We will be working with beginners through to international competitors. Working alongside one of the strongest basketball countries in the world will be a fantastic opportunity.” Donovan points out that the

Out of left field Some other of the more unusual masters on offer: 0 Pop music; Liverpool John Moores University 0 Comics; University of Florida 0 Refugee care; University of Essex 0 Ufology (PhD course); University of Melbourne

academic side of the course will include “scientific elements, such as psychology and how it can influence coaching”. “Lithuanians start playing basketball from about the age of two,” he adds. “They have specialist basketball schools and basketball degrees at university. From a young age there is such attention to detail, they work for hours at it. A lot of the players end up working in America or China. “Even though it is such a small country, it is always in the top four in the world because the Lithuanians have always focused on the one sport.” The course has received support from the national governing bodies England Basketball and the Lithuanian Federation. Students will spend 15 weeks in the classroom and are given assessments and tasks, such as exploring different methods for testing players and how to work with different personalities. The University of Worcester has a strong basketball reputation. This year both the men’s and women’s sides were crowned British Universities champions. Keith Mair, chief executive of England Basketball, says: “This is a wonderful initiative by an English university, working with one of the world’s most powerful basketball nations, to provide basketball coaches with the opportunity to add significantly to their professional development.”





Hard look at the war on terror . . . A new MA course aims to promote a broad-based understanding of the threat, writes Simon Midgley


s terrorist trials and Osama bin Laden’s threats lead the news bulletins, the Home Office believes the chances of a terrorist attack on the UK are “substantial”. Postgraduate students are among those making efforts to understand and guard against this imminent danger. Last year King’s College London launched a new MA course, Terrorism, Security and Society, which aims to deepen students’ understanding of terrorism and counter-terrorism. “With everyone being a terrorism expert now, we want students to be able to evaluate what the supposed experts are saying about the theories of terrorism and to evaluate the realworld applied methods of dealing with issues of terrorism and security,” says Dr Brooke Rogers, a psychologist and lecturer on the course. “Part of the job is to say that terrorism is not all about things that go boom; it’s not all about catching the bad guys; it’s an entire machine. That means we need to understand downstream issues such as ideology, belief and identity, and upstream issues such as the long-term community response after an incident. The course, which can be studied one year full-time or two years parttime, starts with a general introduction to terrorism and the problems of defining it. It looks at the different approaches to understanding terrorism: from an international relations and political science point of view, a social psychology perspective or via other critical approaches. It then focuses on the aims and ideologies of various terrorist groups and their different strategies, with specific case studies such as the IRA and al-Qaeda. The second half of the course deals with counter-terrorism and insurgency, covering case studies such as the UK and America’s war on terror, Pakistan, rogue states and state-sponsored terrorism. Students can also choose from a wide range of optional modules, such as the occupied territories since 1967, war and insurgency in the Middle East since 1945, the evolution of insurgency, and human rights and migration. They must also write a thesis. Examples from the course’s first year include: what the UK can learn from Israel’s response to terrorism and an evaluation of the Government’s preventative counter-terrorism policy. Students on the course in its first year included members of the intelligence services, policemen, a newsreader and graduates with classics and law degrees. Rogers expects them to go into government

King’s College: evaluating theories

Part of the job is to say that terrorism is not all about catching bad guys

policy making, counter-terrorism and to work for organisations such as the UN. Full-time student fees are £5,900 or £12,380 for overseas students. Bursaries and scholarships may be available from London University and the research councils. Overseas students may also be eligible for Chevening Scholarships from the British Council. Ben Wilkinson, 25, gave up a PhD in Classics at Cambridge University to enrol in the King’s College terrorism MA. With a Classics BA and MA already under his belt, he sayshe wanted to do something more relevant, with a more practicable outcome. “It was great,” he says. “Studying terrorism is a very good way of getting to grips with salient issues in the Middle East.” Now he is about to embark on a PhD looking at radicalisation, extremism and government counter-terrorism policies in the Middle East. Rogers adds: “One of the most important things we can do on this MA course is to join academic theory with real-world practice and teach people to evaluate both the theory and the practice. “The level of threat is extremely serious and is constantly evolving. Also, advances in technology and the use of the internet mean that counter-terrorist measures constantly have to evolve and adapt. How can we secure public places and still make them attractive to people? We have to try to strike a balance between security and community.”

