Face value

I am 20 and interested in a career in stage and fashion make-up. I've found a number of courses but they are expensive. As this is a competitive field I don't want to waste time on an expensive course that is not well recognised.

You are right to ask. Not all courses offer an essential component – experienced teachers. Sandra Exelby, chairwoman of the National Association of Screen Make-up Artists and Hairdressers (www.nasmah.co.uk) recommends checking the accreditation of tutors. A teaching qualification is not enough, she says. Tutors should have practical experience of working in either film or high-definition television. That's essential.

The association warns that hours and work conditions are long and hard and even the most thorough training can't ensure a successful career – but if you are determined, which it sounds from your letter as if you are, you can look up the association's member directory on the website. Many members run their own courses. Or check what your local further education college is offering.

Nasmah also advises that some training in hairstyling is essential even for make-up artists. Working in local amateur dramatic societies (or for those starting earlier, school plays) does provide a foundation for this type of work, it adds. Greasepaint and the London School of Media Make-up are both run by former TV make-up artists.

Language matters

I want to write well – to be able to analyse issues convincingly through writing. Next year, I will be doing a Masters in applied economics. I know that if I am to present a good thesis, I will have to improve on my analytical skills through writing, as English is not my first language.

Most UK universities have language centres which offer assistance with all aspects of languages including English. For example, the London School of Economics (LSE), where you are thinking of applying, has a language centre that offers a huge range of support, starting with preparation courses for non-native English speakers to help bring language skills up to university level – with a strong emphasis on critical thinking.

For those on a course it also offers free sessions throughout the year to help students with different styles of writing for essays, reviews, dissertations or exams. There are also lectures on writing (run as a Study Skills programme) and individual writing support, enabling students to visit language teachers dedicated to their department for help with the style and accuracy of their English, or book one-to-one sessions with study advisers or an in-house writer.

Local authority further education colleges also provide help with English classes for specific uses, and, of course, there are private colleges. You can identify short courses in London through the Floodlight directory (www.floodlight.co.uk) or nationally through Hotcourses (www.hotcourses.com).

The English in Britain website (www.englishinbritain.co.uk) has information on 2,000 English language courses and accredited language training organisations in the United Kingdom. The site lists the various accrediting bodies – it would always be advisable to book an accredited course.

It is likely, however, that you will find what you need at the university you choose to go to.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk