Ask Plymouth: A virtual open evening
This event has now passed but you can watch the recording on this page.
Hear from online lecturer Patrick Holden (MA International Relations) and members of our friendly student support team. They talk you through the help and guidance you will get on our online, part-time postgraduate courses.
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- Hey there, everybody. Thank you for attending our virtual open evening. We are joined by myself. I am a senior student recruitment consultant for the university. I specialize in online learning, so I've been doing this for a couple of universities now and yeah. We're going to be discussing the international relations with security and development master's program alongside the restorative dental science masters of science, so yeah. We'll be discussing both of those courses. And over to you, Sam.
SAM SOFTLY: So yeah. I do pretty much the same job as Fran. Again, I've done it for a couple of universities. We're basically just tasked with finding the right students and bringing them all the way to applying and joining these courses. And I've done it for some other universities as well.
FRANCESCA MARTIN: Great. Thanks, Sam. And Dr. Patrick Holden is also joining us too, so if you could just introduce yourself as well, Patrick.
PATRICK HOLDEN: Thanks, Fran, and welcome everyone also. So I'm the course director. I'm an associate professor of International Relations here at Plymouth. But my own research is about organizations like the European Union and the World Bank and how they interact with developing countries. I've lived and done fieldwork in quite a range of countries from China to Egypt to South Africa, and this course is about sharing the knowledge of myself and my fellow academics with you.
What we've got at Plymouth Online is a very dynamic approach to learning. It's very much problem based using a lot of resources of the internet and audiovisual technology with a very neat weekly structure. We're condensing a lot of material for you, but also making it very interactive. Week by week you'll be exploring and interacting with tutors and other students, and you'll be learning a lot in a very constructive way, I think, especially for busy professionals.
Also you'll be interacting with people from all around the world. We'll have brilliant students from all parts of the globe. And we also have a range of excellent academics, which I'll talk about later that will be leading the module or acting as the module tutor as well. It's obviously a very exciting time to be studying international relations in general, and we think we've got the perfect course for you.
Probably everyone knows what international relations is. Essentially it's an application of politics and economics and development studies. The problem of the international, which is how different states or sometimes different peoples and even civilizations, interact with one another, and it's obviously increasingly relevant in such an interdependent world.
This masters, which is based on our successful face to face masters, focuses on two areas in particular, two practical areas. Security challenges and development challenges in the allocation of resources. I suppose the best example of that is two modules you'll be doing. One is called strategy and security studies, where you'll look at a lot at security problems and how institutions develop strategies to try and combat these.
And another one is called economic diplomacy and development, which is about things like trade politics, development aid, and such arrangements. There's an introductory module on global governance, which is about the framework of how the world works and different institutions work and interact. And then there's a module called regional geopolitics, which looks at some hotspots. Probably imagine the Middle East, or indeed, in Eastern Europe or East Asia.
It finishes, then, with a dissertation, which is really your opportunity to become an expert in the area you're most interested in, and it's very flexible. You pick what you want to do with-- often it's connected to where you would want to work. So if you wanted to work in the security sector, you might look at as some new counterinsurgency tactics.
Or if you wanted to work in development aid or climate change, you might look at the Paris Climate Change Agreement or a new form of development aid. Whatever it might be. We'll be giving you the research skills and the guidance to do that. Assessments students are often interested in. We don't have exams for this course.
You'll be doing different types of coursework, some standard essays, but also more employability related ones, such as policy briefs, where you have to summarize a very complex problem for a busy minister or leader. A policy brief on the agricultural crisis caused by the Ukraine war, or indeed, a video briefing or even a video roleplay where you're giving an argument, say, in an international dispute.
These are very lively assessments, which will be fun as well as useful. And that's the course-- I think, in a nutshell, that's the philosophy of it. It's designed to cover both security and development issues and how they interact. What security-- most people know what it means. It means the basic stability of a state and preventing it from being invaded, but it also, as we've learned in recent years, has other dimensions.
Health security is obviously very important, environmental security. Those elements which require a more holistic policy response. It's not just about having a big army and the sort of makes it interesting. You have to cooperate with other countries to manage your own security. And we'll be looking at that, and we'll be looking at classic security dilemmas like nuclear proliferation and relations between great powers, the US and China and Russia.
But also these other more low level but important security challenges and things like insurgency and terrorism and, well, development is also a broad topic. It's about economic development, obviously, and how countries can get the right trade policies or relationships and can make the most of the aid or financial investment that you can get from the global economy.
