Postgraduate queries


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The Independent Online

I'm worried that, on the wrong side of 50, I'm too old to embark on a postgraduate course. Should I be?

In short, no. With the vast expansion of the student population over recent years, diversification has increased. So, whatever you choose to study, it's highly likely you'll find yourself in among a mixed bunch of ages. That said, there are some things you could consider doing before you start to help bolster your confidence. Contact the university and ask if there's any background reading you could do before the course starts, and perhaps also ask for a preview of the type of written task you'll be asked to complete as part of the assessment process. Find out how much, or how little, technology plays a part in the learning and, if appropriate, get some practice in on whatever software you'll be using. Finally, the admissions tutor might be able to put you in touch with some future fellow students. You may discover one or two who have similar apprehensions, and be able to exchange advice and tips that will be of benefit to all.

I'm in my last year of a psychology degree, and I've decided that I want to apply it to the field of education. Is this something I can pursue with a postgraduate course?

Many feel that, to get the most out of this Masters, you need to bring with you at least some experience of working in an environment where the application of educational psychology is required. The two most obvious professions where this is the case are teaching and social work. You'll get more out of the study of theories and research if you can bring to mind individuals you've got to know who've shown the need for some form of professional input above and beyond routine teaching techniques. So my advice would be to get some experience in the workplace before thinking of a postgrad – it'll help you choose what you want to study, and increase you chances of a place.

Just as I'm finalising plans for changing my life to embark on a PhD, I've heard that my intended supervisor has moved universities, to somewhere totally impractical for me. What are my options?

This isn't uncommon, and there are no easy solutions. But there are a couple of avenues to explore: first, harnessing new technology to limit the amount of time you need to spend at the 'new' university; and second, getting permission to use the resources at a nearer university, perhaps in return for an offer to share the fruits of your research with undergraduate courses there.

Send your queries to Steve McCormack at