I am currently four weeks into my new course, an MA in Creative Writing. Undertaking it on a part-time basis, I have found the experience of postgraduate study to be markedly different to that of my undergraduate experience.
I’ve devised a short list of pros and cons of my own experience, but this could help others in deciding their next courses.
- Studying part-time means that I am in university for the grand total of two hours a week. Now to be fair, I was only ever really in for about eight hours on my previous course, but I did have A LOT of reading to do at home, so the hours did amount. Now, I have four plays to read in 10 weeks and several extracts. All of which amounts to not much at all. Studying part-time frees up your calendar and allows you to spend time studying, working and socialising. Win win.
- Studying isn’t cheap. And in doing a postgraduate course in Creative Writing, I get no help from student finance at all. Some courses will – those that are medical related – but most won’t. Studying part-time allows you to work a lot, and you’re going to need it to pay those substantial fees. I am currently juggling a 40-hour work week with university and socialising. It’s hard, but worthwhile.
- I only have two pieces of work per semester, meaning that I won’t be bogged down with a 10,000 word dissertation due in on the same day as a 3,500 word analysis of the variation of ‘was’ and ‘were’. That was a fun essay, as you can probably tell… Even more positive, these two pieces of work come in the form of a story and a script. And I’ve already wrote loads of short stories anyway. So really, in my course anyway, I have to submit work which I have already done. Easy.
- Two hours really isn’t anything. I miss my 9AM lectures. I miss my two-hour lecturers on the history of English (quite possibly the most boring lectures ever). I miss being a student. Part-time study doesn’t really feel like I am student. Even full time really wouldn’t, as this would only amount to four hours rather than two. But because I am rarely there, it feels like nothing.
- And because I’m rarely there, it’s hard to form friendships because the general stance seems to be: why bother. This is a stance shared by many, I am sure. Most of my fellow students live down the country, and commute up for the one night, so its hard to make plans anyway. Like number one, again this doesn’t really feel like being a student.
- Because I am only studying part-time, inevitably my contact time with lecturers is likewise limited. I am only allowed one half-hour tutorage before final submissions, which isn’t all that much at all, considering I met with my dissertation tutor about once a fortnight. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a problem right now, it surely will become one once deadlines are approaching.
If you loved your time as an undergraduate, the chances are you’ll love being a postgraduate too. It just takes some time adjusting. Again.