Postgrad Queries: What are the best TEFL courses? Is it too late for me to study architecture?


I have recently returned to the UK after a year teaching English in Thailand on a voluntary basis. I would now like to take some form of TEFL course, with the intention of returning to Thailand and getting some paid work. But there are so many different courses advertised. Are they all of equal worth, or should I be limiting my search to those accredited by certain bodies? I have a degree and a PGCE.

Although there are numerous starter TEFL qualifications, the two most commonly accepted worldwide are the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA), awarded by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate ( www.cambridgeesol.org) and the Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (Cert. TESOL) awarded by Trinity College in London ( www.trinitycollege.co.uk). If you have particular language schools in Thailand in mind, it might benefit you to ask them which of these two qualifications they value more. These are very demanding courses for complete beginners, but as you are already a qualified teacher, you should find it reasonably straightforward. There is an excellent profile of the role of a teacher of English as a foreign language on the Prospects website ( www.prospects.ac.uk) in the section on 'Types of Jobs'. This gives you sources of vacancies and further information on the available courses. The experience that you have already gained as a volunteer will show your motivation and knowledge of TEFL work and will certainly help you in finding work.

What's the usual time-frame for applying to postgraduate courses? And do universities generally give you help with accommodation?

Although a small number of Masters courses (law and teaching, for example) do set specific closing dates, most do not have a cut-off point for applications, so recruitment goes on throughout the year. But the earlier you apply, the better. This is firstly because some of the most popular postgrad courses fill up very quickly i.e. during the autumn prior to the course start. Secondly, in terms of funding, a timely application is more likely to put you in line for any competitive awards, scholarships and bursaries that are available. There's one other point to remember: many new Masters – those requiring official validation – don't come on stream until the spring and summer months; so keep an eye out for these. When it comes to finding somewhere to live, university accommodation centres are there to help all students, although the focus is on first-year undergraduates. Some institutions have dedicated halls of residence for postgrads, although here demand tends to outweigh supply. The accommodation service will also be able to point you towards local properties to rent.

Is it too late, at 44, to do a postgraduate in architecture part-time? I work as an architectural assistant, and fancy doing project management in my field.

Architecture is one of the relatively few professions where it is not normally possible to enter through a postgraduate course. The vast majority of architects have done a full qualifying first degree. However, from what you've said about your work and aspirations, there are other possibilities open to you. Oxford Brookes University ( www.brookes.ac.uk) is the only UK university to run the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) examination in architecture for office-based candidates. This is a portfolio-based course (as opposed to one demanding full or part-time attendance) and is aimed at those who are employed in architects' practices, have substantial responsibility and experience, and can work for this qualification under the supervision of an architect. For fuller details, go to the RIBA website ( www.architecture.com), and also look at the Architects Registration Board ( www.arb.org.uk), which has information on qualifying in the profession. A second alternative would be to take an honours degree in architectural technology, which is now a profession in its own right. The Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists ( www.ciat.org.uk) has all the details on this avenue.

Thanks to Liz Hagger and Gill Sharp, careers consultants for Domino Careers (www.dominocareers.co.uk). Send your queries to Steve McCormack at steve.mcc@virginmedia.com

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