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Posted Jan. 31, 2022

Why do universities go on about their research?

Swansea University researchWhen it comes to research and rankings, universities are not (just) blowing their own trumpets when they promote their latest ground-breaking research and postgraduate rankings, honest!

Postgraduate course search

Here are five reasons why it might be worth paying attention to the latest research information when it comes to choosing the right university for your postgraduate studies. 

1. Your future lecturers

If there are "World Leading" researchers in the department, there's a fair chance that these same researchers will be teaching you from the get go (and this is certainly something that you can and should discuss when you attend an open day).

For example, when studying Science and Engineering at Swansea, many of the modules are delivered by research-active staff who have been highly ranked in the UK based on their internationally-leading work. This is a useful indicator of the quality of the lecturers in a subject area. Swansea University’s Geography Professor Adrian Luckman, for example, has earned global media coverage for climate change research into the collapse of the Larsen C ice shelf. And in Chemical Engineering, Professor Nidal Hilal’s CWATER project researches into using desalination water treatment and membrane technology to provide clean water in the most water poor communities around the world. Globally recognised and ground-breaking research like this is evidence of high-calibre academics, who will be passing their valuable knowledge on to you.

2. Reputation

At the risk of stating the obvious, the reputation of your university – and department – matters. Many of the largest (and most attractive companies to work for) will be involved in collaborative research projects with the universities that lead the field in a particular area. When looking for Year in Industry placements, or graduate jobs, being associated with one of their research partners will give you an advantage.

Paul Jones, Technology and Innovation Manager at Tata Steel explains, “We have been working with Engineering at Swansea University […] It is a great way for us to tap into the knowledge and enthusiasm that exists in abundance within the University. [Swansea’s students] have brought a fresh way of thinking to our company.”

3. Summer opportunities

Show an interest in the research that your lecturers are involved in and you may well find that it leads to a paid research support opportunity over the summer.

At Swansea University, academics like Dr Orbaek-White, Senior Lecturer and research fellow at Swansea’s Energy Safety Research Institute, actively seek out students to support their research and see the benefits as very much mutual. He explains, “Students learn a great deal more about their class subjects when they have the opportunity to practice the science and engineering by doing research. The theory becomes much more real for them and they learn to think of their feet, becoming far more confident in their abilities to solve challenging problems.”

Gaining this work experience will both help to set you apart when applying for graduate jobs and will also give you a real taste of life as a researcher. You never know, it could change the course of your plans after graduating. 

4. Money

Like or loathe to consider it, being a big research player brings in the big bucks. This money contributes to the quality of lab facilities, equipment and the number of academic staff employed in a department, which will have a knock-on effect on your student experience.  

5. Future research career

If you decide that research is the life for you, being a student in a research-led university can open the door. If you are known to your lecturers as an enthusiastic and capable student, you are at a real advantage when these same lecturers are looking for candidates for their funded PhD studentships and other PhD funding opportunities. You will also have the chance to “interview” prospective PhD supervisors – getting a good supervisor-supervisee match can and should be a two-way process!  

Describing his experience as a postgraduate student, Mat Burnell, Mechanical Engineering graduate and EngD student at Swansea University says, “I wasn’t sure what to do after graduating, then one day, out of the blue, one of my lecturers approached me and suggested I apply for an EngD. I did, and I got a brilliant, well-funded project and I am loving every second!”

So, while research projects and rankings may never top your list of burning questions as a prospective student, they are certainly worth paying some attention to. Research can have much more of an impact on your experience than you might think. 

Research at Swansea University

Swansea UniversityNow we have outlined the importance of a good research reputation you might want to consider the postgraduate taught opportunities within Science and Engineering at Swansea University.

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