My postgraduate experience - Andy Cairns
This month’s interview is with Andy Cairns, who is studying for a Master’s degree at Wrexham Glyndwr University.
So Andy, what are you studying?
I am reading for an MPhil (Master of Philosophy) in Psychology and my research thesis is about contemporary British attitudes to Black-White interracial relationships.
What made you choose Wrexham Glyndwr University?
I’d wanted to take the next step in my academic career for a while, but hadn’t found the right type of course for me. After doing a little bit of reading around the topic of Psychology, I realised that I had found the niche I was looking for and, as I was already an employee of the university, it made sense to approach the university’s Psychology team in the first instance.
How did you find the change between undergraduate and postgraduate study
As I’m a research student, it is quite a different experience to undergraduate study, or the type of experience that might be expected from a taught Masters course, where you are part of a cohort of students. As a result you can feel quite isolated at times, as it is literally just you and your research. However, the postgraduate research student community, and the wider academic community at WGU, are very supportive and it has never failed to amaze me just how fascinated colleagues are with other people’s research; even when it is in a completely different discipline to their own.
One of the highlights of this community is the Open House meetings that are held every few months. There are usually about 8-9 students and academics who each spend ten minutes talking about an aspect of their research – it is always a really fascinating and energising experience and is also a great networking opportunity!
Is it a challenge to balance your work and family commitments alongside your study?
Short answer – YES! I’m studying for my MPhil part-time, alongside a full-time job and I also have a family to support too, so can be quite a handful at times as you might expect.
However, with a lot of self-discipline and good time organisation it is more than possible – I’ve been able to complete two thirds of my literature review in the first 7 months of my course and still be up-to-date with The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones!
What sort of support have you had from the university?
In postgraduate research, having a great supervisory team makes a huge difference and can make the whole study experience much easier. I’ve been extremely lucky in this regard and I consider my supervisors (all very experienced psychology academics) to be second to none!
They have a genuine interest in my research project and I feel appropriately challenged by the suggestions they make and the feedback that they give. I can honestly say that I’ve never been at a loss as to what I need to do next and they are always there when you need a bit of advice, or just an informal chat!
How did you fund your postgraduate degree?
I have been very lucky to have gained some considerable support from the university in this regard, but I do self-fund a portion of my fees – fortunately postgraduate study doesn’t tend to come with the same price tag as undergraduate courses, so it is much easier to achieve.
What does the future hold for you once your Masters has been completed?
Hopefully a lot more study! My MPhil research forms a pilot study for a more in-depth project that I would like to explore as part of a PhD. After that I’ll have to see where life takes me, but ultimately I’m looking to emigrate with my family to Ghana (my wife’s country of origin) – hopefully my qualifications and experiences will help me into a teaching post at one of the country’s many universities.
And finally, what would you say to someone thinking of studying for a postgraduate degree at Wrexham Glyndwr?
Just do it!
I’ll be honest, studying at postgraduate level, especially if you opt to go down the research route, will be one of the hardest things you will ever do, but the effort is worth it. If you’ve chosen something that you feel really passionate about (which tends to be quite essential if you’re studying at this level) then you’ll surprise yourself at how hard you can push yourself to achieve your absolute best.
Wrexham Glyndwr is also quite a small university and the academic community here are very active researchers, so this really is a superb university to choose for postgraduate study – you will be warmly welcomed and effectively supported throughout your studies!
If you are interested in postgraduate study, you can find out more by attending our Postgraduate, Professional and Part-time open evening. Check out our postgraduate courses to see what we offer.