But it's also, again, more qualitative judgments about what kind of society we want and what are the responsibilities of different parts of the world to each other. This is coming to the fore about climate change, in particular. And all of this is looked at through the institutions like the UN, but also the different arguments put forth by people and by leaders and by NGOs and so forth about what should be done about these problems.
And so for a given week, we might have a case study, say, of an interactive map about development aid and you might be asked to look-- to explore and guess why this country is giving so much money to such and such country and what you think the reasons are and the potential problems are. And always asking for your own opinion as well and always constructive as well because looking at politics can be a little gloomy, but we're looking a lot also about what can be done, how things can be improved.
FRANCESCA MARTIN: So as an overview, the restorative dental science program. It will give you the opportunity to, I guess, dive into a deeper development of your own practice. It's a two year part time master's degree, much the same as the international relations program. So it's entirely flexible for those who are working full time.
In fact, it is required that you are a practicing dentist at the time of the study because the practical nature of the program will be you practicing on your patients and then using what you learn to practice and vice versa. So it's very, very hands on in that aspect. Your studies will be definitely very much related to that. It will, for example, give you the opportunity to critically evaluate your decision making in your day to day practice.
If you would like to elevate your career, move to the next step, just, yeah, generally enhance your day to day work, this would be the course for you. You'll be learning from dental specialists like Tim and you will also get to interact with consultants in the industry that work with us at the university, and you can immediately apply the insights that you learn to your dental practice.
PATRICK HOLDEN: The obvious destinations for studying a degree like this are working in government and politics and international organizations. Students from our existing master's have gone on to great things working for the Ministry of Defense or, in the UK, the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, as it's now called. But I want to stress, though, that it's much broader career preparation or enhancement than that.
A lot of students also have excellent careers working in what you'd call the third sector or civil society or NGOs working for different types of NGOs as a policy analyst or a lobbyist. Quite a few in climate politics, but also human rights and development. Then there is the security sector outside of the state, which is an important employer as well, and also intelligence.
We've had students go on to interesting areas in that. Also more related to business, perhaps, but lobbying business associations and so on that need to understand things like the WTO or the EU, how US foreign policy is working and so on that when you have a master's in international relations, you've given yourself a profile that says that you understand these very important political and institutional elements of life.
Because we've seen in recent years, politics doesn't just affect the people that are most enthusiastic about. It affects business a lot in many ways as well. And also quite a few students have gone on to work in business normally on the human resources and marketing side of things. But again, between the research skills and communication skills and the very useful knowledge you can glean from doing a subject like that, they're the obvious destinations.
To an extent, it can depend on where you were coming from as in what your current work experience is, but students can also, and many do want to, make a break and do something different, so that's where it can be useful. I will say briefly about dentistry-- I don't know anything about dentistry, I should stress, but I do know the University of Plymouth has a very good department in dentistry and medicine, so it's very well established so you'd be joining a well established university.
SAM SOFTLY: Yeah. I mean, to follow on what you said about the dentistry being-- it's a very well respected department in Plymouth. I believe that it was just ranked, by one measure, the top in the UK. But in terms of direct career prospects, as a tangible idea, this isn't a specialist course, so you wouldn't qualify to be a specialist. I think that the best way to think of this course would be as a fast track to being a more experienced dentist.
So the career prospects are effectively that of an experienced dentist. So if you-- maybe your goal is to move from, say, if you're in the UK working for an NHS practice to a private practice, this course will give you the experience to be able to do that along with the qualification from a very prestigious dental school. So again, that's really kind of-- that's it. It's becoming a more experienced dentist who can execute procedures more effectively and with greater confidence.
FRANCESCA MARTIN: These courses are essentially designed for people like this. People who are working a 9:00 to 5:00 job or they have a full time life or career and they can't really feasibly take a year off or two years off to study a full time master's degree so they need something more flexible. The way that you learn is you will have learning on a weekly basis.
So every week at the end of the week, all of your work will be released, your learning outcomes, the discussion tasks, or whatever course projects are set. And you will be able to complete these in your own time. So if you prefer to study in the evenings, lunchtime, or on the weekends, then you can study when you want. You will have one live session with your tutor per week.
This is an opportunity to ask questions, to go through the work with your tutor, but this session is also recorded. So if you can't make it, you can catch up on demand. We are very conscious of different time zones and different working schedules in this program, so it is designed to be as flexible as possible. Somebody also asked about the time commitments every week. So you'd probably be expected to dedicate around 20 to 25 hours per week to your studies.
