FAQs, Journalism Media and Cultural Studies, My postgraduate experience

Claire, MSc Science, Media and Communication

Why did you choose to study a postgraduate degree at Cardiff university?

I choose to undertake my degree at Cardiff compared to other universities’ which offer masters in science communication because of the practical aspect that the degree at Cardiff offered. My degree has a module entitled ‘Presenting Science’ which is run on behalf of the university by Techniquest. Techniquest is a science centre situated down in Cardiff bay. This module has allowed me to put the theory of science communication, which I have learnt on modules such as an Introduction into Science and Technology Studies, into action.

Another bonus to the degree is that the degree is spilt between two teaching schools, the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies and the School of Social Sciences. This means as well as learning all the theoretical and practical aspects of science communication, I have had teaching on journalism. I have had an interesting module taught by the school of journalism about science journalism and the pitfalls journalists often get into when reporting on science.

How was your experience as a postgraduate at Cardiff, in terms of the programme?

I completed my undergraduate degree at Cardiff University in the School of Biosciences, so I am in a position where I can compare undergraduate to my postgraduate studies. My teaching at postgraduate level has been very different to that at undergraduate level, there has been a lot less contact hours, in Autumn semester I had 20 contact hours a week and in Spring semester I had 4 contact hours a week, compared to the 25 contact hours a week at undergraduate. The lack of contact hours may alarm some people but I have found it very useful because of the volume of work expected outside lectures at postgraduate level. Each week I am expected to spend 10 hours per module on my own study, then another 10 hours on top of completing coursework.

The assessment at postgraduate I have found more enjoyable compared to undergraduate, as in my previous degree most of the assessments were exams, counting to 70-80% of my module mark. However, at postgraduate I have had no exams, all my modules are assessed with coursework. I have fond this a more enjoyable experience because I have been able to spend many hours outside of lectures working on my coursework and luckily my grades have reflected this extra work.

How was your experience of living in Cardiff in terms of city, social life, accommodation, specifically as a postgrad?

Cardiff is my favourite place to live, I have enjoyed living here since September 2013, when I came to study my undergraduate degree. Cardiff University is not a campus university, but it feels like one as everyone, from second year of undergraduate upwards, lives in Cathays which is next to the university campus. As a postgraduate I still live in private accommodation in Cathays, I share my house with four other postgraduate students, who until this year I did not know. This living arrangement has worked well for me I believe because postgraduates have a different study ethic to undergraduates, we are doing university work 9-5, Monday to Friday and one day of the weekend, so when it comes to socialising we spend most evenings together, either watching TV in the living room or down the Pub. I tend to go out once every 2 weeks as anymore and the volume of works stacks up.

During all my university studies, I have played hockey for the university team, I have been able to keep this up at postgraduate level but with a few changes. I have had to drop down teams because of the time commitments involved with playing for a university team, as a postgraduate I can no longer commit to two training sessions and two matches a week. Fortunately for me, the club has been understanding and happy for me to only compete once a week and train when I can. This has meant that I have been able to stay active whilst studying which has helped with my concentration.

Alongside my studies, I have volunteered for Girlguiding UK as a unit leader of a local Brownies unit. This has often been my most enjoyable part of the week because it has enabled me to get out of the university bubble and interact and give back to the community. I would encourage all studying at Cardiff to get involved in volunteering.

What was different abut your postgraduate experience compared to your previous degree?

I think the main difference between my undergraduate degree and my postgraduate degree is the people. There are only 12 on my postgraduate course compared to 120 on my undergraduate. This has meant the lecturers know me better and by the third lecture knew me by name.  With the lectures being so small this has meant that I have had no choice but to keep up to date with the reading as the lecturers can and do put me on the spot. I don’t mind this because the lectures are interesting and engaging and reading has not felt like a chore. If I have had issues with understanding lecture content it has been easy to turn to my fellow students and ask for their help, and when we are all stuck the lecture have been willing to spend time outside of the timetabled contact hours to help me. Overall I feel more supported to achieve a good grade in my postgraduate studies compared to my undergraduate.

How did you fund your postgraduate degree?

My degree has been partially funded by Cardiff University because I have a Master’s Excellence Scholarship. I would recommend all students apply for this Scholarship because you never know and having it has been a relief to reduce my fees. I am English so I have been luckily to also have a postgraduate study loan from student finance, if I did not have this then I wouldn’t have been studying this year. The loan was up to £10,000 but I did not take the full amount, I only took the equivalent to what I have at undergraduate level plus the remaining money to pay the tuition fees. To help with my day to day living I have used the universities “Job shop” service, this is run by the student’s union and offers part-time work for students at the university. I have also had a job whilst studying, as a Student Peer Trainer at the Skills and Development Service at the Students’ Union. Fortunately for me the work is part-time and only required up to six hours a week of my time outside of study. I think having a part-time job is good whilst studying because it has enabled me to have money to have fun on my days off.

How do you think your postage degree is preparing yourself in terms of your future aspirations, career development?

My postgraduate degree has helped me to decide on my future career path. Before this degree I knew I didn’t want to work as a bench scientist and use my undergraduate degree because I did not enjoy working in a liberty setting. But this degree has taught me about communications, scientific and Journalistic and now I know that I wish to work in science PR because it plays on my strengths my master’s degree has highlighted.