Day 5, traveled to Wales to visit Cardiff University. Like Ireland, the country is bilingual, and signs everywhere are written in both Welsh and English. I have always considered myself pretty good with languages. However, we did have a Welsh lesson, and I can say with certainty, this is one language that I would have great difficulty with. Yes, it uses the Roman alphabet, but has far fewer vowels, new consonant arrangements are vexing (my rolled “R” in Spanish is brilliant in comparison to the Welch “ll”), and there don’t seem to be entirely predictable rules. Here’s the longest word:
But lucky for me, English is everywhere, just like in Ireland. Particular university strengths in Cardiff include Welsh studies (obviously!), performing arts (music, drama). You can find more about research agendas at Cardiff here. And for Dr. Who and Sherlock fans, those shows are filmed in Cardiff.
Continuing the theme of historic things, among the delightful historical objects at the University of Bristol was the first-known portrait with a cricket paddle (18c) and the DNA model used by Watson and Crick (on view in an undergraduate lab room). Bristol is a comprehensive university in a medium-sized city. With aerospace technology nearby, there’s strength in the sciences, but also a commitment to humanities inquiry, particularly in the interplay with sciences. Had very interesting talks from faculty: Dr. James Ladyman on philosophy of science; Dr. Mark Horton from archeology (who has been exploring early colonial settlements along Cape Hatteras with the Croatoan Archeological Society); and Dr. Gareth Williams, who has recently authored a book about the history of the polio vaccine–and he himself was one of the early experimental subjects for Dr. Hilary Koprowski’s oral polio vaccine. You can find more information about graduate study at Bristol here. Also a place keen to attract more international students.
Day 3. I always find it fascinating to walk around old cities. Living in the US, anything of the eighteenth-century vintage is noteworthy, but looking at a twelfth-century building? That is really something. And that history is part of the delight of Oxford.
and then there are all those famous Oxonians: Erasmus, John Donne, Sir Walter Raleigh, John Locke, Adam Smith, William Penn, Robert Harvey, Oscar Wilde, Cecil Rhodes, Benazir Bhutto, Elena Kagan, J. R. R. Tolkien to list a few. No doubt about it, there’s lots to recommend Oxford. I spent the day at the Rhodes House, talking with current Rhodes scholars, and then the afternoon in the Blavatnik School of Government , talking with faculty from economics, physics and history. Ended the day with a lovely meal at the Turl Street Kitchen, where the menu was largely organized around locally-sourced foods. Very much like home. So, if you’re interested in Oxford, research the programs of interest, talk with faculty and if you can, with current students. I spoke with students who were delighted with their experience, and others who did not feel it was the right fit. The 2008 RAE ratings are also helpful when evaluating specific departments and programs. I would also refer prospective students to the information about graduate study funding for international students; you need to apply by their January deadline to be considered for university or departmental funding (and this is entirely separate from Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships).
Day 2–a short drive out of London to Royal Holloway, also part of the University of London system, although not located in London. The most immediately arresting feature of the campus is this building:
In a word, Hogwarts. But really, the Founder’s Building above was inspired by the Vassar campus–and Royal Holloway was initially established as a women’s college (at the suggestion of founder Thomas Holloway’s wife, Jane). University is highly ranked and most popular graduate degree programs are English, History, Media Arts. Distinctive courses: Holocaust Studies, Public History, and Crusader Studies. And yes, weather on this day really was as glorious as it looks in the photo!
Then, slowed by traffic for the Royal Ascot (horse race; I had to inquire), on to the University of Reading. Located in the Thames Valley (Britain’s Silicon Valley), it’s about a 3o minute ride to Paddington Station. Ten departments are ranked in the top ten; major focal areas include climate change, food security, health, and sustainable environments. You can read more about the 2008 RAE evaluation here. Definitely some noteworthy departments, including philosophy and archeology.
