“A Pre-Masters? What’s a Pre-Masters?”

SOAS Students Books

I was slightly puzzled as I looked at my computer screen. I had applied to SOAS for a Master’s program and had instead been offered an alternative program called the Foundation Diploma in Postgraduate Studies (“FDPS”)

What is a Pre-Masters?

A quick Google read revealed that it was a Pre-Master’s program offered by SOAS, a one-year foundation program offered to students interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in the UK but only to those who do not come from an English speaking background and/or possess the requisite academic background or experience, suitable for postgraduate study in the academic field they are applying to.

My parents were also equally puzzled, they were familiar with foundation programs at the undergraduate level but not for postgraduate studies and were initially sceptical about whether attending would be beneficial. I shared this scepticism as I felt doing a postgraduate for 2 years (a Foundation year and a Master’s degree) was a bit too long of a career break for me and I had already been leaning toward accepting other university offers offering a shorter course duration. Even so, I figured since I was going to choose another program why not just research what this one was all about.

A Holistic Introduction to a Masters

The FDPS website mentions the aim of the program is to provide a holistic introduction to what it would be like to take a master’s in the UK. Taking place over a full academic year compared to other Pre-Master’s programs which usually last 3 to 6 months. The extra year before pursuing their master’s can be used by students to explore their academic and research interests in an unhurried manner, before deciding on whether to further their post-graduate studies at SOAS or at universities across the UK (although FDPS students are guaranteed a conditional master’s offer at SOAS).

The program is broken down into four main components which include:

  • An Independent Study Project (“ISP”) is a research project which provides students with the opportunity to explore their research interests while working on a dissertation similar to that of a master’s thesis
  • The Academic English module which helps students improve their grammatical accuracy and fluency also increases vocabulary and improves writing style and soft skills required in an academic context.
  • Two optional academic modules to introduce students to the academic material they hope to pursue during their master’s program.

The Opportunity for a More Gradual Transition

After going through the nuts and bolts of the program and further discussions with my parents, especially on the (much-dreaded topic) of costs, an additional year of study and how it may impact my career, I decided to opt for the Pre-Masters instead of accepting my other offers. The reason being is I felt this served as an alternative approach to furthering my master’s. Instead of going straight into a program without any prior academic or professional experience, this gave me the opportunity to make a more gradual transition, while providing me with the opportunity to explore a variety of areas in research and study. Five months into the program and I feel like I couldn’t have made a better decision.

We receive much support on our ISP with a research methods class and two tutors assigned to help guide us in developing the content of our ISP. The two optional academic modules I have selected which are Issues in International Development and Comparative Studies in Culture have been deeply interesting and very intellectually stimulating. 

Pictures from my time in London so far.

Great Thinkers, Boris Bikes and KFC

Apart from lectures and tutorials, we also have a lecture review class which helps us go over the contents of the lecture in a constructive manner and a subject-specific writing class which helps with our writing skills specific to the module. Being exposed to development concepts that shape the world we live in and covering the work of great thinkers in the field of culture studies like Franz Fanon, Stuart Hall and Edward Said, have impacted my way of thinking in the last few months. Apart from that, the opportunity to study in Central London with its many open spaces, cafés, historic sites, Boris bikes and the £1.99 KFC mini wrap have all added much flavour to my short time here at SOAS.

In the next blog, I will talk about the main component of the FDPS which is the ISP. The ISP is the opportunity for students to delve into the discipline of research, helping to identify research areas that students are passionate about while helping them channel those ideas through established methods of research and receive meaningful support to make this happen.

See you in the next post!

Ariff Azman Shah is an IFCELS International Foundation Ambassador currently studying a Foundation Diploma in Postgraduate Studies with hopes to do a postgraduate in Development Studies.

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