Overview of Mark_B

Recent Posts

Accomodation in Sheffield
Avatar for Mark_B

Best that we don't get into too much of a UK vs Europe sidetrack here...

Speaking specifically of Sheffield:

Lots of the accommodation in the city has been specifically designed and built for students. It's modern, clean and of a good quality.

As anywhere, there will be some 'dodgier' options. Ask your university for a list of approved or recommended landlords.

You won't be subject to arbitrary rent increases - you'll sign a tenancy agreement that sets out the terms of your let. This also prevents you from being evicted or otherwise mistreated. You're covered by some fairly solid legal rights as a tenant in the UK. Again, ask your university for advice on these if you're concerned.

Hope that helps!


Accomodation in Sheffield
Avatar for Mark_B

Hi Fabian

Funnily enough, myself and the rest of the 'team' here are based in Sheffield. I came here as a PhD student myself.

It's a great city, very friendly and very affordable for the UK.

I'm not sure if either of the universities have their own postgrad accommodation, but there's a huge amount available across the city (including dedicated student buildings).

We also have the best beer in the UK. No argument.

Happy to try and help with any more specific questions, but I haven't lived in student accommodation here myself.


MA in History challenges - too high or too low ?
Avatar for Mark_B

Well, there's two types of originality:

There's working on something no one has ever researched before. Sounds like you've done that and nailed it. But not every essay (or research project) has that luxury (hidden medieval manuscripts, new wonder drugs and policy docs just don't come around often enough).

The other type of originality involves combining things that have never been put together and showing why this has value*. So, applying an existing methodology to a new topic; realising that a shift in one part of the field necessitates a re-evaluation of assumptions about another, etc. That's much easier to achieve (and is how most 'original' work gets done - certainly in Arts/Hums).

Sounds like you're doing just fine though. Good luck with it!

*Sometimes the value just involves realising said combination was a terrible idea. I wouldn't recommend that so much for degree coursework.

MA in History challenges - too high or too low ?
Avatar for Mark_B

My MA was in a Literature specialism, with a smattering of History.

a) No, a distinction is definitely achievable on each assignment, in theory. But don't expect to do that out of the blocks. The MA is a training exercise, not a one / two year assessment exercise. My MA was with distinction. My dissertation was published. My first essay only just scraped a Merit.

b) As Tree' says, it depends on you. I found having thoughts easy and organising them challenging. Writing was fine if I'd planned well and gave myself space to fine-tune. Think about your essay topic early.

c) see a)

d) I got a distinction in three modules. It's certainly doable, but you'll need to put a shift in (this is implicit in Eds's response, above).

e) The best dissertations are those that make an original contribution to their field (even if only a small one). This means they're well researched and clearly argued. Make it obvious what the contribution of your dissertation is. Don't just pick a question because you think it's easy to answer.

I'm not sure about distinctions being relative to an average of a cohort's results etc. That's not been the practice at the institutions I've studied / taught at. It's possible that your overall performance will be considered by an exam committee at the end of the year, but that's not quite the same.

Finally, I'm sure Eds is being a little tongue-in-cheek, but don't go too overboard with the footnotes and bib'. My dept' was quite strict about word count and effective scholarship. Referencing everything in site without showing how it contributes to your argument may not be the way to go.

Failed 1st year viva...I seriously need some advice
Avatar for Mark_B

Yes, very important to reiterate Chickpea's point there: do seek support if you feel anxious to that extent. Even if that just means posting here. Don't let yourself get isolated or excessively self-critical.

I've also known people who've retaken their upgrade. It's not so unusual and certainly doesn't mean you're not capable of completing the PhD.

If you've prepared the wrong material - for whatever reason - that's almost certainly the culprit and the most positive response would be to go again, with the right prep'.

The Postgraduate Moans Thread
Avatar for Mark_B

I can't speak for your external examiners, but I'm sure you'd have a pretty good case for misconduct if they did.

Your supervisor wouldn't have let you get that far and submit if you were guaranteed to fail. Go forth, kick butt and let us know how it goes :)

The Postgraduate Moans Thread
Avatar for Mark_B

Stickied by request. Lets try and keep it lighthearted and PG13 though ;)

For myself: photocopier credit. Always photocopier credit.

