In the current education market, selecting a postgraduate programme that will add value to one’s education is absolutely crucial. Many postgraduate students are in work and are looking for courses that will help support their professional development and enhance their employability. The kind of transferable skills that can be found across most postgraduate programmes is where the real value is added to the individual, regardless of whether the course is specialist or more generalist in nature. However, in getting the most out of postgraduate study potential students should be looking for what I identify as “dual creation of value”.
Whilst some postgraduate students will enrol on courses having just graduated from a bachelor’s qualification, many will be coming back to study having been in employment, or will be looking to gain entry based on their previous work experience. In these cases, the justification for study needs to be stronger as there are additional pressures beyond simply the value that it will add to the individual. There may be a need to justify the study to an employer, either to gain financial or other support. There may also be a need to show how studying the course will enhance the workplace or provide additional capacity in a key area; this is the core of dual creation of value.
The justification for study needs to be stronger as there are additional pressures beyond simply the value that it will add to the individual
Excellent postgraduate courses will be structured around key business or role specific functions, with modules that contain industry relevant, cutting edge material. Assessment approaches will enable students to apply what they are learning in applied contexts, using employment wherever possible to make use of knowledge and skills. In applying the content and skills to the workplace employers are engaged and able to realise value from the assessment output. In technical or specialist qualifications this may allow employers to move into new areas or enhance practices, bringing them up to date. In more generalist postgraduate qualifications this will allow employers to engage with students to work on pertinent issues and to share best practice. As a potential student this would help to make the conversation about support from employers much easier, and provide more evidence for promotion opportunities.
Spotting the courses that allow for dual creation of value can be a challenge and there are certain things that potential students can look for, and questions that can be asked, to make it easier to find the right ones.
- Look at the module mix – What modules are being taught on the programme? It is worth considering whether they reflect current trends in the particular area of the course and whether they have the right balance of technical and broader developmental subjects.
- Explore the module content – The module content needs to further reflect current, or future practice, and give students the opportunity to engage with topical issues. The best courses will also bring in content and opportunities from key players in the industry that the course covers, making use of their expertise. This may be in the form of case studies, guest lectures or industry links.
- Professional body links – Employers are increasingly looking for people who have professional body recognition for their training, alongside academic qualifications. The best postgraduate programmes will have some alignment to professional or regulatory bodies which can often provide additional accreditation when the course is completed.
- Assessment approaches – Ask about the way in which the modules are assessed; are they written to make use of workplace opportunities? Adding dual value requires application of content and skills, developed on the course, in the workplace. This might not be obvious on a website or in a prospectus, so it is worth having a conversation with an admissions advisor to ask the question.
Selecting a postgraduate course can be a challenge, and in the current employment environment can be a crucial key to progression. Dual creation of value can help to meet both the needs of students and employers and provides a stimulating and highly relevant learning experience. If you want to get the most from further study, look for courses that provide these opportunities.
Dr Ben Silverstone is the Programme Leader (Degree Apprenticeships and Quantitative Business) at Arden University. Ben is an IT security expert who specialises in email governance, business security, and user experience. He has a PhD in engineering.