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Maddie Colledge

postgraduate education

Going it alone? We want to improve master’s dissertation support

The dissertation period is slowly coming to a close for all of our Masters and MRes students. Hundreds of you will now be seeing light at the end of the tunnel as you finish your dissertations and final projects and we hope that your experience has been a positive one.

The dissertation period, while rewarding, can be challenging for some students. The library can suddenly feel deserted, services on campus seem to shut down, and there can be a real sense that you are ‘going it alone’. Often worth between 60-80 credits for a taught Masters, or 100-120 credits for an MRes, this final piece of research also has huge bearing on your final degree classification. It therefore becomes critical that support from the university, and organisation and management within your school, is exemplary during this time.

I recently wrote and submitted my dissertation for my own Masters, which provided me with a great perspective whilst working as your Postgraduate Education Officer. However, my own experience did not subdue the concerns that I have held for the last year about the levels of support that students receive over these summer months.

Between the June marking period for masters exams and the August research period for academics, students may feel like they rarely have a chance to meet with their busy academic supervisor. Official dissertation supervision within my school ended on the 21st of July, 6 weeks before submission, with no prior notice being given to anyone. Support from other sources has allowed me to scrape but I’m deeply worried about those who are less familiar with the university and not as confident about asking for help. After further complaints from students about their own experiences, we decided it was time to launch a piece of research and hear about your own experiences.

Already we’ve heard of inconsistent deadline dates, variation in supervision hours, and failure to even notify students of their dissertation timeline. Too often the experience of masters students doesn’t improve because the courses are short, and students leave before they have a chance to voice their concerns. For those who can complain before they leave, the small size of courses means that dissertation supervisors are often course directors or module organisers, making students feel vulnerable and exposed. We cannot allow this to continue, and we cannot tackle these issues without you. We need you to fill out our survey so we can make sure the next cohort of masters students have the best possible experience. It only takes 10 minutes, and can be found here.


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