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Postgraduate League Tables
UK Postgraduate Rankings: Do postgraduate league tables matter for research master's students?
Postgraduate league tables are often an important tool for undergraduates who are trying to decide where to study for their degree, but what about master's students? Although league tables and rankings do exist for postgraduates , they often tend to be of less use due to the fact many master’s students complete their degrees by research rather than teaching.
This means that statistics found in postgraduate university league tables such as teacher-to-student ratios are somewhat irrelevant to students who study research master's. Yet some argue that the data available in league tables is useful because it offers a quick brief on the status of a university.
So all in all, do postgraduate university league tables matter for research master’s students?
Postgraduate university league tables: what research master's students need to know... and why it’s not in the league tables...
If you’re studying for a master’s by research, then there are several factors that you should be looking at when choosing where to study for your degree. Research master’s are different creatures to taught master’s or undergraduate degrees, therefore you need to be looking at a completely different set of criteria.
For these postgraduate programmes the following are the important considerations:
• Research focus
Consider the area of research focus. While your degree might be in a wide subject like politics, you may already have specific research interests in mind like, for example, the Israel-Palestine conflict or Machiavellian political theory. If so, you want to study at an institution whose research focus covers those topics. There’s no point going to London School of Economics (LSE) who specialise in political economy when you really want Durham’s Middle East expertise. It’s nitty-gritty information like this that you need to know, but no league table could go into that much detail.
In a related point, the research focus of a department is often shaped by their staff. If you want to get a top quality research master’s, you want the ability to be supervised by the experts in your chosen field. Following on from the previous example, if you’re interested in Middle Eastern politics then check out where the premier academic in that field works. That could be just the university for you.
Research master’s students are often helped along the way by having excellent resources at their disposal. While you want at least a well-stocked library, if you’re a science student you may have certain needs vis-a-vis equipment that you might want to take into consideration.
So what can research master's students learn from postgraduate university league tables?
If you’re an international student who hasn’t got much of a clue about UK universities, then league tables can give you a rough idea of where to start your search. A university’s RAE score or how their undergraduates rate them in the National Student Survey may not be massively useful to you, but they can at least build a partial picture. From there, you can narrow it down using the three areas outlined above. Simple.
Useful rankings links:
UK postgraduate rankings: a brief overview
The Guardian postgraduate league tables
Do university league tables provide a complete picture of a university?
Do student satisfaction surveys matter to postgraduate students?