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."

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
newsJohn Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
News
i100
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
News
Bey can do it: Beyoncé re-enacts Rosie the Riveter's pose
newsRosie the Riveter started out as an American wartime poster girl and has become a feminist pin-up. With Beyoncé channeling her look, Gillian Orr tells her story
Life and Style
Donna and Paul Wheatley at their wedding
healthShould emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Voices
voicesSiobhan Norton on why she eventually changed her mind
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SEN IT Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: IT EBD Teacher job in Runco...

SEN Maths Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Maths EBD Teacher job in Run...

SEN Maths Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Maths EBD Teacher job in Run...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teachers required, vario...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?

Some couples are allowed emergency hospital weddings, others are denied the right. Kate Hilpern reports on the growing case for a compassionate cutting of the red tape
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit