Prospective Student Questions

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Ecological Economics Q+A

How suited is the ecological economics MSc for  entering into a PhD? And what type of PhD would you be aiming at with the EE MSc?

A) I myself am not planning on doing a PhD but my course and I just discussed it and decided it’s very suited to a range of PhDs as you can structure your elective choices for whatever you’re interested in, from ecology to economics, scientific to policy.

A) I think the MSc. in EE is a good option whether you want to work or look for a PhD afterwards. It draws on the bases for an academic career while also giving you options to look into specific tools that might be useful for a professional context. Some PhDs that I previously considered cover the topics of social-ecological systems, resources management, ecosystem services and governance.

What are the courses like (how many students, atmosphere, experience with professors, etc.) and any advice for prospective students entering with a BA and not a Bsc…?

There were 21 of us in this cohort, from a huge range of different backgrounds, both BA and MSc., including anthropologists, philosophers, economists, accountants, geologists, environmental scientists, and I can’t remember what else. The MSc. is suited for any kind of background, and of course if you have a BA you’ll struggle a bit with some courses, but you’ll be really good at others. To me that’s just the nature of an interdisciplinary programme such as EE.

There are two compulsory courses (Foundations in EE and Applications in EE), apart from which you have the freedom to choose from almost every other course offered for the other MScs. of the School of Geosciences, and even some courses from other schools. In this sense, you can tailor your MSc. to whatever suits you most: some people choose to go along with what they feel comfortable with, others choose challenging courses they have no background in but that provide new skills and knowledge, and others choose to go along their interest areas. To me any of these strategies is perfectly valid, and it really depends on what your future plans are.

Regarding the teachers, just like anywhere else, there are some really good ones and others not so much. The good thing is that at the beginning of each semester (the first week) you can sit in as many courses as you want, so that you can make an informed decision. In that first week the teachers will talk about what you should expect of the course, plus you can get to know the teacher and his/her style of teaching and decide if you like it. There are some courses that have a cap (a limited number of students) though, so if there is a subject that really catches your attention I would suggest to sign in for it and later you have the possibility of changing.

Finally , in the courses I took there were always between 20 and 30 students (but I know there were courses with less and courses with more), and the teachers were very accessible and promoted a nice atmosphere in class, with participation being encouraged.

 I have to say that beyond teachers, courses, skills, knowledge, etc., what I’ll treasure the most is the overall welcoming atmosphere and diversity of the university in particular and the city in general. It’s a great place to live, to meet new people and to make good friends.

Ecological Economics Student, 2013-14

Environment, Culture and Society Q+A

Are classes more akin to lectures or discussions? Most classes are lecture based. They vary slightly, but most professors use a slideshow presentation that is supplemented by their insights and students’ questions.  Student questions and reflections are encouraged in the United Kingdom, probably more than I experienced as a Canadian undergrad.

How large are classes? My postgrad taught (PGT) classes are generally 20-40 students. I also took two courses that were open to undergraduates (UG) and those lectures had 50-60 students. However, after the combined UG/PGT lecture, there were PGT-specific labs or discussion group (seminar) that helped deepen our understanding and were a smaller group of 10-20 students.

How do classes tend to be scheduled, for instance do classes last all day or only an hour or two? PGT classes are generally scheduled once a week, for 2-4 hours, depending on the course. Courses are offered Monday-Friday with Wednesday afternoons left free for extra-curricular activities or PGT development sessions run by the Institute for Academic Development (which I highly recommend!). If your class has a lab or seminar it will likely be held right after the lecture.

What kinds of work are students assigned (more paper-writing or test-taking)? There is a mix of assessment depending on the course. More science-based courses have a split of 50% exam and 50% final essay while philosophical and theoretical courses tend to have only one final essay worth 100%.  You can find out the assessment break down for courses  on Degree Regulations & Programmes of Study. Most courses also have unassessed work that you are expected to hand in but is not mandatory. At first I thought this was an unfair weighting of work, but have now come to appreciate the freedom to express myself fully on unassessed work and to incorporate the feedback into my final assessments.

What resources are available for writing the dissertation? The dissertation is intended to be a more open project, so resources vary by topic or interest. The program director is your first point of contact and can guide you towards specific supervisors or mentors. There are also a wide range of university databases and research groups that can be of use. I am currently only preparing my dissertation proposal, so I’m not fully aware of the big picture! I can let you know in 5 months how it goes.

And what kinds of careers do graduates pursue, especially those who return to the U.S.? Again, not sure of the big picture, but we have had a few special presentations on careers and networking events from the School of Geosciences and Careers Services, so I am certain they can provide you with more specific examples. From what I recall, a lot of graduates go into non-governmental organization roles or pursue other research.

To summarize, Environment, Culture and Society is a great program because of its flexibility and wide range of courses. It can also be difficult to pick courses because of the variety. I truly wish I had another term to take three more courses. There are two core (mandatory) courses.  Values of the Environment was my favourite course last term as it covered many ethical questions with good discussion and guidance. This term, the core course is Political Ecology which is less to my personal liking but covers very relevant discussions in local and global perspectives in policy and ecology.

Hope this was helpful and all the best with your future studies.  You can follow me on twitter or catch up with me on the student blog.

Kind regards,

Aditi Garg

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