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  1. #1
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    Default Postgraduate study advice

    Not sure what will come of this, but I thought I’d put it out there anyway to see if I get any helpful advice. I don’t have many people in my life I can talk to about this who are not invested in me choosing one way or another.

    I should say from the outset that my ultimate goal is to work as a film academic and teach cinema at tertiary level. I also want to be involved more directly in the film industry, working part-time or seasonally in development, screenwriting, and research.

    Background
    I have two bachelor degrees from a prominent university in Australia: a BA majoring in Film Studies, and a BSc in Medical Sciences/equivalent to a Pre-Med degree.

    In terms of student loans, the Australian system is generous and gives its students interest-free loans. These are paid back along with taxes once the student is earning over a certain threshold. I owe about $25k USD all up (both degrees included).

    I am about to move to London for a few months to intern in film development. I was employed for about two years as a video editor during my studies, but post-production work isn't really my bag. I'm more passionate about concept and writing.

    ...

    At the moment, I am trying to decide between two pathways:

    Option A
    I return to Australia next year and undertake an Honours year. An Honours year has a specific meaning in Australia and doesn’t seem to translate well to the US or the UK. It’s essentially a research year that involves a thesis equivalent to an MA thesis, along with some coursework. An Honours year enables me to jump directly into a PhD in Australia.

    I am also very fortunate that I am well liked by my faculty. I have been given a soft guarantee of a teaching position during my PhD at my home university. Prospects of a FT teaching position after that look good.

    As for costs, the Honours year is relatively inexpensive and the PhD is virtually free. On top of this, I would qualify for a scholarship, which would cover my basic living expenses during the PhD.

    The main issue is that the film industry in Australia is very small and very seasonal. I have struggled up to this point to get meaningful work experience working in production/development. I feel like if I stay in Australia, it will be very hard to move forward with my other aspirations.

    tldr;


    Option B
    I stay in London and study a MA that is structured similarly to the Honours year—same course length, same thesis length, better coursework component. The MA I am most interested in, and believe I would have a strong chance of being accepted to, is at a leading university and tailored to my research interest.

    With the MA, I would be able to both return to Australia and do my PhD there if I wanted, or do my PhD elsewhere in the world.

    However, the course costs more as I would be an international student (roughly the same cost as my undergrad), and I would not be entitled to the same loan scheme I have enjoyed in my home country. I might qualify for a scholarship. However, while my grades are good, there seems to be slim pickings available in the way of scholarships for Australians seeking to do an MA at this institution.

    I would also have to adjust to a slightly higher cost of living, I'd be away from my main support network (family and friends), and I would be leaving behind a faculty that I have built relationships with over the past four years.

    However, the film industry in London is much more happening, and I would be able to continue developing this aspect of my career while studying. I haven't had any issues seeking out opportunities there, even from abroad.

    tldr;


    Thanks to anyone who manages to read through all of this. I'm particularly interested to hear from people who have pursued or are currently pursuing postgrad.
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  2. #2
    #KUWK Kierva's Avatar
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    I think the answer is obvious.

    If you're looking for growth, definitely take London (assuming money isn't that big of a deal for you). You stand to gain more not just in terms of job experience, but also life experience. I would keep Australia as a backup plan.

  3. #3
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    Yeah, I agree, London seems like a better investment.
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    Triumph Hard's Avatar
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    This is actually a somewhat difficult decision. I lean to option B for one core reason: more upward mobility. When you get an education the number one thing you need to worry about is is the material/research in an area you care about, and is it useful. It sounds like London has more weight in this area, and should be the dominant factor.

    That said, I think you could mix and match things a bit. You first need to decide what the odds of you wanting a PhD is. I would think that if you do want to go that route, it would make more sense to get the honors year and MS equivalent in Australia first, then apply to PhD's elsewhere in the world. This would save money, and get you to where you need to be. Just because you choose A or B doesn't mean you're locked in to that location.

    Cost is a major factor here. You will need to figure how much you'll likely be earning with a job following the degree you want, and if it evens out to be a level of living you're comfortable with. If that checks out it makes much more sense to go to London since you'll have many more opertunities during and following that.

