Postraduate diary

Carl McConnell is enjoying the diverse views in his urban regeneration MSc

Shelling out £8,000 for a Masters course is a big step in anyone's book, and Carl McConnell admits that when he did that last September, at the outset of his MSc in urban regeneration at University College London, he felt nervous about whether he was taking the right step. "I didn't know if I was doing the right thing," he recalls. "But as soon as it started, it was great. I found myself with such a diverse bunch of people, and when we do group work, you get so many viewpoints expressed."

The diversity among the 20 others on the full-time Masters at UCL's Bartlett School of Planning is first represented in the nationalities of his fellow students; English as a first language is in the minority – mother tongues include Chinese, Russian and Greek. And the class also contains graduates in a range of subjects, including geography, economics and architecture.

McConnell's enthusiasm has also been driven by the mix of theoretical and practical content of the course. "In the first term we went on two field trips and what we got access to was just amazing," he explains.

"For example, on the field trip to Wroclaw in Poland we were taken around the brand new sports stadium by the chief engineer, and in Hamburg we were given a tour of the new Hafen City, a development around the harbour area."

McConnell, 35, first became interested in his Masters subject during his geography degree at King's College London a few years ago. "I'd always been interested in the built environment, but when I did my dissertation on Beirut, which I visited to do my research, that really fired my interest in regeneration," he recalls. "Since then I've become really interested in how to regenerate areas that have had inter-communal strife."

In his own time, he's visited Mostar in Bosnia, which was the scene of some of the most bitter inter-ethnic hatred and fighting during the war in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and he is hoping to base his dissertation for his current MSc on Belfast, where the Protestant/ Unionist and Catholic/Nationalist sides of the community were at loggerheads for several decades of the past century.

In each of the first two terms, McConnell and his fellow students study three core modules and one elective. Each has two hours of lectures each week. The final term is devoted to preparing for exams and writing the dissertation.

"Every term we have to hand in two pieces of work," he says. "One of these is a traditional essay and one a report, using computer presentation software, which is I think a good thing, because when we are going for jobs, employers will want people with experience in writing reports, not just academic essays.

"The report I wrote last term was on community participation in the City of London, and the interesting thing there was defining what the word 'community' meant in the context of a place that is used by the majority of people as a workplace, not a place to live."

McConnell admits that he won't really know whether embarking on this Masters course was a good move, in financial terms, until he eventually puts himself into the job market next autumn.

"The university has been completely honest with us, telling us that, in the current economic climate, we'll really have to fight for our jobs," he says. "Past graduates of this course have ended up working for NGOs, or as chartered surveyors or urban planners. But what I'd really love to do is work in urban renewal in Beirut or elsewhere in Lebanon, especially as I've been studying Arabic for about six years as well."

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

English Teacher- Manchester

£19200 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Are you a ...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes