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Postgraduate queries: Do universities have open days for prospective postgrad students?


Q: Do universities have open days for prospective postgrad students?

A: Yes, all universities will open their doors to postgraduates at least once or twice a year. Most seem to do this in the autumn term, but a few have their open days (right) at this time of year. For example, Brunel University and the University of Sussex have events coming up towards the end of this month, and London South Bank University has one in February.

Some universities target their audience even more finely by staging open days or evenings dedicated to a particular subject area or faculty. But even if there isn't one to suit your timetable, you can always ask to visit on your own one day, to chat informally to students and staff. Whatever you do, though, don't sign up for a postgraduate course, and the associated expense, without having had a physical look around. Because surroundings and space can count for a great deal.

Q: I want to get a job in sports management, but am attracted to managing facilities rather than people. What sort of a Masters should I go for?

A: Sports management is a very wide field, requiring managers who pick teams and plan tactics as well as those who run stadia and sports centres. However, to make it to the top of either of those career paths, it helps to have a broad knowledge of how sport works, from the boardroom to the dressing room. That is why most sports management Masters at UK universities offer an introduction to all the areas necessary for a sports business of any kind to run effectively.

This will include marketing, finance, human resources, and facilities management, with some also offering a glimpse into more niche areas, such as sports law, media management, and the international dimension. But what most courses also offer is the opportunity to pick a project or dissertation area that reflects the direction within sport that matches your chosen career path. So my advice would be to seek out a course that offers a solid and broad grounding, along with the flexibility to do some more in-depth work in your own area of interest.

Q: I'm considering embarking on a postgraduate course this autumn, but I'm a bit worried that I won't be able to afford the course fees. Could you help me to make a decision either way?

A: The problem with fees for postgraduate courses is that there isn't the predictability you get with undergraduate courses. There is no single, uniform fee for all first degrees at any given university. A Masters course can set you back as little as a couple of thousand pounds, or stretch your finances to way over £10,000. However, there are some general principles that apply most of the time. The first is that if your course is largely lecture-based, with little or no need to call on expensive facilities or equipment, then the fees are likely to be less than for a course where you spend a lot of time in laboratories carrying out experiments requiring expensive materials.

But this is not universally the case, so it is worth shopping around if you're thinking of postgraduate science or engineering, for example. Other factors that can sharply push up fees are field trips and study visits. At the application stage, it's crucial to find out how much of these costs are already embedded into course fees, and how much are likely to appear as unwelcome bills during the year. The good news is that universities are pretty open about their fees, so you shouldn't find it difficult or too time-consuming researching your costs alongside the academic considerations.

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