Student insight

Reflections on the Full-time MA Programme

What our students say

Photograph of Fatemeh SadeghiFatemeh Sadeghi, MA Early Childhood Education

International Student (Iran)

My name is Fatemeh Sadeghi and I come from Iran. I’ve lived in many Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Kuwait. Before I came to Sheffield I was a teacher at a Kindergarden for children from 3-8 years old.

Although I had done some short intensive courses and an MA in Education previously, I was attracted to the Masters at Sheffield as it is focussed more about the policies and the huge ideas behind how you’re going to become a teacher, how you can help the education systems. I found it very holistic and looking at the bigger picture.

I enjoyed the one-to-one tutorials and the modules that gave the background and bigger pictures in relation to Early Childhood Education. The university spaces are really good, so that I can choose to study in a smaller group or book a room when I want to study alone. We have easy access to library resources through the library and online library. I also like the greenness of the city and that it’s an international city.

I’ve worked so hard and I’ve learned to plan very clearly and focus and not be distracted by unnecessary details. When I finish I’d like to continue studying and do my PhD in the UK and then run teacher training programmes back in Iran.

Photograph of Fatima Rodrigues

Fatima Rodrigues, MA Early Childhood Education

International Student (India)

My name is Fatima and I am from India, but I have lived and worked in Abu Dhabi in the UAE, where I did my Montessori one-year diploma certificate. I decided to come to Sheffield as I had an interest in children and I wanted to take that next step of doing a Masters.

I was attracted to Sheffield as it offered a specific course with modules focused on early childhood education. I liked the fact that there was a whole module about the dissertation and seeing the reputation of the School of Education for research excellence it felt like this is where it should happen.

This course has exceeded any expectations I had, I came with the expectation to learn about Early Childhood and all the important aspects related to that, but the course has also given me a broad knowledge base in education and I have come across things that I did not know I should have associated with this field. The whole planning and structure of the course was more than I was expecting it to be and it has been fantastic!

The highlights of my study have been that while having learnt a lot of academic based knowledge I have also learned skills that will help me personally in my life. Having a personal tutor throughout the course has been really helpful, because although it is supposed to be a lot of independent study it is useful to have someone who can guide you more specifically. The resources are also excellent, specifically the online library that can be accessed anywhere.

Being in Sheffield has given me new perspectives and understanding of education in the UK and given me the freedom and flexibility to understand perspectives in a different scenario and context. Having done a Diploma in Dubai, after the course I want to go back there with an informed understanding of Early Childhood Education and apply all of these new concepts and practices that I have learned.

During the course I have learned more skills and feel more confident in my life generally. Having a degree from a good university in the UK really does add to your own value, how you see yourself and the good opportunities this offers, so I feel that that does open up a lot of avenues and prospects for me.

Photograph of Vallery SumardyVallery Sumardy, MA Early Childhood Education

International Student (Indonesia)

I chose to study MA Early Childhood Education because I am passionate of being a teacher for kindergarten school. I encountered University of Sheffield by purely coincidence when I was searching for the university in the UK. I like the fact that Sheffield has a lot of gardens and I love the idea of studying outside. Moreover, I also like the fact that Sheffield is not as crowded as London and I think it is a great place to study for student.

Although it would be nice to have more opportunity to visit schools and get practical experience, I feel that I've received a lot of insight into what is education and its complexity through discussion with other students, who come from diverse places and have diverse experiences. So the course has helped me to think more critically about the education system.

Photograph of Yijia ZuoYijia Zuo, MA Psychology and Education

International Student (China)

 I came to University of Sheffield in 2011 for studying a Master degree in psychology and education. The master course is so well-designed and content-rich that stimulated my interests in studying psychology-related topics.

I started to think about doing a PhD degree at the middle of my postgraduate study. As soon as I identified my interests, I approached Professor Tom Billington to be my supervisor because the topics I was interested in are in the field of his expertise.

It was a natural progression for me to move from the Masters programme to pursue a PhD degree in the area that I am keen to explore.

Yafei Fan, MA Globalising Education: Policy and Practice

International Student (China)

Yafai Fan

 “I’m grateful for the experiences I had in Sheffield. It made me a better me.

