When you are looking for or choosing your masters course, you are likely to come across some that are marked by the University as a NEW course. Here we look at some of the possible issues around choosing a new course that hasn’t been tried before, and what that really means.

Does ‘New’ really mean new?

In some cases, a course that is labelled ‘new’ may in fact be a combination of modules – if that is how the course is taught – some of which are new, but some of which are not. This might be the case, for example, where there are a number of pathways for a masters course, or where the core modules in a group of courses need to be the same, but the individual modules that allow you to tailor the course to your specific needs or subject preference will be different, so a new combination of modules means the course is technically ‘new’. Sometimes a course will also be labelled ‘new’ when it has been revised by the University and gained new modules to bring it up to date. Occasionally, a course will be completely new, but this generally takes place only if the department or School offering the course has related courses in that area, OR where a new group of academics has recently joined the department with a new specialism and the department is therefore able to offer completely new masters courses in that area. It’s often worth checking out how much of a course is really new and what that means before you start.

Is choosing a new course a good idea?

If you choose a new course, it’s useful to remember that the course content will recently have been considered and approved by the University’s course validation process – and in many Universities this is quite a rigorous process where detailed content plans have been submitted. This can be an advantage as it ensures that the University is satisfied the course is of an appropriate standard to be delivered at masters level. If it is not obviously available, you should be able to ask for more detail on the course, including module descriptions, and you can also ask which parts of the course have been taught before. A great deal of planning goes into new masters courses when they are offered by a University – many are offered in order to ensure that they reflect the cutting edge expertise that only that department can offer, so with very specialist new courses you may well be getting the opportunity to study something that is unique. If a course is called ‘new’ because it has been revised and updated, this again means it will have gone through a new approval process to ensure that it has up to date and relevant content. Some departments offer new courses similar to those that can be found elsewhere, but that complement the range of courses they already have, in order to give students a wide choice, or because there is high demand for courses in that particular area.

Are there any disadvantages in choosing a new course?

If you choose a new course, it’s true that you won’t be able to talk to current students or alumni from that particular course, and the course itself will not have a track record of employment success if that is important to you. However, students on other courses in a broadly similar subject area in the same department should be able to give you a good idea of what the department has to offer. Whilst this is not a guarantee, it will help you decide what you think about the department.

Will there be low numbers of students on a new course?

You may find that in the first year or two of a new course, there are a relatively small number of students – this may simply mean that the course was only approved or announced a few months before the start of the course so the University has not had so long to make the information available to students. It can be an advantage if there are smaller numbers to start with as it can mean you get more individual attention and there is more time for discussion of individual points.

How can you find out more?

It’s also a good idea to talk to the course leader and ask them about the individual modules and which have been taught before. You will be able to get an impression of how organised the course is before it starts.

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