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Masters Study Fairs

by Dr Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier

The education fair is season is upon us and if you are considering postgraduate courses just now, you may be planning to go to a postgraduate fair to look at your options. Fairs are a great way to meet representatives of universities and to get some of your questions about particular courses answered. If like me, you favour face-to-face contact, then a fair is definitely worth considering.

Fairs vary greatly from one another, from very large international events to regionally-focussed ones. Some will be for both UG and PG together and some will be limited to a narrower set of disciplines, so ask around to find out which one would be best suited to you, or consult your careers service (most will have information on further study).

In order to make the best out of graduate fairs, you should do a bit of research. Going to a fair just to browse and without having any idea what the universities there have to offer is probably not the most helpful. You should consider doing a bit of research online where you can get top-level and even detailed information, especially if you are not sure yet which universities are on your shortlist or what kind of postgraduate courses you are interested in.

Postgraduate fairs may not give you the exact same experience as attending postgraduate open days at your chosen universities, but they have a number of advantages, especially if you are at the start of your postgraduate course search, or if you are exploring several courses. The other benefits to attending a fair near where you live is that you can:

  • Meet a number of universities, including international ones, all at the same time, all in the same place, without travelling too far.
  • Get a feel for the university through talking to their representative staff.
  • To speak with universities you perhaps hadn’t considered.

FindAMasters and FindAPhD are proud to be associated with a number of postgraduate fairs and events.

How to prepare

  • Check to see if you need to register for the fair, and if you do, register!
  • Look up whether there are seminars, talks or clinics which could be helpful.
  • If you can, make an appointment to speak to individual institutions.
  • Be ready to provide succinct information on your education background to date.
  • Prepare a list of questions you’ll want to ask each university you are planning to meet.
  • Arm yourself with patience, some fairs can be very busy and you may have to queue to speak to a representative of your selected universities.

You should always look up the universities which are attending and their programme offering. While most university representatives at fair stands have no involvement in the decision to admit students, some might. They may use the information you provide at the fair as part of the decision-making process. Others will provide detailed information about potential 'leads' (or suitable applicants) to admissions staff/programme directors so it is best to leave a good impression. Knowing nothing about a university does not show a great deal of commitment for that institution (believe it or not, I have been asked whether my institution, a world-leading Scottish institution, was in London).

What to ask

Unless it is a specialist fair, or you are speaking to staff from a very small institution, people at the stand are unlikely to know all the details of all the courses they have on offer. In my institution, there are nearly 300 Masters programmes and 100 research areas! What staff at fairs can do is provide you with information over and above what you could find online or in the prospectus and help you with:

  • The credentials of the university.
  • What courses could be good options for you, based on your background.
  • Suggest other courses which are not in the department you are looking at, but are related to your interests.
  • Whether your meet the minimum academic requirements.
  • Whether there is flexibility in selecting modules for your selected course.
  • How to apply for a course.
  • What postgraduate study at that university is like.
  • Student services.

Sometimes, universities will have, along with professional recruitment staff, current or former students who are volunteering a bit of their time to chat to prospective students about their experience of studying at their institution. If you can, do have a chat with them. They will have some useful insight. Similarly, if academics are at the stand, ask them a few questions on teaching and learning and/or research, even if they are not from your discipline. It can give you information about the overall ethos of that institution when it comes to its students.

Individual academic sections of universities may attend fairs, representing only their portfolio of programmes and research expertise. If they do not have information about your subject area readily available, ask them to pass on your details to the relevant staff or to give you information on how best to contact people in the relevant department.


You’ll often get the opportunity to leave your contact details with the staff you meet. This is recommended if you are after follow-up information or if you want to be kept informed of other events (you should be able to opt-out of receiving these at any point). If there are no obvious ways to leave your contact details, you can always ask for a business card and you can email them yourself.

Further down the line, if the fair has helped you to narrow down your search, why not look into visiting the university/universities of your choice? Dedicated postgraduate events are a good chance for you to meet peers and possibly current and/or former postgraduate students who can give you a first-hand perspective on what it is like to do a Masters or a PhD at that university. This article in The Telegraph, although having an undergraduate flavour, makes interesting reading. If you are not able to visit in person (for example if your university is abroad), some universities will also have virtual events you can use to find out more(tours, podcasts, live chats, presentations).

Choosing a university and the right postgraduate programme for you can be a complex process but however you go about it make sure you utilise all the resources available to you. Good luck!

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