And the #scholarsunday hashtag. Twitter should automatically replace that with #letsgotothepub

Oh - and people who sit and have Very Deep and Meaningful Conversations right in front of the coffee in conference breaks.

This is fun...

Avatar for Mark_B

It's almost a year since the UK Chancellor, George Osborne, stood up to deliver his 2014 Autumn Statement and dropped the mic with the surprise announcement of a new postgraduate loans scheme.

Well, he didn't really drop the mic (which would be quite tricky given that said device was built into the House of Commons Despatches box). But he may as well have done.

Because, over the intervening ten months, very little more about the loans has emerged.

We've had a consultation document, which more or less confirmed the initial outline (£10,000 a year, available to students aged 30 or under, from 2016, on Masters programs, at universities in England, etc).

We've also had a second announcement of a PhD loans scheme with even less detail (£25,000ish a year, available to people, from some time in the future, possibly on the Moon).

And we've had... a lot of questions. Some of them from higher education experts. Some of them from the media. And many of them from students. Including the fine folks here on the PostgraduateForum.

Here are a few of the most interesting or significant ones. None have solutions (yet) but, as every good postgrad researcher knows... if you don't know the answer, you can at least define the question/s.

1) The age limit

The decision to limit loans to those under 30 was the first part of the proposals to come under fire, with challenges by the NUS, Million+ and (most recently) a group of elite Russell Group Universities.

As well as the issue of fairness, the age limit also raises questions about the purpose of the loans.

If mature students and professionals can't return to university and benefit from postgraduate study, then what is the purpose of a Masters? Is their value merely 'academic'?

Or, if postgraduate education is to contribute key skills to the UK economy, should it not be available as a form of Continuing Professional Development, to all who might benefit? After all, the loans *are* being offered for part-time courses.

The government has claimed that the age limit reflects the greater financial resources of over 30s. Few commentators have been convinced.

2) The effect on fees

Loans are available for up to £10,000. Currently, the average cost of a Masters in England is between £5,000 and £6,000.

That leaves some headroom, though how much (if any) is left after living expenses are taken into account is open to question.

But it also raises concerns about fee inflation - concerns that have been voiced by senior university figures.

There's some evidence that the cost of delivering a Masters is actually close to £10,000 anyway. Will universities be tempted to increase fees if they feel students can now 'afford' them?

What would the effect of this be on those students who aren't eligible for loans... or who don't wish to take on more debt?

3) The effect on other funding

Currently, there isn't any universal funding for Masters courses in the UK, with the Research Councils having more or less ceased to support taught programs.

But the Research Councils *do* still support large numbers of PhD students.

The proposals for PhD loans are intended to 'compliment' existing support, but government figures have also begun speaking of a 'simplification' in postgraduate research funding.

What does this mean in practice? Will the introduction of loans (backed by public money) reduce the availability of studentships (drawn from public money)? Is £25,000 alone enough to make a three-year PhD project financially viable? Answers in congealed tomato soup, on the back of a three-day old bread roll...

4) Availability elsewhere in the UK

The postgraduate loans are only going to be available at universities in England, for English-domiciled and EU students. This leaves other parts of the UK in something of a grey area (and that's not just a joke about the weather).

Welsh universities have raised concerns about a drain on students and applicants. Northern Ireland has tabled tentative plans for its own scheme. But nothing is certain yet.

In the meantime, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish students are understandably uncertain about their prospects. Documentation suggests that three years of residency in England may be sufficient to make students from elsewhere in the UK eligible, but, with the start-date for the loans yet to be absolutely confirmed, that's not much to go on.

Which brings us to...

5) The timeline for the loans

All announcements and consultation documents have pointed to Masters loans being available from the 2016-17 academic year.

When that announcement was made by the then Coalition government, 2016-17 was two years away, on the other side of a general election.

Now it's next year.

And, in the meantime, there's a lot of uncertainty.

Current third-year undergraduates are understandably keen to know if loans will be available (particularly those approaching the age-limit).

Universities will also need some clarity as they begin their recruitment for the next academic year (and take questions from prospective applicants).

For all we know, a key announcement about the loans could drop tomorrow - with answers to all of the above questions and more.

But the consultation ended almost three months ago.