At long last have a few minutes to post notes about specific UK institutions I visited in June, as part of the NAFA UK study tour. (NAFA is the US professional organization for fellowship advisors, in case you were really wondering.) I will break posts up to focus on different institutions–otherwise, this will be absurdly long. Onward: day one was spent in London, visiting four universities. The University of London actually consists of 18 self-governing colleges and 10 smaller research institutes–see the full list at http://www.london.ac.uk/colleges_institutes.html . What great about studying at one of these institutions is that you’re also part of this larger consortial group, so as a student at one college, you have access to a wider set of facilities and services. Due to flight problems, I missed the visit to UCL , but there are a wide variety of very strong programs there and the university is in the top three research institutions in the UK (based on the 2008 RAE rating). UCL prides itself on interdisciplinary research (among other things) to address significant human challenges–global health, sustainability and more. I caught up with the group at Imperial College London, which focuses on sciences (engineering, technology, life sciences, physical sciences–all programs very highly ranked in UK and Europe, medicine and business. There’s lots of interest, for example, in the intersection between technological innovation and entrepreneurship–very evident, for example, in the bioengineering program we visited. Then onto Kings College London. Kings has programs across the disciplines (Rosalind Franklin was a researcher here). Some noteworthy areas: War Studies, Geography, BRIC Economies. And so as not to be outdone by US colleges, Kings’ also boasts a highly successful a cappella group All the Kings Men (listening to them now!). Next, onto the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, founded in 1899 with a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Learned a good deal about their school of public health and focus on lab, field and policy in areas of public and population health, epidemiology, infectious diseases, and tropical medicine. Learned a great deal about mosquitoes (they are most attracted to foor odor–and no, garlic does nothing. Stick with DEET). Also learned about a fascinating program to cure cataract-caused blindness in Kenya. See www.peekvision.org . You can see Dr. Andrew Bastawrous talk about the project here in his TED talk . Very cool project. Studying in London definitely has it’s perks–what a fabulous and highly international city! Arts, science, events–lots and lots going on. Downsides: definitely expensive, your housing may be quite a distance from campus, and there not so much of a “campus” experience of the kind you’re used to.
Sure, everyone here has heard of Oxford, Cambridge, and LSE–just like everyone in the UK has heard of Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford. But Middlebury? Not always. And yet you know it’s an excellent undergraduate college with noted academic strengths and beautiful location, albeit a bit cold in the winter. Point being: there are many excellent universities in the UK, so how do you find out which ones are best for your academic interests? Here are some websites to get you started:
- Check out the Marshall website section on choosing a university: http://www.marshallscholarship.org/studyuk/chooseuniversity . It contains helpful links to lists of research quality at different institutions (look for programs with 3/4 stars in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). There’s a new assessment matrix being completed in 2014.)
- Russell Group: association of 24 major research-intensive universities. http://russellgroup.ac.uk
- Course guides that list specific graduate courses and subjects: Hobson’s website http://postgrad.com ; Prospects website http://www.prospects.ac.uk
- Guardian University Guide: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/universityguide
- The Complete University Guide: assesses undergraduate level, but may also be helpful http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/
The UK higher education system offers degrees that sound similar to those in the US, but there are some important differences. The undergraduate BA in the UK is typically a three-year degree, focused on a particular subject area and lacking the general education component of our degree requirements. Scottish universities do have a four-year undergraduate degree, very similar to our own structure. For graduate degrees (post-graduate study), there are masters and doctoral degrees, just as in the US, but they vary in both the depth of focus, the duration and the method of instructions. While there may be individual programmatic or institutional variants, here’s a general overview:
Taught Masters: e.g. MSt, MSc, and others. Usually one year in length, but may vary between 9-15 months. Consists of course instruction and independent research work.
Research Masters: e.g.MPhil and others. Usually two years in length, highly independent research program, working with a faculty mentor. Depending on the program, there may a be a broad research methods course, but typically, you’ll be immersing yourself in a specific area of research.
DPhil: PhD, usually 3-4 years in duration. This is shorter than the US program, which is typically 5-7 years, depending on the field. But some key differences–the DPhil does not include the kind of broad coursework that an American PhD does, nor does it incorporate teaching experience into the degree program. Some UK programs may require you to begin as a MA student and then convert your program to the DPhil; others allow you to begin the DPhil immediately. But key to note–this is a very self-directed, research intensive degree, without the kind of taught course foundation you’re used to in the undergraduate degree.
That’s the quick primer–so when looking at degree programs in different faculties, you’ll have a sense of what’s involved. It’s important to talk with the department about your background and your interests to know what the best degree program for your interest area is.
