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Relationships With Postgraduate Academic Staff in UK Universities
When you left sixth form and started university as an undergraduate, an awful lot about your academic life will have changed. In fact, there will have been so many changes for you to get used to and understand that you might not have spent much time thinking about one of the most obvious changes, that being the different kinds of relationships you had with the academic staff around you!
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No longer will you have been working under distant authority figures with formal titles and an almost parental duty of care; the people teaching you will have introduced themselves by their first names, and will have approached you as adults. You were expected to look after yourself and moderate your own behaviour in a way that hadn't ever been asked of you in an academic setting before. This is a learning curve for some undergraduates and a huge relief for others, but for pretty much all of them it's a major change to which they have to adapt. The lecturers and tutors themselves are aware of this, and they make allowances accordingly.
If, after graduation, you choose to stay on and pursue postgraduate studies, you'll find that this effect becomes all the more clear – and that the various allowances for adjustment that may have been granted before suddenly cease. After all, as a masters or PhD student, you are an academic in your own right a person who has made the decision to pursue academia rather than simply taking an almost ubiquitous bachelors degree and stepping out into the world of work.
This means that the various teaching and academic staff around you will see you as someone at the beginning of the paths they took, and will want to help you as best they can without coddling you or taking personal responsibility for your welfare.
They are no longer in any way in loco parentis: you are a fully-fledged adult, after all. That will come with both expectations and freedoms you probably weren't granted before.
Staff You'll Meet While Studying As A Postgraduate
If you're pursuing a masters degree, you're very likely to be surrounded by a similar mix of academics to when you were an undergrad - though there will be fewer of them. You'll have a tutor or supervisor of your own, who you'll meet with from time to time to discuss your thesis and general progress; as before, they will be your first port of call should you run into trouble. Various other people will lead the workshops, lectures and seminars, even the exams, that you will attend, but it's very likely that there will be far fewer of them - after all, not so many people will be taking the course that you are, and so much of the study you're undertaking will be personally directed. You're going to step away from modular courses and towards a more bespoke and self-directed way of studying. It's very likely, particularly if your discipline is one of the sciences, that you will also find yourself building up a working relationship with a researcher or other non-teaching scientist or academic as a part of your own research. This will be an invaluable relationship, as it will allow you to pursue your subject outside of a purely theoretical setting and alongside someone who knows it far better than you could hope to. This too will be a relationship of equals - particularly as it's very likely that the person you're working with will have been in just the same position as you at one time.
If you're doing a PhD , this effect will be even more pronounced – and you'll be far more on your own. You'll have a tutor, who will help and guide you as best they can, and there might even be some lectures – though they'll be attended by a wide range of people. You won't be taking a 'course' at all, however, as you will in fact be pursuing your own research with all the freedom of any independent academic.
Benefits Of Postgraduate Academic Relationships
The right sort of working relationship, be it with a mentor or a professor or a working scientist or anyone else working as academic staff in your own field, can change your life. Not just because getting a masters degree or a doctorate will have a massively beneficial effect on your choice or career – although it probably will – but also because those are the interpersonal relationships that shape us; the mentor-mentee bonds that teach us who we are and what we can be.
If you take the time to get to know the people you're working with (and at this level you really are 'working with' them more than you are 'studying under' them), you'll find that they are probably fascinating, valuable individuals whom you'll love to know. After all, they're academic experts in a field that you clearly have a great deal of academic interest in – you wouldn't be there otherwise, and neither would they! Take the time to get to know them, to find out what they love about the area of study you've both chosen, and to learn as much from them as you can. People don't often properly appreciate the value of their time in academic institutions like universities, but you'll probably never be in such a position again.Search for PhD Courses