And as for the PhD loans, well... those don't even have a prospective date yet.


Those aren't all of the questions surrounding the loans, by any means, but they're some of the most important concerns the government will need to address, one way or the other.

You can read everything we know so far over at FindAMasters.com and FindAPhD.com

And if you'd like to share your own questions or concerns... feel free to do so here.

Until we know more...

Feeling my anxiety returning...
Avatar for Mark_B

Hi Nesrine

It's not an uncommon way to feel. During my PhD I worked as a distance learner and as an 'on-campus' student (with a desk in my department and a favourite seat in the library).

Sitting at home reading, writing and talking to the cat was often preferable to the slightly odd 'environment' that is a postgraduate research cohort.

That said, there's a lot to be gained from contact with other students (as I'm sure you know). Seek out the chilled people and the fun conversations.

If you do get caught rubbing shoulders with folks that feel the need to trumpet their publications, endlessly retweet their blog posts or whatnot, well... they're probably doing it because they're just as anxious as you. Don't let it bother you. Your work probably rocks at least as much as theirs.

Post grad loan scheme
Avatar for Mark_B

Hi Jmistry

If you're under 30 when you apply and have graduated since 2012, you should be eligible. There's no requirement that students go straight from UG to PG study (in fact, I suspect quite a few people will have been motivated to wait a year).

As you say though, we're all still awaiting confirmation of the details - possible that something could come out of the Conservative conference, but I'm not sure anything is billed.

NEW UK Government Postgraduate Loans Scheme
Avatar for Mark_B

Hi Rob

It's important to bear in mind that all details of the new scheme are subject to confirmation - we've based our guide on the best possible sources (including the government's own consultation docs') but nothing is set in stone yet.

As the author of the guide and someone who's read through all the consultation paperwork (so you don't have to!) I'm fairly certain the loans *won't* be available in January. The scheme is meant to support students from the 2016-17 academic year, which begins next Autumn.

Incidentally, I'm not sure there will be any requirement for students to hold a 2.1 or higher. Criteria so far have mainly been based on nationality, residency and age.

We're keeping an eye on the loans proposals over at FindAMasters and will update our information as soon as we know more - hopefully that won't be too long now.



Postgraduate in Australia
Avatar for Mark_B

Hi Meghana

Somewhat spookily, we've just published an updated guide to Masters study in Australia over at FindAMasters.com:

I'm not sure if this will help you decide between the merits of different qualifications (that's really a more general question) but it may help answer some specific queries about studying 'downunder'.

Master in marketing/ career prospects
Avatar for Mark_B

Hi nadbio

I work in Marketing, broadly speaking, as a copywriter and web content editor (with an academic background in Humanities). By the sounds of it, the kind of work I do isn't what you're looking for, but you're right: Marketing is a broad profession.

I have colleagues who focus on customer engagement and relationship building (including social media) but there's a strategic element to this too: planning campaigns and reviewing analytics.

I also have colleagues who work in very technical areas, such as search engine optimisation, web analytics and digital marketing.

My advice would be to take a look at a lot of different Marketing Masters and see what's out there. You can, of course, do that via FindAMasters:

Hope that helps a bit!


Question on academic journal articles accepted for publication
Avatar for Mark_B

Hi nikyniky

In my experience it's fine to cite one of your own forthcoming articles, provided it's been firmly accepted for publication. I'm Humanities, however. There may be a conflict if you intend to present data or results in advance of the publication - possibly best to double-check with the editor.

You can usually reference a forthcoming piece by inserting something like 'Forthcoming, 2016.' at the end of a reference (or adopting a similar convention to suit your style sheet).

I'm not an expert on the copyright issues - I suspect the rights can only exist once the material is published, but your contract with the journal will stipulate that no other complete publication of the material occurs in the meantime.

Hope that helps a bit


author publication fees?
Avatar for Mark_B

Hi Dotdottung

Is the journal operating under an Open Access model? These are free to readers, but can cover publication costs by charging academic authors or their institutions.

There isn't any difference in quality between an Open Access and non Open Access journal; both types should be fully peer reviewed.

It's also possible that the journal simply charges a fee to help cover its running costs. I've never come across this in my experience publishing in (and working for) academic journals, but it's not impossible for a small publication.