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Choosing between universities: reputation, employability... does it matter? Watch

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    Hello everyone,

    I'm applying for MSc Geographic Information Science (GIS) and I'm weighing up the differences between programmes and universities.

    What are your experiences of the process of choosing between courses and what factors matter? For example, I'm comparing departments on league tables and thinking carefully about the day-to-day student experience (brick uni vs distance learning, flexibility as I will continue working full-time).

    I have just graduated with a first so I want to apply for the best I can get, but I could save lots of money by going to Birkbeck (my employer!).
    So far I have whittled down several universities, to comparing Birkbeck with Leeds.

    Birkbeck:
    1. I work for them and I am eligible for a huge discount, however I would have to keep working there for a few years and not just up and leave on graduation day! This is the biggest question - if I'm not using the degree straight away in a new job during/ after is there any point, regardless of the savings made?
    2. As an Open Uni graduate, I feel apprehensive about attending a brick university and completing in a fixed time.
    3. Department of Geography is 151 in 2016 league tables (how much does this matter?!)
    ...
    versus online distance-learning with Leeds:
    1. Flexible degree programme similar to my BSc in terms of delivery - no big adjustment to the method of study and they offer gap years if I needed it.
    2. Department of Geography is 15 in 2016 league tables (how much does this matter?!)
    3. Established programme with strong industry links

    Despite the cost I'm leaning towards Leeds but I would appreciate your thoughts please!
    Many thanks in advance
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    Forget League Tables. They are just marketing nonsense thought up by newspapers. Academics ignore them and employers havn't got a clue what they are supposed to mean. Both Leeds and London are good Unis, and ones that employers will have heard of - that's all that matters.

    Check the research interests of the Dept staff and/or the focus of the course for what really interests you, and look for a Uni environment where you will feel comfortable, or in the case of the distance learning, where the 'remote' aspect is totally manageable. Finally, cost. Only you know the answer to that bit of thinking.

    Dont get fixated by 'how will this look to others?' - doing a Masters is about building on previous knowledge and developing a specialism, and enjoying what you are studying. It isnt about impressing other people.
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    (Original post by pink*fairy)
    Hello everyone,

    I'm applying for MSc Geographic Information Science (GIS) and I'm weighing up the differences between programmes and universities.

    What are your experiences of the process of choosing between courses and what factors matter? For example, I'm comparing departments on league tables and thinking carefully about the day-to-day student experience (brick uni vs distance learning, flexibility as I will continue working full-time).

    I have just graduated with a first so I want to apply for the best I can get, but I could save lots of money by going to Birkbeck (my employer!).
    So far I have whittled down several universities, to comparing Birkbeck with Leeds.

    Birkbeck:
    1. I work for them and I am eligible for a huge discount, however I would have to keep working there for a few years and not just up and leave on graduation day! This is the biggest question - if I'm not using the degree straight away in a new job during/ after is there any point, regardless of the savings made?
    2. As an Open Uni graduate, I feel apprehensive about attending a brick university and completing in a fixed time.
    3. Department of Geography is 151 in 2016 league tables (how much does this matter?!)
    ...
    versus online distance-learning with Leeds:
    1. Flexible degree programme similar to my BSc in terms of delivery - no big adjustment to the method of study and they offer gap years if I needed it.
    2. Department of Geography is 15 in 2016 league tables (how much does this matter?!)
    3. Established programme with strong industry links

    Despite the cost I'm leaning towards Leeds but I would appreciate your thoughts please!
    Many thanks in advance
    I agree in part with returnmigrant. I think suggesting that "academics ignore them and employers haven't got a clue what they mean" is slightly over-egging a pudding, but the broad point, that too much emphasis can be easily placed on them, stands. League tables can give a guideline as to which universities perform well on certain metrics, but the devil is always in the detail,and the way these metrics are calculated, the assumptions made in the methodologies and statistics and the particular relevance and shortcomings of each 'league table' is all worthy of a Ph.D thesis. It need not detain us here.

    You clearly have a relationship already with Birkbeck, and it's going to be a comfortable and familiar environment, with the financial incentives you detail. Is that enough for you to stay? Have you spoken to any group leaders/PIs in the research areas you're interested in to get a flavour of how research works there? For my money, staying somewhere 'because it's comfortable' wouldn't be enough - I'd need there to be a strong department which would allow me to progress my academic career. In this respect, you would be wise to investigate the research work of Leeds (and others) to see what fits best with where you want to go.
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    (Original post by returnmigrant)
    Check the research interests of the Dept staff and/or the focus of the course for what really interests you.
    Thanks for that - I will focus on researching the staff next and pick out the differences between the modules on offer.

    For Birkbeck, I will need to look into the details of the course and check with my manager about the scale of discount and how long I need to stay in my job (it's certainly tempting to have funding, but I need to think if I would do it regardless of the discount!)

    The main thing attracting me to Leeds is the choice between 6 pathways of industry-specific electives and the opportunity to develop advanced technical skills with broad employment applications.
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    (Original post by Reality Check)
    You clearly have a relationship already with Birkbeck, and it's going to be a comfortable and familiar environment, with the financial incentives you detail. Is that enough for you to stay? Have you spoken to any group leaders/PIs in the research areas you're interested in to get a flavour of how research works there? For my money, staying somewhere 'because it's comfortable' wouldn't be enough - I'd need there to be a strong department which would allow me to progress my academic career. In this respect, you would be wise to investigate the research work of Leeds (and others) to see what fits best with where you want to go.
    Thanks - my thoughts exactly! My next step is to look in more detail at both research staff, departments and opportunities.
 
 
 
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