When I returned to Bejing in September 2013, our president at the time appointed me as a senior manager, and now I’m the headmaster of a capital city school. My educational group, which is named ‘New Oriental’, is a leading educational group. It was founded in 1993, and it went public in 2006 on the US stock market. It has more than 60 branch schools all over China, and I’m one of the capital city headmasters.

The experiences I gained from Sheffield give me extra drive for my career and development, all of which I enjoyed and really cherish."

Mae Aspinall, MA Psychology and Education

Mae Aspinall

"Once I graduated from my undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Sheffield it felt like a natural progression to pursue a master’s qualification. As I felt so at home in the city of Sheffield and regarded the teaching so highly there was no doubt that I wanted to continue on at the University. A previous tutor recommended the Education and Psychology course to me and I was not disappointed. The staff and the course facilitated my interests and academic exploration of topics which specifically interested me, and would be directly relevant to me in a future career. This was particularly prevalent as there was a certain freedom to the assignments which allowed students to pick topics that they found interesting and apply them to the assignment titles. The group tutorials were also really useful for consolidating the theories and information we had learnt in the lectures and sharing our thoughts and opinions.
After I graduate from the University of Sheffield I plan to gain some experience working in the education sector before applying for a PhD in Educational and Child Psychology in order to qualify as an Educational Psychologist. I feel excited at the prospect of this adventure and believe that the course and the university has prepared me for this by not only providing the academic content, but also the constant encouragement and support from my tutor which has helped a dream turn into a reality."

Nanik Rahmini, MA Language and Education

International Student (Indonesia)

"Studying in the School of Education at the University of Sheffield for me is like a dream come true. Since I am a High School English teacher in my country, Indonesia, I have been dreaming of learning English as well as studying education in the UK. I am really grateful to have been given this golden opportunity to meet many friends from many countries, to learn about language and education from great lecturers, to get support from the staff, lecturers and everyone here who had made my time studying here wonderful and valuable. My time in the School of Education has been the best time of my life."

Xintong Yuan, MA Education

International Student (China)

Crystal Yuan“Many people ask me why I chose the University of Sheffield: I think there are two reasons to support my decision. First of all, I am interested in the curriculum they arrange, focusing on globalization and education, qualitative methodologies in educational research, and so on. These modules inspired me to do an intensive study around different perspectives of education. I also have the chance to experience teaching in a British secondary school. Secondly, The University of Sheffield has a great reputation. My British friends and teachers described Sheffield’s academic atmosphere, which corresponded to my expectations of university life. I think the services and activities for international students provided by the University and Students’ Union were excellent. These activities helped me make new friends and fit into the University quickly.

In Britain, I am required to do independent study rather than relying solely on the teachers. Critical thinking is valued by Sheffield, much more than in Chinese education; in the module, ‘Critical Thinking in Education and Educational Research’, I have gradually fostered the skill of critical thinking through teachers’ guidance and group study.

What’s more, in Sheffield I’m surrounded by students from different countries and cultures. I realize that education takes place everywhere, not only in schools, but also in family and society. I learn a lot that I have never considered before. Studying in England has encouraged me to rethink my future career; before I came to England, I wanted to be a teacher in a school. Now, I am passionate to try different career routes relating to education.”

Holly Burkinshaw, MA Educational Research

Holly Burkinshaw

“I always knew I wanted to do a PhD, so the masters was like a stepping-stone for that. The dissertation of my masters was designed as a pilot study for my PhD now, which is looking at children’s experiences of hospitalisation. 
I would say to anyone thinking of doing the MA to just go for it; I think this Sheffield University offers a very unique experience to other universities in that the students here are so diverse; usually to make such friends and find out so many different things about different parts of the world would take years of travelling. The University of Sheffield offers that multicultural experience.”

Abdullah Majeed, MA Education

International Student (Kuwait)

“The University of Sheffield is one of the top universities around the world. I enrolled in the MA Education because I was interested in researching the social studies curriculum that was taught to hearing impaired students in Kuwait's special schools. Joining the University of Sheffield was really the best choice I have made in the last ten years; I learned a lot from the School of Education’s distinguished professors and my colleagues. I developed my researching, writing, and presenting skills. I became more interested in the educational process, believing that I can make a difference in my society. At the same time, I became more critical in my judgement. After graduation, I went back to Kuwait and worked in the special educational schools department, where I became a senior teacher. Currently, I am aiming to complete a PhD in the same field.”

