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    I am looking to do a masters by research this September. There aren't that many courses for my subject (philosophy) and I am left with deciding between a well-matched supervisor with high tuition fees of £8-9k at Edinburgh or a less suitable supervisor but for less than half the price at Exeter or York. I have the money to go to whichever but I was hoping to keep some savings for when I graduate.

    How important is a supervisor for a MA by research? Can they make a big difference? I will be doing only the dissertation all year, no other modules. I'm also wondering whether having a more suitable supervisor will increase my chances of PhD funding in that area?

    Many thanks
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    (Original post by Shook)
    I am looking to do a masters by research this September. There aren't that many courses for my subject (philosophy) and I am left with deciding between a well-matched supervisor with high tuition fees of £8-9k at Edinburgh or a less suitable supervisor but for less than half the price at Exeter or York. I have the money to go to whichever but I was hoping to keep some savings for when I graduate.

    How important is a supervisor for a MA by research? Can they make a big difference? I will be doing only the dissertation all year, no other modules. I'm also wondering whether having a more suitable supervisor will increase my chances of PhD funding in that area?
    I unfortunately can't help with the second question as I have not applied for a PhD yet. However, for the former I feel it does make a difference. I'm in a similar situation to you: I have two very strong offers, with one being a research Masters and the other an MSc. I have been lucky enough to get two very well respected supervisors for my research Masters but the institution at the second one is stronger and my supervisor is less well known.

    Quite honestly I'm still unsure as to what to do but from what I've been told by alumni of the course, it's better to go with supervisors who you feel may give you better recommendations. I have no idea how true this is but it's what I've been told by more than one person.
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    (Original post by Aceadria)
    I unfortunately can't help with the second question as I have not applied for a PhD yet. However, for the former I feel it does make a difference. I'm in a similar situation to you: I have two very strong offers, with one being a research Masters and the other an MSc. I have been lucky enough to get two very well respected supervisors for my research Masters but the institution at the second one is stronger and my supervisor is less well known.

    Quite honestly I'm still unsure as to what to do but from what I've been told by alumni of the course, it's better to go with supervisors who you feel may give you better recommendations. I have no idea how true this is but it's what I've been told by more than one person.
    Thanks for the reply - I think you are right. To be honest in your situation I'd go with the research MA and the top supervisor as it seems more important than the institution overall. Are they similar in cost/location?

    I have also always wanted to live in Edinburgh as it looks like an amazing city whereas York and Exeter are nice but forgettable places. It's just a tough pill to swallow that I'll be paying double for a course in which you research on your own for a year! For the same price I could go to York/Exeter plus have my rent paid in full.

    I hate decisions like this...
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    (Original post by Shook)
    Thanks for the reply - I think you are right. To be honest in your situation I'd go with the research MA and the top supervisor as it seems more important than the institution overall. Are they similar in cost/location?
    That's what I'm thinking (sorry, I didn't mean to hijack your thread with my own issues; just trying to give some anecdotal assistance) :smile: They sure are! I'm an international student so I'll be paying high fees regardless! I will most likely go with the research course but it's still a tough decision and hence why I understand your situation.

    (Original post by Shook)
    I have also always wanted to live in Edinburgh as it looks like an amazing city whereas York and Exeter are nice but forgettable places. It's just a tough pill to swallow that I'll be paying double for a course in which you research on your own for a year! For the same price I could go to York/Exeter plus have my rent paid in full.

    I hate decisions like this...
    I know what you mean. Are you doing this for yourself or more to help find work?
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    (Original post by Shook)
    It's just a tough pill to swallow that I'll be paying double for a course in which you research on your own for a year!
    It's not just "research on your own". If your supervisor is any good, he or she will have a lot of input to give you on various things - reading, structure, different lines of enquiry, academic style, etc. If they're not any good then it probably all will be on your own, without any input, suggestions etc for the dissertation that will be your entire degree. To be honest I find the question particularly odd for a degree that is entirely research. If it was mostly coursework with a dissertation element the question might be valid...
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    (Original post by sj27)
    It's not just "research on your own". If your supervisor is any good, he or she will have a lot of input to give you on various things - reading, structure, different lines of enquiry, academic style, etc. If they're not any good then it probably all will be on your own, without any input, suggestions etc for the dissertation that will be your entire degree. To be honest I find the question particularly odd for a degree that is entirely research. If it was mostly coursework with a dissertation element the question might be valid...
    I'm just looking for advice on a difficult decision - I think asking whether a better matched supervisor is worth £5000 more than a reasonably matched supervisor is not entirely odd but thanks for the reply.

