UK Degree Programs
Wondering if you should apply for one or more of the prestigious fellowships that will take you to the UK, such as the Churchill, Fulbright, Marshall, Rhodes, or Gates Cambridge? Before you worry about your chances or ask for an application, take stock of your academic and professional goals and look at the degree programs available to you in the UK. Figuring out which degree programs interest you most and why is crucial to choosing which fellowship competition makes sense for you.
For the Churchill and Gates Cambridge, you are restricted to programs at Cambridge University; for the Rhodes, programs at Oxford. The Fulbright and Marshall give you the full range of the UK. Even if you are currently considering applying only for the Churchill or only for the Rhodes, look at your options beyond Oxbridge. It may turn out that another university offers the best option in your field.
An informed plan and a clear understanding of the degree program you have chosen will not only ensure that you are applying for an appropriate fellowship; your efforts will strengthen your application. The selection committees for these prestigious fellowships weigh the thoughtfulness of your choice when considering your candidacy. Whatever the application, you must make a compelling argument for why you need to be in a particular program at a particular university for your studies. The time you take now to research and consider your degree options may make the difference between winning an award and being passed over. Read through the steps below.
Step One: Survey the Big Picture
The Marshall Scholarship site offers a good introduction to post-graduate education in the UK. You may use this regardless of whether you apply for a Marshall Scholarship.
The British Council introduces you to the British system of higher education and its institutions and includes a search feature for scholarships.
For an ongoing review of all UK institutions of higher education, check the official research and teaching quality assessment, which ranks departments on a 1 to 4 scale. The top mark is 4, which signifies an international reputation; 3 means work of both national and international significance is conducted there. These are probably the ones you should consider.
Step Two: Narrow Down Your Options
One way to focus your options is to look closely at the online descriptions of current faculty for all schools and departments. Look carefully at the research interests of the faculty in the programs you are researching—how many are doing work that appeals to you in each program? Look at their recent publications. Share their names with one or more of the faculty in your field here at Hopkins. Chances are good they will know (or at least know of) one or more of the scholars on your lists and can advise you on the opportunities best suited to you.
Step Three: Determine Your Top Choice(s)
Now it's time to take a look at actual programs and universities. Postgraduate programs offer two types of degrees: taught degrees and degrees by research. This is an important distinction.
If you want a taught course, look for a current prospectus or for general course information on the university's website (UK University). Does the program give you the kind of flexibility you want? Would you be required to take courses that don't interest you? Do you meet all the admissions requirements?
If you want a degree by research, what sort of facilities and special collections would you have access to? You may find this information on the university's website, or you may need to locate a print prospectus. Be sure to contact the person(s) you would like to be your advisor directly and speak with him or her about your work and interests. (The university's website will often offer contact information; if not, check the prospectus.) What sort of support will your supervisor provide in the early stages of your work? How successful has that supervisor been in getting students through their research? Keep in mind that, even compared with graduate work in the U.S., graduate study in the UK is often done with little supervisory support or contact.
Finally, give consideration to the location and history of the university. Do you want a city campus, or the rolling hills of rural England? An old university or a new one? Talk to someone on the UK faculty network who studied at the place that interests you, or a British student here at Hopkins, for a "real life" version of university life at the places you're considering. You may want to check out the university's student union, clubs, and organizations. If you still have lingering questions, contact the university's international liaison officer.