I've missed the boat to get on a master's course this autumn, but don't want to waste the rest of this year putting my education on hold. Do any master's courses start in January or February?

In the past few years, this area has taken off; barely a university in the country has no January/February starts among their programmes. They are particularly common at the new universities (former polytechnics and colleges) and, if you act quickly, it is not too late to get on a course in early 2012. In fact, recruitment for most courses continues right through January.

While there are exceptions, most postgrad courses starting in January/February are those linked to a vocational area, or to a management discipline of some sort. Many also offer part-time study over a longer period, rather than full-time for a year. It is also worth asking how the university will try to merge your course with one that started in autumn.


I am doing a general engineering first degree but thinking of specialising in the nuclear energy field after I have graduated. What sort of postgraduate courses should I be considering?

You're asking this question at a good time, as it seems reasonably certain the UK will build some new nuclear power stations sometime in the next decade or so and, across the world, nuclear power stations are gaining supporters.

All these factors are aired, albeit from a partial standpoint, on the website of the Nuclear Industry Association (www.niauk.org), which also has a list of universities offering postgraduate courses in the field. Given your first degree, it's likely you'll lean towards the mechanical engineering area, including disciplines surrounding building and maintaining plants.

There are also courses slanted towards environmental protection issues and general business and management factors linked to running an energy business.


I'm pretty sure my business degree won't be enough to get me a job, so think I'll need a business master's of some sort to make any headway in the job market. What are the options, and what is the range of likely costs?

You have two main options. The first is to do a general management master's course, which should equip you to start working life in various types and sizes of firm, while keeping the option open to specialise later.

Second, if you have a firm idea of where you'd like to work within a business, you can seek out a master's course tailored to this field. Examples include finance, marketing, accounting or HR. However, these courses don't come cheap, partly because places are highly sought-after, and partly because universities know they have a good record in helping students move quickly into paid employment. You should expect to pay anything between £8,000 and £15,000 or more for a year's full-time taught course.


Send your queries to Steve McCormack at steve.mcc@virginmedia.com