Lamar Dolcy, MA Globalising Education: Policy and Practice

International student (Barbados)

Lamar"When exploring options for a masters course in education, my search criteria covered a variety of education-related topics (curriculum, assessment, research methods for education etc.), combined with formative, written assessments. The MA Globalising Education: Policy and Practice met all those requirements. I thoroughly enjoyed the variety of learning experiences, including independent learning, occasional pair work, and discussion. Discussions in class were as rich as they were diverse, and respect for others' perspectives was evident. Clear deadlines, timely feedback, and appropriate reading lists and scoring rubrics were all pivotal to my success. My tutors were professional, extremely knowledgeable and personable. As a consequence, I enhanced my critical thinking skills, gained a better understanding of education-related issues, and was exposed to various theories and research methods, thus ultimately enabling me to produce quality research relevant to my native island, Barbados. The course pacing was impeccable and there was adequate time for reflection and internalisation of knowledge. Through this programme, I honed my analytical skills and improved my writing skills. Additionally, my self-confidence increased. I then applied for and was awarded a highly competitive European Commission Erasmus Mundus Masters Scholarship to pursue a mobility degree called Crossways in Cultural Narratives. My prior MA served as an excellent foundation for this. Upon completion of my second masters, I readily obtained employment as a high school educator in Bermuda, where I employ my skills providing meaningful learning experiences for my students and assisting with providing professional development to colleagues."

A Course Director's reflection

A Course Director's reflection - by Ansgar Allen

Which aspect of the course that you teach do you personally look forward to each year, and why?

I really look forward to learning with students during the first module. This module draws from the huge range of expertise that our students come with. This is a truly international programme, and it is fascinating to explore relationships between educational approaches, different national, social and political contexts, and their philosophical underpinnings. At the end of the first module, students work in groups to put together a presentation in which they offer a unique perspective on questions like: What does education do? What is education for? And how should we research it? These presentations are consistently outstanding and a pleasure to be part of. The answers to these questions are far from self- evident, and I am always impressed by how students draw from their discussions, the lectures and readings, and their own prior experience to create truly insightful and unique responses to each question.

Tell us a bit about the staff in the School of Education, and where they come from.

Education is an exciting field to work in simply because it is so broad in what it covers. It encompasses a range of disciplines including: sociology, politics, history, philosophy and psychology, to name but a few! For this reason, the Masters Programme at the School of Education includes a number of specialist routes allowing students to experience both the breadth of study that takes place in education, whilst developing their own specialism within this field.

The staff at the School of Education reflect the huge range of interests that are covered by this field. Students on the Masters will, therefore, get to meet a wide range of people working in different areas using different research approaches based on different research philosophies. For that reason, it is a great place to explore and develop your interests, knowing that you will be supported whichever direction you take them in.

What are the benefits of studying this course at this particular University? (e.g. location to relevant places of interest, history, the “personality” of the university etc.)

The University of Sheffield is a friendly and exciting place to study. It is very well resourced, with great libraries, an award winning student union, and a huge range of departments. This means there is a lot going on! There are many lectures and events that students are invited to attend, and these include a broad range of events hosted by the School of Education each year. We encourage our students to make the most of their year in Sheffield by getting involved with all these activities. The surrounding countryside is beautiful too, and really easy and quick to access, with Sheffield being on the borders of a national park. I loved it so much that when I finished my Masters I stayed!

Why is it an exciting time (socially, historically or culturally) for prospective students to move into your field?

Education has always been an exciting field to study, as lies at the core of social relations and societies. To understand how education works is to investigate how societies function and reproduce themselves. Education has, though, been given a particularly important role in today’s society, and this is something that we will critically investigate during the course. It is promoted more and more, as the solution to economic and social ills. For this reason, to study education is to investigate the problems that face contemporary societies, how those problems are posed, and how they are expected to be solved. Education occupies a unique and problematic position here. It is held up as the great panacea, and yet the educational endeavour itself is far from unproblematic. It truly is a fascinating area to study!

Can you give a few examples of the roles and positions which graduates have gone onto? As well as those you might expect, are there any unusual directions which graduates have gone in, or unorthodox ways they have applied their qualification?