Obviously, this depends on the stage in the course that you're at. If you're working on assignments and things like that, you might want to spend a bit of extra time on this because it is quite a pressing time. But yeah, generally 20, 25 hours on your studies. But obviously take into consideration a lot of this, you will be in the industry or have studied before what you are studying so it shouldn't be a completely new field and you will be able to understand and get completely involved in what you're learning.
SAM SOFTLY: I'm in a position where I've had experience pursuing higher education both on campus and online. And although this might seem unusual, there is some respect in which the access to support is easier when you study online. Because I had experiences when I was studying on campus where I might need to have a meeting with a course tutor or something like that, and to facilitate that, we would have to be in the same place at the same time.
I would have to go to their office at a specific time. They would typically have a kind of an open hour at some point in the week and you would have to email them and go then. Whereas when I studied online, having a meeting with a tutor was as difficult as sending them an email and then working out a time when both of you could be at your laptop free for 15 minutes.
And obviously that was much easier. Because it's much easier to just sit at the laptop in your house than it is to go out and go to the office. So yeah, I think that in some respects you have better access to support when studying online than when studying on campus.
- The beauty of this structure is it's week by week and highly interactive. You'll have a task to do. It's not assessed or anything. It's not anything to get stressed about, but you won't be on your own. You're very much doing something.
There's a natural dynamic of scaffolding there and there'll be a webinar every week in that as well. So you will very much-- it's not like some people might have had experience of emergency education during the pandemic with long online lectures and that thing. It's not like that at all. So it's designed to be inclusive and to give people [INAUDIBLE].
Enthusiasm is obviously a big word, and you've got to be interested in it and keep following what's going on in the media because then it's very much alive in your mind and it's not like a chore or separate from your life or something extra you have to do. It's something you enjoy doing. Also, a willingness to seek support because there is a lot of support, but a willingness to make the most of that.
That can vary with students in terms of what and to ask questions and, I think, patience maybe. It's an old fashioned concept maybe, but we'll be dealing with some big topics like how conflicts can be resolved and so on, or the issue about climate change and how to deal with it fairly and so on. And it does it takes some time. You need to do some reading, engage in discussion, and keep an open mind. I think that's a big, big part of it.
And to learn, not just from the academic instructors, but also from your fellow students. Because I've already looked at some of the applications with people from many different countries, from East Asia or West Africa, South America, and so on. Learn from their experience and perspective as well. So I think that would be the main-- they would be the main ones.
FRANCESCA MARTIN: My biggest tip would be secure your place early. Apply early, get enrolled. There's always hiccups that can happen on the way, a missing document, missing transcripts, English proficiency. And if you get the application in early, we can address any issues early and then get your enrollment and preparation beginning as soon as possible.
So yeah. For me, that's the best practice. I don't know if Sam's got any additional pointers, but if not, Patrick, please could you share us from your perspective working with students that are already studying. Yeah. We'd love to hear it.
SAM SOFTLY: I think I would just say, as an addition, just bear in mind that me and Fran are on your side and we're here to help you as much as possible. So if you are not sure about something, come to us. And if we can't answer it then we've got the tools to find the answer. And yeah, all the advice that we give you is for your benefit. And yeah, we just want to help, basically.
PATRICK HOLDEN: Oh, yeah, I think terms of preparing for the course, I suppose I have a few things to say. Follow the media, as I said, and try and compare different media sources. For example, there's a big controversy about Taiwan at the moment. You could compare how that's covered in, say, China Daily as opposed to CNN or The New York Times or something like that.
Think tanks like Council for Foreign Relations or the Center for Global Development, they tend to produce a lot of accessible work that's somewhere more in-depth than regular media. Not quite as long as academic works. That's a very good introduction. Podcasts, as well, that you can listen to doing anything. We've put some on the course promotional website.
Biographies, actually, or looking at the individual stories of people can, again, be a way to make some of these issues come alive for you. And generally try and question. You could be looking at arguments, say, on social media or whatever about how do people know this or why do they think they know it, at least. What's their evidence? What's their argument? Get thinking along those lines, and that will prepare you well for the [AUDIO OUT].
FRANCESCA MARTIN: Most people have the documents required at hand anyway, so we'd be looking at your certificates, transcripts of any academic or professional qualifications you've done in the past. We would also be looking at your CV or resume just to look at your professional background and how that can relate to the course too. We would need your personal statement that we've just spoken about.
So all in all, it should take-- it can take an evening. You could probably complete it in an evening. Sometimes certificates take longer, but again, we can help you with that. To receive a response, I would say generally within a week to maybe two weeks, especially busier periods. We still have just over a month before the application deadline so the turnaround is a bit quicker, but soon it will be extremely busy. So yeah, can't stress enough. Get the application in early.
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