Targeting terrorism: the Kings College course aims to deepen students’ understan

. . . and a chance to put theories of peace into practice Peace studies emerged as a subject of study after the Second World War. A Peace Research Institute was established in Oslo in 1964, a Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in 1966 and a peace studies unit at Bradford University in 1973 — the latter as a result of an initiative by the Quakers. Today the university’s peace studies department, the world’s largest, enjoys an international reputation and attracts students from across the world. It offers a clutch of MA programmes in

peace studies, conflict resolution, international politics and security studies, African peace and conflict studies, participation and politics, and conflict, security and development. Neil Cooper, the MA director, says that, in contrast to many international relations and strategic studies departments, Bradford has always adopted a broad view of what constitutes peace and security. Peace is traditionally defined as the absence of war, but Bradford defines it as the absence of structural violence and the idea of a positive peace. The latter includes the need to address issues such as poverty, inequality, environmental destruction and racial, religious and gender discrimination.

The centre is multidisciplinary and practice-orientated. Many members of staff are trying to change the world as activists or advisers to governments and NGOs. Some 400 students are studying for undergraduate degrees, MAs and PhDs. Twelve students a year enter as Rotary International-sponsored students on MA programmes. All MA students take a core module introducing them to peace studies. This covers the history of peace studies, peace activism and the various kinds of violence in the world today. Students then opt for modules from a range of options, such as the environment, human rights, Islam, the Middle East, international politics and security.

They also write a 15,000-word dissertation. Robert Cheesewright, 23, left, is just finishing his MA in peace studies. A Hull University politics and philosophy graduate, he chose the Bradford course because it was more practical than international relations courses. “You learn about the conflict dynamics today between China and Taiwan as opposed to learning about liberalism or communism,” he says. One of the most important strengths of the course is the international nature of its student body, he adds. “You learn from your student colleagues. They can tell you first-hand, for example, what it is like to be kidnapped.” SIMON MIDGLEY


day September 23 2009

Masterclass PA

Generals and leaders can give a hands-on lesson in world security A Cranfield MSc attracts a unique student mix, says Christopher Andrews


nding, covering topics such as aims and ideologies, counter-terrorism and insurgency

he talk at the bar among students on Cranfield University’s security sector management MSc is likely to be on a different level from the usual postgraduate chatter. “You hear the most interesting discussions between people who have just rocked back in from Afghanistan or Iraq, or with the director of intelligence for the Sri Lankan Government,” says Dr Ann Fitz-Gerald, director of the Cranfield Centre for Security Sector Management. Many of the students on the course, which links international politics, security and conflict issues with strategic management, already have a level of practical experience. Students straight from undergraduate degrees in political science, languages, law or conflict resolution find themselves next to the likes of Major General Thomas Cirillo, commander of the Third Army in Sudan, or Kellie Conteh, who heads the Office of National Security in Sierra Leone. “That shared experience and knowledge being exchanged doesn’t only happen in the classrooms but also in the margins,” says Fitz-Gerald. The course attracts people interested in entering the security field with government, an international NGO or the private sector. They need to consider the world in 3D: defence, diplomacy and development. Each of these areas comes with its own unique security challenges, and Cranfield’s is one of a number of master’s courses in this area.

International aid is one study topic

I take advantage of their knowledge — even if it means buying them a pint Launched three and a half years ago, the MSc is a one-year programme including four two-week residential blocks (or two years with eight one-week blocks). Among other things, it examines the challenges stemming from the surge in delivery of international aid programmes and increased calls for capacity building to be at the heart of the global security and development agenda. Fitz-Gerald says the course is highly practical, based on applied research, and goes some way towards providing the experience that is often lacking with a purely theoretical degree. “We don’t give people an apprenticeship, but they have a hands-on flavour of what happens on the ground. Their

dissertation, because it is applied research, often takes them to different policy corridors or even on the ground in different countries, so by the end it is almost as good as practical experience.” Shawny Donohue studied political science at undergraduate level in America, and after a stint in the Peace Corps is now undertaking the security sector management MSc. She believes that the eclectic mix of students is one of the most valuable aspects of the course. “Their professional experiences are incorporated into class discussions and enrich the knowledge base of everyone involved,” she says. Is it daunting studying alongside generals and leaders of countries? “Definitely not. My background professional experience is quite junior compared to some of my fellow cohort members. I take advantage of their knowledge and experience whenever possible — even if it means buying them a pint at the pub just to throw questions and ideas at them.” Donohue is undertaking the course with an eye on development, but for students looking to get into that first D — defence, particularly in private industry — it is not necessarily a security-specific master’s degree that will clinch the job. A spokesman for BAE Systems says they generally look for engineering degrees, while John Leighton-Jones, human resources director at the defence technology company QinetiQ, says: “We don’t look at any particular master’s degree as such. We’ve got a really wide spectrum of roles, and we wouldn’t preclude anyone from meeting us based on their degree or background.” What QinetiQ is looking for is leadership and communication skills, analytical ability and a strategic mindset. “It’s a very complex, interconnected world, and problems become more complex,” Leighton-Jones says. “So to tackle these issues, you need people who don’t just focus on their own domain but can look wider than that.”