    I hope this helps!
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    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hard View Post
    That said, I think you could mix and match things a bit. You first need to decide what the odds of you wanting a PhD is. I would think that if you do want to go that route, it would make more sense to get the honors year and MS equivalent in Australia first, then apply to PhD's elsewhere in the world. This would save money, and get you to where you need to be. Just because you choose A or B doesn't mean you're locked in to that location.
    I was going to suggest something similar. Could you do the honors year in Australia, then start your PhD there, but do some of your work/research in the UK? I have done and supervised postgraduate work in the US. Both masters and doctoral programs here involve some combination of coursework and research/design/performance/etc. It is not uncommon for students to finish their coursework then do some or all of the rest at another institution. In fact, one of my students came from a university on the opposite side of the country. He finished most of his coursework there, then came to do his research in my lab. He was allowed to take his last elective course at a university nearby. We discussed everything by phone with his home school advisor, and he was required to return there at the end to present his dissertation defense. I'm not sure if such an arrangement would be possible for you.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hard View Post
    This is actually a somewhat difficult decision. I lean to option B for one core reason: more upward mobility. When you get an education the number one thing you need to worry about is is the material/research in an area you care about, and is it useful. It sounds like London has more weight in this area, and should be the dominant factor.
    I should have mentioned in my first post... I have a member of faculty at my home university who is keen to supervise me through Honours and PhD. Our research interests are similar, however he is young and I would be the first project he has supervised.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hard View Post
    That said, I think you could mix and match things a bit. You first need to decide what the odds of you wanting a PhD is. I would think that if you do want to go that route, it would make more sense to get the honors year and MS equivalent in Australia first, then apply to PhD's elsewhere in the world. This would save money, and get you to where you need to be. Just because you choose A or B doesn't mean you're locked in to that location.
    I've been thinking about this. I've looked at other MA programs in Australia. The Film Studies faculty at my university is probably at the top in Australia, so I am somewhat reluctant to move to another. The other major university in my state just had a mass exodus of staff from theirs, so I am even more reluctant to move to there. I feel like moving interstate at this stage would be just as much a hassle for me as moving overseas.

    My home faculty generally doesn't offer MA degrees... as the typical route students take is Honours to PhD. I asked my lecturer why this was the case, and he said that most students viewed it as a waste of time, as the MA is two years long, and why take two years to complete an MA when you can jump right into a doctorate program and complete it in three? He said that they could in theory offer it to me, but it would have been a long time since they ran the program, so I'm kind of hesitant to take that option.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hard View Post
    Cost is a major factor here. You will need to figure how much you'll likely be earning with a job following the degree you want, and if it evens out to be a level of living you're comfortable with. If that checks out it makes much more sense to go to London since you'll have many more opertunities during and following that.

    I hope this helps!
    Cost is my biggest deterrent at this stage. I'm in the middle of trying to work out all potential costs vs. benefits. I think I'll get a better idea of how I might be able to sustain FT work in the industry (or any FT work, really), after my trip later this year. Studying the London MA part-time is also another option, which would help to spread out the course fees and make it easier to earn greater income while studying.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to give me this advice! I really appreciate it.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coriolis View Post
    I was going to suggest something similar. Could you do the honors year in Australia, then start your PhD there, but do some of your work/research in the UK? I have done and supervised postgraduate work in the US. Both masters and doctoral programs here involve some combination of coursework and research/design/performance/etc. It is not uncommon for students to finish their coursework then do some or all of the rest at another institution. In fact, one of my students came from a university on the opposite side of the country. He finished most of his coursework there, then came to do his research in my lab. He was allowed to take his last elective course at a university nearby. We discussed everything by phone with his home school advisor, and he was required to return there at the end to present his dissertation defense. I'm not sure if such an arrangement would be possible for you.
    This is a really awesome idea and one that I had not considered. My understanding was that relocating during a PhD was generally only allowed for research purposes. I can understand how this would be necessary in research involving fieldwork, but I'm sure how it would work in my case. I'll need to ask my professor whether this might be a possibility.

    Thank you for this advice.
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  8. #8
    Administrator highlander's Avatar
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    It seems to be about cost, how much you would owe and whether it is worth it. Put yourself 10 years into the future. What would you advise yourself to do? Both options sound pretty attractive actually. You seem to have some good ideas on what you want to end up doing but realize it can be hard to know exactly what kind of work you want to do until you actually are doing it and sometimes you end up trying different things until you settle into something you really like. I could never have predicted my current career when I was in school.
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  9. #9
    Analytical Dreamer Coriolis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ingrid in grids View Post
    This is a really awesome idea and one that I had not considered. My understanding was that relocating during a PhD was generally only allowed for research purposes. I can understand how this would be necessary in research involving fieldwork, but I'm sure how it would work in my case. I'll need to ask my professor whether this might be a possibility.
    Much depends on what the nature of your PhD work would entail. Can you design your program and choose a dissertation topic that would include the sort of work you would be interested in doing in the UK? Or, can you at least come up with something that would require a lengthy stay in the UK, during which time you could work, if only part time or sporadically, in the sort of film industry job where you want to gain experience and contacts? If you can find answers to questions like these, it might help inform your decision.

    From what you have related, I really don't see a wrong answer here, though there could easily be a better one.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member great_bay's Avatar
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    You guys are crazy for going for Ph.D It could take up to five or more years to finish. If you're lucky, you might finish in three.
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