A degree in education is a qualification that demonstrates you have mastered a broad range of skills. For this reason, graduates go on to roles and positions that are both within education and beyond. Our graduates have gone on to work as teachers and in related professions. They have occupied posts, in education ministries and other government departments, and have worked in businesses related to education. Many graduates go on to further, doctoral level study, using the research expertise they have generated during the Masters. This was the route I took after studying for my Masters at the School of Education. I enjoyed it so much that I stayed on to teach!

Meeting your supervisor

Meeting your supervisor

The supervisor's role is to help you to address your research questions effectively. It is understandable that you might feel anxious at first. Just remember that all staff at the School of Education are friendly and will provide supportive feedback so that you will become more confident and independent in your research.

Student-supervisor expectations

During the Masters you will be assigned an academic supervisor for each module. Most students will have the one academic supervisor for Modules 1-4 and a second (usually different) academic supervisor for the Dissertation. You will meet your supervisor on a regular basis for one-to-one support throughout the year.

About the role of academic supervisor

You should feel free to seek advice from your supervisor on any matter of importance related to your studies.  In cases of difficulty, or even anticipated difficulty, it is always better to get in touch sooner rather than later!

At all times it is your responsibility to contact your supervisor and keep her/him informed of your progress and/or concerns.   It is up to you as a Masters student, independent learner and researcher to plan your time and your supervisor’s time appropriately.

Your supervisor will provide guidance for your written assignments and dissertation, offering advice on relevant literature, formulating ideas and the writing process.

When you first meet with your supervisor you should discuss how to make the most of the supervisory relationship and the time available.   In particular, try to be clear from the outset about periods when you and your supervisor are especially likely to be ‘out of action’ because of other known commitments.

Beyond the MA

Transition from MA to PhD

You are able to progress from the MA to the PhD once the MA finishes at the end of August.  To progress to the PhD you will need to submit an application. This will be assessed internally.  If your application is of a high standard, and if we are able to match your proposed project to a potential supervisor with appropriate expertise, we will offer you a place.

Two scenarios are described below to explain in further detail how the process works:

Scenario 1

Research students normally need a first degree which is equivalent to a UK classification of Upper Second, or better, and a Masters degree which is equivalent to a UK mark of 65 % or above. Candidates with other qualifications will be considered on an individual basis.

For students whose first language is not English, the School requires an IELTS grade of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component, or equivalent.

If your application and research proposal are strong enough, we will make you an unconditional offer. We would normally expect you to submit one reference from a member of the MA teaching team to support your PhD application. You should ask a member of the teaching team who knows you and your work best (this is usually your supervisor). Even though you are still technically on the MA programme until the MA exam board meets in October [1] (and still formally a student on that programme), it is possible to start the PhD on 1 October and commence your doctoral studies at this point. You need to ensure that both your IELTS qualification and visa remain valid (please note, IELTS qualifications are valid for two years, so please check when applying that your IELTS qualification will be up to date for when your PhD starts).

Scenario 2

If you do not have a good undergraduate degree and a recognised English language qualification, it is possible to use your attendance and participation on the MA programme to demonstrate your academic and linguistic ability/proficiency. In other words, your work will need to be of a high standard, indicating that you have the potential to excel as a PhD student. If you demonstrate this potential during your MA year, you can apply as above (scenario 1) and, if you are successful, we will be able to offer you a conditional place, subject to successful completion of the MA. In this scenario you can start your PhD at any point after the MA exam board once your results and successful completion of the programme have been confirmed. If your start date is after 1 October, you will be able to attend any induction activities informally. You need to ensure that your visa is valid for your doctoral study.

The PhD: Training Needs Analysis & Doctoral Development Programme (DDP)

Modules you have taken on the MA programme that focus on educational research provide an excellent basis for doctoral study. One of the first activities you will undertake as a PhD student is called the ‘Training Needs Analysis’ where you review your research development to date and identity future needs. On the TNA form you can record the educational research modules you have taken as part of the MA and then identify future development needs that can be addressed through the Doctoral Development Programme at the University of Sheffield – please see:

Further details about the PhD and the DDP will be given at your induction.

[1] All marks for the MA remain provisional until approved by an external examiner in October, which will be two months after the MA course ends.

Other resources

What does it mean to be a Masters student?

Click here to view a Prezi by Ansgar Allen, which provides an insight into what is entailed by becoming a Masters student.

Sample timetable

Click here to access a sample timetable for the full-time MA.