Ex-officer and bestselling author switches from war to peace


f something is wrong, you do your bit to change it, says Patrick Hennessey, 27, a former army officer and a bestselling author, who is now training to be a barrister. “During my time at university [2000-2003] the world changed considerably. I started at the end of the Blair/Clinton era of a fairly peaceful, post-Cold War world and within three years we were fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Hennessey, right. joined the Army in 2004, completed his officer training at Sandhurst and then joined the Grenadier Guards. However, it was his time as a platoon commander and company operations officer in the Balkans, Africa, South-East Asia, the Falklands, Iraq — on terrifying patrol duties and guarding Iraqi detainees — and Afghanistan, fighting alongside the Afghan Army, that this young captain came into his own.

“There’s no other job where you have such life and death responsibility for the people,” says Hennessey who looked after up to 30 men. “You learn a lot about yourself too when pushed in those situations. When you take casualties your job is to keep up morale and I’m pleased to say I bought all of my guys home.” So why the career change? “As you move up in the Army, you kind of move away from the coalface, which is what I enjoyed; the next jobs would be behind a desk. During my time in Iraq and Afghanistan there were a great many legal issues raised and I thought if I went to the Bar I might still be able to try and resolve them.” Despite looking at retraining to become an army lawyer, Hennessey decided he wanted to be a selfemployed barrister. “That’s where the cut and thrust of legal work happens,”

he says. “I had been at the forefront throughout my time as a soldier so wanted this as lawyer.” When it came to forging his own career path, Hennessey found postgraduate study invaluable. He is doing a one-year Bar course at BPP. As Chris Brady, Dean of BPP Business School points out: “Postgraduate study is ideal for those who want to improve their skills, or for people considering a career change. Large organisations are downsizing, cutting training budgets and phasing out graduate training schemes so the onus is on the individual.” Brady also recognises that “profes-

sional as well as academic accreditation is now a must for both their prospective and existing employees". This proved true for Hennessey, who initially worried that his time in the Army would be as a disadvantage and that the chambers would be looking for someone who had done a threeyear law degree. “As it turned out having had five years’ very different experience was an advantage; a few more life skills so to speak,” he says. Hennessey, originally an English graduate from Oxford, completed his law conversion course and left the Army six months ago. With the help of the BPP College of Professional Studies and money from his candid memoir, The Junior Officers’ Reading Club, he was able to undertake the one-year course. It is a challenge, he says. “As a bar-

rister you are kind of flying by the seat of your pants as there is no guarantee of a job at the end of it.” But it is a challenge that Hennessey takes in his stride. “You have to be self-motivated and work hard and one thing the Army certainly teaches you is discipline. The prospect of spending all night cramming or 36 hours in the library is a lot less daunting when you remember that a year back you were on some three-day, non-stop stomp through Helmand province.” All being well Hennessey will have completed his training and pupilage and be practising on his own within two years. “I would like to look at some of the things that interested me while I was in the Army — legal and illegal wars. My aim is to resolve these issues in a courtroom, rather than with a gun.” SARAH HISCOCK



THE TIMES Wednesday September 23 2009

Masterclass A second chance A career in the Merchant Navy gave Jimmy Mudie an interest in different cultures. It also left him with a serious drink problem. Back then, he would not have dreamt of going to university. Now, with the help of a project called Open Book, he has an MA in anthropology. Seven years ago, Mudie decided to tackle his alcoholism. To occupy his mind he took basic courses in subjects such as IT and discovered a taste for learning. He enrolled on an access course at Goldsmiths, part of the University of London. In his 50s, Mudie won a place on an anthropology degree but adjusting to student life was not easy: “When I went into my first undergraduate class I must have looked like an idiot. I had the book in front of me but didn’t have a clue what was expected of me.” Mudie came across Joe Baden, left, who was starting the Open Book project. Based at Goldsmiths, Open Book aims to open up higher education to marginalised groups, including recovering addicts. Baden says: “It’s not about rehab; it’s about becoming the people they always should have been.” Mudie recalls: “I thought what he was doing was fantastic. You can imagine how intimidating it is for people who are coming back from addiction or mental health problems, or have been in prison, to think about going to university. “A lot of these people are highly intelligent and, given the chance, they can be highly motivated. Through Open Book they can meet like-minded people with the same kind of problems.” More than 100 students are currently registered with Open Book, which works with a number of colleges and universities in London and Kent. Most are on access or degree courses. Some, like Mudie, progress to postgraduate studies. RACHEL POTTER

