University Life - Study

Why a master’s makes you engage with a changing world


Following International Women’s Day, I discuss the opportunities of postgraduate study, the importance of social debate and my love of Caitlin Moran
Aside from enhancing career prospects and prolonging the daunting prospect of facing a congested jobs market, I think there are far more important reasons to consider postgraduate study.

Why postgraduate study?

When I was considering the challenge of a master’s degree last year, I was disappointed to find that after trawling countless news sites, articles and education blogs, very few placed any great emphasis on the profound and unrivalled joy of learning itself; the excitement of the “Eureka!” moment when writing, or the rush of a lively debate.

In my experience at Cardiff, my department has always been buzzing with discussion and lecturers are untiringly dedicated, some to the point where I’ve questioned whether they do in fact sleep. Being immersed in such an environment is a crucial, and unquantifiable, factor for postgraduate success, which is sadly often cast in the long shadow of endless employment statistics and league tables. While these certainly have their place, rankings alone cannot gauge the motivations and importance of further study.

In light of this, what I have found most valuable in my MA year thus far has been the experience of getting entangled in the wider controversies which are shaping our changing social landscape: issues such as freedom of expression, intersectionality and cultural inclusion. The most significant benefit for me as a postgraduate has been greater access to these discussions, to feel the tectonic plates of culture shifting beneath your feet.

International Women’s day

An issue I have always been passionate about is that of gender equality, and it’s thrilling to see its renewed social importance today; to see young people proudly brandishing the feminist flag, getting involved in debates online, and many, like myself, praying at the altar of loud and proud contemporary feminists like Caitlin Moran. In light of International Women’s day last Sunday, I thought it was important to appreciate how my experience of study has fostered these crucial questions. In my (nearly five!) years at Cardiff, I have been taught by experts in women’s writing and film, have studied topics as diverse as FGM and domestic violence, and have always felt supported, encouraged and inspired.

To celebrate and reflect on International Women’s day, I went to the Women of the World festival in London and listened to a heated debate between Caitlin Moran, Bridget Christie and Shazia Mirza about the role of contemporary feminist campaigning, intersectionality and the ever-hovering spectre of online misogyny. I left Southbank feeling inspired and clutching the nuggets of wisdom I’d received.

Most importantly for me, was Caitlin Moran’s optimistic emphasis on the power of “yet.” When we notice the yawning gap in gender representation in mainstream culture, in cinema and comedy, and even in academia, everything changes when we add a “yet” to the end of the sentence: this hasn’t been achieved yet, these stories aren’t being told yet and most crucially, the world isn’t like that… yet.

So, for me, being immersed in further study does not mean being cloistered away in the ivory tower or holed up in the library (though I do spend many happy hours there!), but rather means being at the forefront of debates about our changing society and, hopefully, participating in its progress. It is an immense privilege to be able to learn from and engage with experts, to go to debates and to feel encouraged to assemble an opinion of your own.