How do I get into a PGR programme at Glasgow?
Q&A from the PGR Open Day
On November the 16th, UofG had its Postgraduate Open Day in the Glasgow University Union, where students from all over the world visited our university to learn more about what doing a postgraduate degree in Glasgow looks like. The day was filled with information events, panel discussions, and guided tours of the university.
At this year’s open day, I was lucky enough to be on the panel discussions for Postgraduate Research and also on the informal student panel where I had the opportunity to answer questions about my experience as a PGR but also as a blogger. The first panel was made up of academics across the different schools who were there to answer questions about the PGR application process for their area. I had a lot of similar questions myself when applying for a PhD so I thought it might be useful for prospective students to answer some of them and give a slightly more personal account on how to go about finding a PGR degree at UofG. I have taken some of the most common queries we heard on the day and the ones I can relate to the most and have answered them not only using my own experience but also gathering answers from the panel members.
1. Can I do a PhD at UofG without having done a masters?
The short answer is yes. In my own personal experience, I entered my UofG research career without having done a Masters degree. This was something I discussed extensively with my potential research supervisors and choosing to go straight into a PhD was something we all agreed on. However at UofG, this is different for each individual application and it depends on a few things. The department itself might require you to have a previous PG degree as part of their selection process. Also, the nature of the PhD might require you to have a Master’s degree, for example, I still had to attend a few MRes courses to get some of the necessary training and skills I would need for my research collection. Additionally, if you are looking for a funded PhD, having a Masters degree might be one of the criteria for being awarded such funding. Completing a taught PG degree will undoubtedly give you some of the necessary set of skills for taking on PhD at UofG. But if you know at the end of your undergraduate degree that you want to do a PhD there are different paths to achieve that depending on the university, the topic and the individual school or cluster. Make sure you are aware of what is expected of you when you decide to go down the PGR path!
2. How do I go about finding a PhD at UofG?
First of all, you can find all PhD opportunities at Glasgow here. There is also a step-by-step guide on how to apply here. All of the panel members agreed that the best way to approach a PhD career – in general and not just at UofG is by personally getting in touch with a potential supervisor in your field at the University you are interested in. Sending a personal and honest email shows that you are interested and committed to developing a relationship with that supervisor. All of the academics at UofG on the panel agreed that they are very happy to discuss with applicants about what topics they are interested in and the opportunities they have available. They all admitted that even if they feel they might not be the most suitable supervisor they will always link the prospective student to colleagues of theirs. All of the academics on the panel unanimously agreed on the one thing prospective students should not do when looking for a PhD: emailing the same PhD pitch to everyone in the department. The most important thing here is that developing a relationship with an academic is as important as the application itself.
3. I have been out of University for a few years and I’m apprehensive about getting in touch with my old university asking for references when applying for a PGR at UofG. What should I do?
This is a very pertinent and common question that I have heard over the years from friends and family who were considering going back to university. Your old lecturers might not remember you or they might have moved on. This can seem like a problem if you are applying for a PGR course which requires academic references. The panel was sympathetic to this issue and reassured the students that academics are usually happy to provide references to students they have had in the past as they want to encourage them to pursue further education. In that situation as well, the admission team for your desired course might be sympathetic to your issue and might offer you alternative solutions such as using two employment references.
4. Is professional experience as valuable as a Master’s degree when applying for a PhD at UofG?
The answer to this depends, again, on the department you are looking to work in and the nature of your PhD. There are skills and levels of knowledge you might need in a PhD you cannot get from professional experience alone. There are some schools at UofG in which having a Masters degree is mandatory whereas for others, such as within the College of Social Sciences, it is not. From my own perspective, having professional experience did benefit me as the experience I had accumulated was relevant to my degree programme. One thing I mentioned in the panel in this regard was that going from a professional position to a PhD was a difficult transition that may have been softened by doing a Master’s degree first.
What were your experiences when first applying for a PGR at UofG? What advice would you give yourself if you were doing that again? What are some of the questions you wish you had known the answers to when trying to decide? How do you feel UofG helped you make up your mind and what convinced you to come here? Let us know in the comments or on twitter.