Tough task to help the world


Jennifer Taylor looks at a course for people seeking to make a difference


hat makes masters students want to work in developing countries? They are clearly not in it for the money, says Sharon Huttly, professor and dean of studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The answer, she believes, is their “drive, interest and commitment to fairness and trying to resolve the inequalities that are so patently obvious in health around the world”. There are plenty of public health priorities, such as HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis. but cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease are becoming an increasing problem. Mental health is another focus requiring more resources, as are maternal, reproductive and child health. The school offers 18 masters (MSc) courses taught in London (one year full-time or two years part-time) and four via distance learning. They fall into three broad areas: public health, infectious disease and epidemiology. Masters students do a summer research project, which may include a stint abroad for collecting data or conducting interviews. Students from overseas often bring data with them. The minimum requirement is a second class honours degree in a relevant subject, or a degree in medicine. Funding for British students is available from the Medical Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council and various charities, including the Wellcome Trust. Rinki Deb, 24, a Londoner, took a 12-month MSc in medical parasitology. “The main attraction was that it would be tropical infectious diseases,”

she says. “My main area of focus was diseases like malaria and leishmaniasis and this course was best at covering it.” Deb had done a BSc in molecular biology with forensic science at Queen Mary, University of London, then spent two years in Eastern Europe. Her parents are from India and her visits there introduced her to the treatment challenges in developing countries. “I just wanted to do something that hopefully leads to me making a difference,” she says. Her summer project took her to Laos, where she collected blood spots for analysis in London to look for drug resistance. She had learned about clinical trials in the classroom, but applying her knowledge abroad was invaluable. Deb would like to pursue a career

I’ve worked with amazing scientists and got some really good experience

High-flier: Rinki Deb went to LSHTM to study tropical infectious diseases

in academia and the next stage is to apply for research grants. She says: “I want to do a PhD so this has definitely given me some good background because I’ve worked with some amazing scientists and I’ve got some really good experience.” Tom Pearson, 32, was a GP with a diploma in tropical medicine. Before attending the school he had worked abroad as a doctor for two years, in

various countries including Laos and Uganda. Some of his work involved the postgraduate teaching of doctors. He found when he was abroad that although he was helping out locally he was not changing the big picture. He also realised that such countries were plagued by a lack of human resources, including doctors, nurses and hospital managers.

It prompted him to take a 12-month MSc in public health in developing countries at the school. The course was international — of the 83 students only a minority were from Britain. “That’s what makes it fantastic,” he says. “It gives you wonderful contacts around the world.” In future Pearson wants to work on strengthening health systems, particularly human resources.

THE TIMES Wednesday September 23 2009




A costly leap of faith CHRIS ROUT/ALAMY

Foreign students flock in despite the expense, says Peter Davy


hen Fabio Domingos, a Brazilian in his final year of a PhD in geology at Durham University, signed up for the course he did not know what to expect and had no idea where the university was. “I hadn’t even heard of Durham before my supervisor recommended the university there,” he says. “I’m from the Amazon and I had never even left Brazil.” Domingos, 30, is not alone. Every year about 1,000 Brazilians come to the UK to study. It was also the first time abroad for Xiao Liang, from China, who has just finished an MSc in accounting and finance at Birmingham. The 22-yearold wanted to experience a foreign culture, only to find that half the students in her class were Chinese. “It was a little disappointing,” she says. It is not surprising, however. Overseas students make up one third of all postgraduates in the UK and the figure is often more than half at the

Durham is among university cities recommended to international students

the top universities, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. China sends the most, followed by India, America, Nigeria and Pakistan. Many of these students are looking for a competitive edge in the jobs market at home or some, like Liang, with a UK employer. Others seestudying abroad as a chance to gain expertise to benefit their countries. This tendency is most obvious with courses such as development studies or medicine. Alex Owusu-Ofori, a PhD student at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, says friends in Ghana asked him why he was going to a Western country to learn about tropical diseases. It has proved a great

way to build on his knowledge. “But learning about them and staying here does not make sense,” he adds. Aarij Siddiqui, from Raipur in central India, plans to return home after finishing his masters at the University of Buckingham Medical School. Coming to England, he says, has given him exposure to a higher level of medicine than is affordable in India’s public healthcare system and that will bring benefits back home. But he and others still hope to work in the UK for a couple of years to recover some of the money invested in studying. Funding is a big issue for international students. Domingos was awarded a full scholarship by the

