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."

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style

Between the 25-27th of July, Earls Courts’ gloomy interior was doused in shades of bubblegum and parma violets as it played host to Hyper Japan, the venue’s annual celebration of anime, art, Kawaii street fashion and everything that encompasses the term J-culture. Bursting with Japanese pop culture and infused with Asian street food Hyper Japan is an invigorating culture shock that brings cosplayers, creatives and gamers like myself from across the globe.

Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

KS1 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

C# R&D .NET Developer (Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET)

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NET Developer (Algori...

Year 3 Teacher needed- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Look no further; this is the ...

Primary NQT Teachers

£95 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Opportunities for NQTs for the...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star