Choosing a new masters course

Should you be choosing a new masters course for your postgraduate study experience?

Many students ask ‘what masters degree should I choose’ and when you are looking for or choosing your masters course. The course description includes 'New'. 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 a new masters course?

In some cases, a course that is labelled 'new' may in fact be a combination of modules. 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. 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. It includes new modules to bring it up to date. Occasionally, a course will be completely new. This generally takes place only if the department or School offering the course has related courses in that area. Perhaps a new team of academics has recently joined the department with a new specialism. 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 masters programme a good idea?

If you choose a new course, remember that the course content will have been approved by the University validation process. In all Universities this is quite a rigorous process requiring detailed content plans. All UK degree courses have to meet the quality standard set by the QAA.

The university's course validation process approves the content of all courses. Detailed content plans and market research is provided.

A great deal of planning goes into new masters courses. 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.

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?

Student numbers are usually lower in the first year or two of a new course because 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.

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