Brazilian Ministry of Education. Jojo Quansah, who is completing an MA in marketing communications at Westminster University, won his scholarship in the British Council’s reality TV show The Challenge in Ghana. But most postgraduate students must pay for themselves. Diana Robles has just completed an MBA at Saïd Business School, Oxford. She and her husband, who also did the course, plan to return to Columbia to help to expand a cooperative of 400 small convenience stores providing incomes for the poor. But doing the MBA has set the couple back £50,000 in tuition and living costs. Not everyone is convinced that it is always good value to do a masters in the UK. Siddiqui says he has friends at other universities who complain of poorly structured courses and inexperienced lecturers. “You cannot assume that because you are coming to the UK you will get a first-class education,” he cautions. However, most consider it worthwhile and some are surprised that more British people do not snap up the postgraduate opportunities. Opeyemi Adamolekun, an Eyptian who graduate from Saïd with an MBA, says: “There seems to be more of us than the British. If your top institutions are filled with foreign students, I’m not sure what that says about the future for British students.”

Targeted grants Most international students turn first to their home governments or the British Council for funding. However, charities and universities also provide support, often focused on particular courses or countries, Peter Davy writes. Manchester University runs a developing country scholarships scheme covering tuition fees and living costs for students from Uganda, Rwanda and Bangladesh. It has helped students such as Robert Lule, who took a masters in maintenance engineering and asset management. He is now back at police marine headquarters in Kampala, where he is an assistant commander and has developed a servicing programme to stop vessels worth millions of pounds from breaking down. “It has benefited us enormously because we didn’t have anyone to do this,” he says. However, Tim Westlake, director of international development at Manchester, says he is afraid such stories give students false hope. He noted that there were about 3,000 applications last year for six scholarships for Ugandan students. Westlake thinks more impact could come from distance learning courses enabling students to obtain a British degree without leaving home.



THE TIMES Wednesday September 23 2009

THE TIMES Wednesday September 23 2009




Look a little farther afield Scotland and Ireland have plenty of top-notch courses, says Jenny Knight


ducation and travel are both said to broaden the mind, so English and Welsh students who take a masters at a university in Scotland or Ireland are doubly enriched. In the trawl for a suitable university for postgraduate studies, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland used to be overlooked but not any more. Valerie Leahy, postgraduate admissions officer at the National University of Ireland (NUI) in Galway, says applications are up by 25 per cent including many from the UK. “We have strong research centres and more than 50 disciplines at postgraduate level,” she says. “This is a lovely part of Ireland. The university is on the river and a ten-minute walk from the coast. Students get a lot of attention at taught courses because class sizes are smaller than average.” One attraction at NUI is the Huston School of Film & Digital Media, offering MAs in screenwriting, film studies, production and direction. The Irish Centre for Human Rights was set up at the university in 2000 and has won a global reputation for teaching excellence. Its masters

programmes include international human rights law and peace support operations. Luke Daly, 23, from London, is financing his masters in film production and direction himself after a year out working for Diageo. “Galway is an exciting city with a real buzz but small enough to walk across and the beach is lovely,” he says. “I looked at film schools in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow but none were as good a fit as Galway, which is more about production than just film studies. In London the fees were higher and I felt I’d be a tiny fish in a very big pond. “I want to learn the language of the industry and techniques. I plan to stay in Ireland to make a couple of independent films and then maybe return to London.” Peter Bennett, 27, who notched up a million hits on his YouTube video playing an invented electronic musical instrument, also chose a university remote from his home in the south of England to continue his postgraduate education. After an MEng in cybernetics at Reading and an MA in design at Brighton he is taking his PhD at the Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC) at Queen’s University Belfast.

Peter Bennett headed to Belfast to learn about instrument design

He said: “Belfast is one of the few places in the UK designing new electronic instruments for performance. When I applied, SARC was out of grants so I am half based in the engineering department so I could get a Department of Employment and Learning grant of £1,000 a month.” Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen are three cities in Scotland where the highly rated universities attract students from across the world. Edinburgh is one of the UK’s most student friendly cities. With mountains, lochs, forests and the Highlands and Islands only a few hours away, the city is ideally placed for masters courses such as the MSc in outdoor environmental sustainability and education, or a wide range of geoscience and geographical information systems programmes. Evan Beswick, 24, looked at universities across England before choosing Edinburgh for his English BA. He was happy he stayed at the university for his MSC in international and European politics. “The city is amazing,” he says. “In Scotland universities really take student input in course design and improvement very seriously. I’ve met a broad range of people from over 100 different nationalities.” Evan is taking a year’s sabbatical to work for the student union, After finishing his masters he hopes to go into journalism.

Times Master Supplement  

Times Masters Supplement

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