Saturday, 24 November 2012

2012 PG Fair, Manchester Central

This Wednesday just gone I bundled myself up* and headed over to Manchester Central (the venue formerly known as the GMEX) to visit the 2012 Postgrad Fair. For me this turned out to be utterly petrifying to begin with, but I felt that I soon got into the swing of things. I wasn't precisely sure what to expect, but figured it would be something like the Graduate Recruitment Fair I attended many moons ago. I wasn't far wrong.

* I'd been off work with flu and it was a typical Mancunian day weather-wise

Good things:
Being able to discuss options with representatives from specific universities
The great information on funding - realistic yet not unhopeful
Finding out that MMU was holding a PG open day down the road at the same time, but until 6pm with departmental reps
The really positive reactions from MMU and Huddersfield, and to some extent Leeds regarding whether I would be able to go straight for a research Masters given that I already have an MA, but in a different subject.
Finding out some yummy funding information from one of my dream universities due to their upcoming anniversary which means I can apply to them too, something I didn't think would be possible

Not all the universities I was interested in were at the fair, so didn't get to speak to them (most were however)
Universities who barely knew any more about their courses than I'd already researched about them on their websites.
Universities who had brought insufficient bumf with them to give out - however some universities, e.g. St. Andrews, had backups in place - in their case, the lady had an ipad with the prospectuses preloaded and set up to email to enquirers
The people who were there not knowing much or anything about departments other than their own - even if it's just a quick overview for the reps so they know how it differs from their own department! Too many stalls that I went away from feeling that I knew little more than when I had arrived.
Reps who didn't know anything about the distance or Part Time options to their courses - even just a 'we teach 9-5' or 'most courses have xx contact hours per week' would be really helpful.

Two other points:
If there is someone there from the department the candidate is interested in, don't be so unenthusiastic that you kill their interest or that they have to keep at you to get the information you need (Rep: Your best bet is to email the person you think would be best to supervise you. Me: *explains area of interest*. Rep.: *looks bored and repeats himself*, Me: Gets out notes and specifies who she is thinking about approaching. Rep. *reluctantly expands on the basic bios on prospectus/website to say which of the three people I felt was relevant was best* [Why not tell me from the outset that Obvious Person 1 is on study leave abroad at the moment?! I was then gobsmacked that the person unbent enough then to say that x who I will be writing to was his former supervisor and is 'really good'])
There were certain personnel who gave me the impression of 'why are you bothering me?', and also came across that they weren't really interested in an Arts student especially not one going the conventional route from a very prestigious university. And then I asked some basic questions about how their part time courses work - (50-50 split, day-release style, etc.), and her face was rather funny, if incredibly exasperating - if I'd have just come in I'd have wondered if I had something on my shoe... :P There is now at least one university which if I wasn't so interested in the work of certain specific academics I would not be even considering now. As it is, they have an open day shortly which I will go to if I can get out of work early enough that day. Whether I apply now will depend on how the department themselves are - if as standoffish as the rep on Wednesday, I know I will not be happy there and will instead be paranoid about whether I deserve to be there, blah blah blah... This wasn't an Oxbridge place either, just one of the local universities...
Leading on from that - reps learn about the part time options your institution offers . More students are having to do PG work part time now as funding is few and far between in the arts, so students need to work even more than before. By the same token, know if specific departments are likely to offer studentships of any sort - if you don't know, the potential student hears 'No' and walks away wth a negative for that institution on that point. No need to be unrealistic - "We offer one scholarship which usually only goes to a student with a First and a publication history" still lets the potential student have a better idea of where they stand. Ideally I'd like to know the proportion of part to full time students, and how they are funded - I don't want to take time off work, spend a lot of money on travel to an open day, to find out that I've wasted both our time because the options I need are not available... "Contact the department" you say? In my personal experience, some won't reply to emails and most that do will respond with the same generalisations that are on their websites - it's not until you meet face to face that you find out what is actually the situation, but that is another issue.

What did I take away from this?:

I may be OK with only one recent academic reference, but to contact one of my old UG tutors on the offchance that he will be willing to write one (12 years? I seriously doubt it, but if he does then that's AWESOME!)
I gained some universities I am interested in.
I have at least 4 or 5 universities to contact directly to discuss options with potential supervisors - MMU, Huddersfield, Birmingham and Liverpool definitely. Possibly Sheffield, York, Reading & Nottingham.
I have 2 universities to try and arrange to speak with someone at Open Days (Manchester is next week, and Leeds in Feb.)
Just apply now damnit to St Andrews and TSD!

No comments:

Post a Comment