    What I meant with "research on your own" is that there is no taught element yet at Edinburgh I will be paying the higher fee of a taught degree for a research masters. As far as I can tell they are the only philosophy department that charge the same price for research and taught masters, which is unfortunate. It would seem more reasonable for my decision to pay double if it was taught rather than a research masters which, in comparison, is "research on your own".
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    (Original post by Aceadria)
    That's what I'm thinking (sorry, I didn't mean to hijack your thread with my own issues; just trying to give some anecdotal assistance) :smile: They sure are! I'm an international student so I'll be paying high fees regardless! I will most likely go with the research course but it's still a tough decision and hence why I understand your situation.
    Not at all; it's helpful to hear others' choices.

    I know what you mean. Are you doing this for yourself or more to help find work?
    To get on the PhD and do something I enjoy. Normal grad work was a boring experience!
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    (Original post by Shook)
    To get on the PhD and do something I enjoy. Normal grad work was a boring experience!
    I feel you! I'm a bit bored of my day-to-day grind so need a year off to do something I genuinely love.

    Good luck with your decision. Have you considered visiting the Uni?

    Something I also found that helped my decision was to find people on Linkedin who did my course and get their insights.
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    (Original post by Shook)
    I'm just looking for advice on a difficult decision - I think asking whether a better matched supervisor is worth £5000 more than a reasonably matched supervisor is not entirely odd but thanks for the reply.

    What I meant with "research on your own" is that there is no taught element yet at Edinburgh I will be paying the higher fee of a taught degree for a research masters. As far as I can tell they are the only philosophy department that charge the same price for research and taught masters, which is unfortunate. It would seem more reasonable for my decision to pay double if it was taught rather than a research masters which, in comparison, is "research on your own".
    I'm sorry you thought my answer held no valid opinion/ advice. I still think that a supervisor is critical to the success of your dissertation and if all you have is a dissertation then even more so, but as you have now explained it you are judging value for money on whether or not you are implicitly paying for a taught course or not. That's a different question to what I thought you were asking. Of course without a taught element you have nothing to compensate for a less than ideal supervisor either.
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    (Original post by Shook)
    I'm just looking for advice on a difficult decision - I think asking whether a better matched supervisor is worth £5000 more than a reasonably matched supervisor is not entirely odd but thanks for the reply.

    What I meant with "research on your own" is that there is no taught element yet at Edinburgh I will be paying the higher fee of a taught degree for a research masters. As far as I can tell they are the only philosophy department that charge the same price for research and taught masters, which is unfortunate. It would seem more reasonable for my decision to pay double if it was taught rather than a research masters which, in comparison, is "research on your own".
    I'm not entirely sure how important it is to have a 'better matched' supervisor - working with someone who is entirely aligned with your interests can sometimes narrow the range of your reading and writing. It can be more productive to work with someone who knows about your area but can extend it into new and innovative directions.

    For a research degree you want:

    • someone who will commit to regular supervisions - i.e. not someone who is caught up in their own writing or frequently off presenting at conferences
    • someone influential enough for their references to carry weight when you apply for PhDs
    • someone who has lots and lots of contacts and can point you in the right direction when applying for said PhDs
    • someone senior enough to be influential but not so senior that they're fed up with supervising yet another Masters student
    • most importantly - someone who's excited about your proposed study


    If you can find all of that then it's definitely worth paying the extra
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    (Original post by Aceadria)
    I feel you! I'm a bit bored of my day-to-day grind so need a year off to do something I genuinely love.

    Good luck with your decision. Have you considered visiting the Uni?

    Something I also found that helped my decision was to find people on Linkedin who did my course and get their insights.
    Everyday should be spent doing something you genuinely love - it's easy to forget that when everyone and everything is pointing to grad jobs, money, consumerism, status, etc. Will you be continuing to the PhD?

    I've been to both places over the years. I'm from the south so Exeter would be more convenient and it's a lovely place with nice weather but living in Edinburgh would be more of a memorable experience I imagine. Although to be honest location is not too important for me - I'll be inside with my nose in a book anyway!

    That's a great idea with LinkedIn, thanks I wouldn't have thought of that.
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    I had a bad experience with my first diss supervisor on my taught Masters - that was bad enough. A colleague had a supervisor with only a peripheral interest in their research. They were pretty much left to their own devices and found it very difficult. I can only think that this effect would be amplified if all you do in your Masters is research.

