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This Category: > Masters Advice / Support


Old gal embarking on MSc with OU...what was I thinking?!

User: laineha - 16 January 2022 21:45

Hello everyone :)
I'm an older gal finally embarking on postgraduate study with the OU.
And feeling decidedly wobbly at the prospect!
I am hoping to connect with other folks in a similar position, perhaps for mutual support and advice?

User: Prof70 - 22 January 2022 18:33

Hi I am in exactly the same position! Happy to share the journey with you

User: HCB - 25 April 2022 18:10

Me too, although I don't start until September.

User: NickiCS - 02 May 2022 16:29

I am hoping to start a Master's in September, too. What will you be studying? I will be studying Childhood and Youth

User: MartinFW - 03 August 2022 19:56

I've just registered as well - for Environmental Sustainability. Less than two years from retiring. Need something to motivate me after not been successful at interview again. Bit worried about the workload, and more whether I am clever/thorough enough, especially for the research dissertation. Didn't do that part well at undergrad.

User: Yomistad - 16 September 2022 08:36

Hello, how are you getting on? I am hoping to start as well and I feel the same as you. Coming from the industry background, sometimes it is hard to justify the benefit of undertaking PG studies, when it seems you can continue to learn and develop on the job.

User: sophiep - 22 September 2022 17:37

Hi, I am in the same boat starting an MSc course with the OU in January - mostly worried about the amount of hours required and whether I can still think clearly enough to carry this off!

User: Yomistad - 09 October 2022 07:39

How are you getting on?

User: Interdis - 09 October 2022 16:38

I have done several post-doc degrees as a mature student.

Look closely at your course materials. Make sure these are very clear about what is being assessed and what materials should be referenced. If these are not clear, try and get confirmation of what is required from your tutors (either written or spoken in front of others). There should be clarity as regulators (including quality assurance bodies) require such clarity from degree courses at all universities.

It may seem pretty mechanical to follow set criteria, but be careful about trying to be creative or bring in ideas from outside academia. Universities are far more commercialised than they were decades ago. They have to be in order to survive and pay academics. Academics won't have much time to support you on an individual basis, unless they see you as someone who will go on to be an academic in their department. I doubt that happens much with mature students. Academia is constantly pursuing new funding (from research grants, overseas students, etc). What will influence top students to apply to a university is the ranking of the university. One of the main deciders of such ranking in the UK is the OfS survey on student satisfaction. When students asked what makes them most satisfied it invariably turns out that they want clear criteria for how to do well and then be carefully mentored through to delivering on that criteria. It may sound mechanical, but that is what many younger students ask for. Traditional academics are happy to deliver on it.

This mechanical approach is not reflected in the workplace - particularly during periods of major change. Within the workplace I have often been given projects with the broadest of instructions and had to completely rescope them and develop skills to deliver on these as I go. Managers tend to be more interested in results than following set procedures. I tried to bring this understanding into my academic life, but this was not appreciated by most academics - particularly those working in technical subjects. They expect and seek to present certainty.

If you want to improve your prospects of finding work, it might be better to pursue a technical qualification below degree level (they tend to cost less and be shorter in length), although you need to be careful of anything covering UK regulations as the current UK government may make changes to these at any time. You could also volunteer at an organisation which is prepared to support you to develop the knowledge and skills sets currently needed in the workplace. It might also be worth looking at age-discrimination law and if the need arises, make use of this. Gaining more degrees may not be the answer you are looking for.