Q. I'd like to work for an international organisation such as an NGO or think tank, so I'm applying for Masters courses. I've narrowed it down to international studies and diplomacy at the School for Oriental and African Studies (Soas) and either international public policy or politics, security and integration, both at UCL. I've also looked at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations. Which course or institution has the best reputation?
A. All three institutions are highly-rated, with courses that attract some of the best candidates, and each would undoubtedly give you the grounding you need to succeed. To narrow it down, perhaps you should think about the type of NGO you'd like to work for, and in which part of the world. Soas would be a passport to Africa and the East, while studying in Geneva would put you in the same city as one of the United Nations' main agencies: the School of Diplomacy also hosts some of the leading courses in human rights, humanitarian law, peacemaking and peacekeeping.
For some impartial advice try contacting British Overseas NGOs for Development at www.bond.org.uk – their website also has a good jobs section – or exploring the quality reviews undertaken by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (www.qaa.ac.uk and www.hero.ac.uk). But simply talking to the tutors on courses that interest you can be the best way of getting a feel for what's on offer. Ask about the course content, and also about the career destinations of graduates – this will show the success of the course relative to your own objectives. It's also worth speaking to previous students, as their satisfaction is ultimately the best guide to the programme's reputation.
Q. A friend is studying for a BA in photography in Iran, but she's interested in doing an MA in Britain. Which are the best postgraduate courses in photography or related subjects?
A. Much will depend on what kind of photography she wishes to pursue. The MA offered by the Royal College of Art in London is the longest established postgraduate photography course in Britain, and has the most competition for places. According to Simon Bainbridge, editor of the British Journal of Photography, this is the place to go if you're interested in fine arts photography. Check out www.rca.ac.uk for more details. The courses offered by the Edinburgh College of Art also receive Bainbridge's seal of approval.
If photojournalism or documentary photography is what your friend is most interested in, the London College of Communication is a good bet, as is the Masters of Fine Art (MFA) at the University of Wales, Newport.
Q. I've heard about a new Home Office directive which states that foreign-trained medical doctors from outside the UK will no longer be allowed to pursue their specialisations at a British university. Does the ruling affect dental students? And can a foreign student on an undergraduate programme in dentistry or medicine at a UK university still specialise in Britain afterwards?
A. From 29 February this year, any new applicants to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme – or "Tier 1" if they already live in Britain – have had a restriction placed on their visa which prohibits them from undertaking a postgraduate medical training post in the UK. But the ruling makes no mention of dentists, so they should be unaffected. And at present, any foreign student graduating from a British university in medicine or dentistry is still able to apply for a visa which allows them to undertake either a two-year foundation programme (as a doctor) or an equivalent postgraduate dental training post. In short: if you're a dentist, or already at university in Britain, you don't need to worry.
Thanks to Volunteering England, Jeff Durham of voluntaryworker.co.uk, careers consultant Mike Cox and NHS Employers.
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