    In short, I'd definitely go for the best supervisor. They can be make-or-break.

    Do be prepared to loathe your research at various points. Don't imagine for a second that you'll be doing something you love every day. Nobody I've known through both Masters and PhD, has had an unremittingly good time. You need to expect problems and be resilient enough to power through at times when you just want to throw your research out of the nearest and highest window.
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    (Original post by Jantaculum)
    I'm not entirely sure how important it is to have a 'better matched' supervisor - working with someone who is entirely aligned with your interests can sometimes narrow the range of your reading and writing. It can be more productive to work with someone who knows about your area but can extend it into new and innovative directions.

    For a research degree you want:
    • someone who will commit to regular supervisions - i.e. not someone who is caught up in their own writing or frequently off presenting at conferences
    • someone influential enough for their references to carry weight when you apply for PhDs
    • someone who has lots and lots of contacts and can point you in the right direction when applying for said PhDs
    • someone senior enough to be influential but not so senior that they're fed up with supervising yet another Masters student
    • most importantly - someone who's excited about your proposed study


    If you can find all of that then it's definitely worth paying the extra
    Fantastic post (as always!). What's your take on taught masters for someone who wants to do a PhD, especially if you don't know who the supervisor will be?
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    (Original post by Klix88)
    I had a bad experience with my first diss supervisor on my taught Masters - that was bad enough. A colleague had a supervisor with only a peripheral interest in their research. They were pretty much left to their own devices and found it very difficult. I can only think that this effect would be amplified if all you do in your Masters is research.

    In short, I'd definitely go for the best supervisor. They can be make-or-break.

    Do be prepared to loathe your research at various points. Don't imagine for a second that you'll be doing something you love every day. Nobody I've known through both Masters and PhD, has had an unremittingly good time. You need to expect problems and be resilient enough to power through at times when you just want to throw your research out of the nearest and highest window.
    Thanks you're right, I have decided on the better supervisor in Edinburgh (even if I will be skint!)

    I agree with your last paragraph though I don't define loving what you do everyday as being joyful and satisfied with what occupies one's time - the struggle and loathing and dissatisfaction is necessary for passion. No good philosopher is ever content.
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    (Original post by Aceadria)
    Fantastic post (as always!). What's your take on taught masters for someone who wants to do a PhD, especially if you don't know who the supervisor will be?
    Thank you for the compliment

    I seriously don't think it matters which route you choose (from my social scientist point of view anyway), especially as there's quite a lot of variation between universities in their Masters structure. For example my part-time taught MA (part time? pah) yielded a year-long, 50,000 word dissertation, more than the requirement for some MRes degrees at other unis.

    I can see these advantages for a taught Masters:

    • you're producing formally-assessed written work at an early stage, so have a piece to submit for your doctoral application (if required)
    • referees are often asked to comment on your position within the cohort - the early written work gives them the evidence they need to make a firm judgement
    • if dissertation supervisors aren't allocated until later in the process, it gives you an idea about who you would like to work with (and who you'd like to avoid…).


    There are probably lots of advantages to a MRes too, but I'm biased.

    Looking at people in my doctoral cohort, you wouldn't be able to tell who did a MA and who did a MRes - no real difference at all.
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    I don't think it matters as much as the quality of your own work. It's a Long Study after all, not a thesis or an original contribution to knowledge. The entire Masters output is equivalent in length to a single PhD chapter, so try to keep it in perspective.
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    (Original post by Jantaculum)
    Thank you for the compliment

    I seriously don't think it matters which route you choose (from my social scientist point of view anyway), especially as there's quite a lot of variation between universities in their Masters structure. For example my part-time taught MA (part time? pah) yielded a year-long, 50,000 word dissertation, more than the requirement for some MRes degrees at other unis.

    I can see these advantages for a taught Masters:
    • you're producing formally-assessed written work at an early stage, so have a piece to submit for your doctoral application (if required)
    • referees are often asked to comment on your position within the cohort - the early written work gives them the evidence they need to make a firm judgement
    • if dissertation supervisors aren't allocated until later in the process, it gives you an idea about who you would like to work with (and who you'd like to avoid…).

    There are probably lots of advantages to a MRes too, but I'm biased.

    Looking at people in my doctoral cohort, you wouldn't be able to tell who did a MA and who did a MRes - no real difference at all.
    Thanks!
 
 
 
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