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
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Nursery Nurse Leeds November start...

EBD LSA required - Vale of Glamorgan

£60 - £65 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The J...

EBD Teacher - Food Technology Specialist

£100 - £181 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: The JobTo plan and deliver all ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?