26 August 2009

Choosing a university

Now that I am finishing up the first year of my MRes/PhD programme, I am starting to feel like I might have some insight on how one should or shouldn't go about choosing programmes of study at this level. Indulge me on two points:
  • Make sure the theoretical framework you intend to employ (or that interests you) is the same as or close to what your potential supervisor is interested in and/or doing. The overlap of subject area is not nearly as important as how you address the subject. I think this is even more important that your personal chemistry or whether you 'like' your supervisor or not. You only see them once a month anyway: what you are doing in between is what counts. I have at least one friend who is in a hole because of this: the supervisor liked the topic, so the person was admitted to the programme, but what framework was to be employed was not clearly sussed out, resulting in much heartache as my friend tries to do something they don't want to do.
  • Ranking is never as important as learning. Cambridge and Oxford are beautiful, but beautiful buildings do not a good education make. I have been convinced of this since I went to Knox: the name of the university is not nearly as important as what the university teaches you to do. If you don't learn what you need to succeed, it doesn't matter how metaphorically heavy the diploma is.
Those are my nuggets of truth from this year so far. Many more to come.