Back from a quick visit to the UK. I visited multiple schools (9?) in one week and will profiles those I saw in additional posts. The most important take-away for those considering graduate study in the UK is to do your research about the university and the program. There are many excellent opportunities available for students at UK universities, and some are considerably less expensive than their US analogs. There are scholarship opportunities through Rhodes, Marshall, Churchill, Gates Cambridge and Fulbright for those who qualify. But there are also scholarships at the institution too–and I encourage interested students to research those as well. On the plane ride home, for example, I sat next to an American grad student who had just completed the first year of a DPhil (that’s PhD in the US system) in anthropology at LSE and received a full-tuition grant from LSE to support her program. Given the expense of graduate education these days, it’s worth exploring all the funding options open to you. A good place to start is looking carefully at the Russell Group of UK universities–this is an excellent collection of top research universities throughout the UK. See http://www.russellgroup.ac.uk . You want to research the program and faculty to determine whether this is a good fit for you. In addition to reading the websites, that will likely mean communicating with faculty and program advisors (and for a research degree or a fellowship application–that is a must!). You want to know that this is an excellent program for you, but also that you are a competitive applicant for the program in terms of your academic record, course and/or research background.
Anyone considering an ETA to Taiwan–good news! The number of ETA grants has been increased. 73 awards will be available for 2015-16. See http://www.us.fulbrightonline.org/countries/selectedcountry/taiwan for more info.
For those thinking about applying for a British Scholarship (Churchill, Gates-Cambridge, Marshall, Mitchell, Rhodes) in the fall, here are some notes and suggestions to get you started:
If you haven’t yet sent me a preliminary application, we should talk! I am around for much of the summer, but will be traveling too—so my ability to respond to you may be faster or slower depending on when you contact me. In general, I will be unavailable during the following times: June 14-July 2; July 13-18; August 2-5; and August 18-26. So plan accordingly, be patient and maybe a little bit of both. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or x3183.
Please note: The schedule below is organized around the competitions requiring nomination by Middlebury. The Gates Cambridge is a direct apply fellowship. You do not need to be nominated to apply, but I am glad to talk with you about the process and discuss essays with you. There are other fellowships supporting study in the UK not discussed here, either because you apply directly (without nomination) or there’s a much later nomination deadline (St. Andrews). See list of UK ideas in earlier post, and also look at the Fulbright as another option (again, earlier post).
Application Process and Timetable:
By July 1: Identify the program(s) you are interested in applying to; determine which scholarship competitions are appropriate; and which faculty or program contacts are important for you to connect with. You will want to have conversations (typically done through email, sometimes phone) to discuss your research interests, how they align with faculty in the program, and be certain this is a program that will help you reach your educational objectives (and that you’re a good candidate for it!). If you’re planning on pursuing research with a faculty member, you will need to talk with them about your interest and affirm their interest in having you join their lab/project.
By July 30: Draft research proposal and/or application essays due to me. Share with relevant faculty/advisors for feedback. Share with me your ideas for letters of recommendation.
September 2 noon: Submit applications for nomination for Churchill, Marshall, Rhodes, or Mitchell. If applying for nomination for both Marshall and Rhodes, you need only submit nomination materials for the Marshall. Required materials for nomination: 1. Draft of application form; 2. Application Essays; 3. Current resume; 4. Degree progress report. Note: These competitions have moved onto online platforms. You may register and work on an application, but DO NOT add recommenders yet (we don’t want them getting requests for letters if you’re not nominated) if the form generates an automatic email when you add their names. Also do not submit the application yet, again, until you know whether you are going to be nominated. And if you have questions let me know.
Sept 9-12: Nomination interviews will take place. You will need to sign up for a date/time. Note, this may interfere with class time–you will need to talk with your professors about that if there is a conflict.
Sept 13-September 30 or /November 11: Work on revising and polishing application and essays. Marshall, Mitchell, Rhodes final deadline is October 1; Churchill is November 11. Gates Cambridge is October 15 (Round 1); December 3 (Round 2)
The schedule above is intended to help you organize the different parts of the application and get everything done so that you are ready to go by the early September nomination deadline. Note: the campus submission deadline, that campus interview, and foundation deadlines are hard deadlines.