Research masters are meeting expectations

August 16, 1996

A review of the research masters course launched last year suggests that it is meeting the expectations of many participating students, the Office of Science and Technology and the research councils.

The preliminary assessment has been carried out by the research councils, four of whom are piloting the MRes programme to provide intensive research training for students in advance of their undertaking a PhD programme or a research career in industry.

The councils conclude that in general the courses are "clearly helping those students who are undecided about their future careers to firm up on their choices".

Changes and improvements are under way to remedy teething problems related mainly to the delivery of personal and professional transferable skills elements.

Chris Wharton, course director of Birmingham University's MPhil (Research) course in molecular and cellular biology, which is backed by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said: "It is our strong impression that the MRes has greatly strengthened the breadth and maturity of the students' education."

Matthew Peake, a student on the Birmingham MRes, was initially unsure about a career in research but thanks to the MRes, now intends to enter for a PhD with confidence.

He does however feel that the option of industrial research was not covered sufficiently on the course. Dr Wharton aims to boost links with industry with the appointment of an industrial course director.

At Manchester University, students are offered the MRes in a range of tailored topics centred around the biological sciences.

Twenty-one-year-old Rebecca Carter, who specialised in neuroscience, has found the course useful preparation for a PhD. She said: "I knew I wanted to do a PhD but was not sure which area to focus on. The MRes helped me decide and at the same time provided me with very useful training for a career in research." She intends to study for a PhD at Cambridge University's pharmacology department.

David Walker, another Manchester MRes student, said he always wanted to do a PhD but was unsure which area of his degree subject, genetics, to concentrate on. He intends to stay on at Manchester to take a doctorate dealing with genetic approaches to ageing.

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