Reputation of Masters Programmes in Europe
August 30, 2014 4:59 AM   Subscribe

I am saving to go to Europe to do a masters degree. I am interested in International Relations, International Law, Human Rights, and European Affairs (history and institutions of the EU, European Law). I'm Australian but I also have UK dual nationality. I am starting to investigate programmes but am finding it hard to narrow down the options and find the best one for me. My question is: how do I work out which master's programmes have the best/ worst reputation?
posted by EatMyHat to Education (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You could look at which schools are members or affiliates at APSIA.

Also, I just got a grad degree in Europe, and one thing that made me think that the school I went to had a good reputation was that it has study abroad exchanges with some top schools in the US. Not sure how that works in Australia.

Good luck!
posted by thesnowyslaps at 5:04 AM on August 30, 2014

There are forums at which might help.

Contact the directors of the programmes that you are looking at and ask for more information. In particular, ask if you can speak to current students or graduates. The good ones should be happy to help with this.

I have some experience of running these types of programmes - MeMail if you'd like.
posted by Grinder at 5:53 AM on August 30, 2014

The Oxford BCL is by a considerable margin the most prestigious masters level legal qualification in Europe.

Beyond that, the more personalised nature of masters courses makes comparison difficult since two people taking an LLM /MA program will do highly different courses. I would recommend looking in detail at the programs and what options are available to ensure the course will cover exactly what you want. Then that the course is offered out of the department you are primarily interested in and visit that department and research its staff to ensure it is up to snuff (Don't end up being a lawyer in a political science department for example) Obviously, you can use undergraduate rankings as a good prestige guide, since employers will not have any more clue than you.

If you are interested in doing a subsequent PHD the most important thing is that you get a 1st from a good university rather than the specific ranking. (which will be much more important for PHD)
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 5:58 AM on August 30, 2014

Reputation and quality are not necessarily the same thing.

I say this because I just finished a Master's degree from a top European school (that is on the list that thesnowyslaps links to and has exchanges with top US schools) and found myself to be disappointed with the quality. In fact, nearly all of my fellow classmates have voiced disappointment in the program. The reputation of the school, however, is excellent!

So I second Grinder's advice about getting in touch with current and former students. The program, as described on the school's website, might not be as academically challenging as it claims.

If you'd like to know what program I was in, as it is in one of the fields you are interested in and it may be on your list of consideration, feel free to MeMail me.
posted by Blissful at 6:32 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

To follow up on what Blissful says, reputation is often built on research output, which means that the well-known staff are either not teaching or are not very engaged with their teaching. This isn't universally true, however, which is why it is important to make enquiries on the ground.
posted by Grinder at 6:49 AM on August 30, 2014

My boyfriend studies International Law and according to him (and the statistics he consulted, of course), Geneva's Graduate Institute is the best place in Europe for that.

I do agree, however, that a high ranking means nothing. My alma mater in Germany had a pretty good reputation, but oh boy was I left alone and ignored by my professors. Getting your grades two years after you completed a course is pretty standard in Germany (and other parts of Europe, from what I hear) and can completely ruin your plans. So don't just look at rankings, google around for current students'/alumni voices, too.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 11:04 AM on August 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

LoonyLovegood, what statistics did your boyfriend consult?
posted by Cucurbit at 11:09 AM on August 30, 2014

Although it's mostly for undergraduates, the people at the Student Room usually have a lot to say.

Do not hesitate to contact the office for the degree you're interested in, and ask to speak to a current student. I did this and I am just finishing my master's at a UK university.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 11:54 AM on August 30, 2014

Cucurbit, I don't know. The guy's got a degree in extreme googling... But I guess there was lot of talk amongst students and faculty at his undergrad alma mater as well that recommended Geneva.
posted by LoonyLovegood at 1:47 PM on August 30, 2014

Having recently completed a Masters in international affairs (in the US), and with many many friends who went to Europe instead, I strongly urge your to rethink your question to: what do you want to get out of grad school?
Are you looking for a necessary qualification to get to the next step of an established career? Are you changing careers? Do you want to build a network in a specific area? Do you want a tight knit student body, or one where people do their own thing? Do you need career coaching? How long do you want to spend on this degree? Do you need flexibility in the degree program to change your focus?
Graduate school is an expensive endeavor, whatever the country. Just because a school is highly ranked does not mean that it will give you the environment you need to learn, grow, and be ready to take the next step.

Some general observations:
The benefit of the UK is that in one year, you will be done. But many people I have spoken with who have done the UK route complained about the lack of careers training. Still, many UK schools have very recognizable international reputations.

I also urge you to get in contact with people who practice your areas of interest (whether in NGOs, government, or international organisations), and see what qualifications they recommend, and their impressions of different schools.

Statistics aside (no offense to LoonyLovegood's boyfriend), I personally think the primary selling point of the Geneva Institute is the UN next door. Many with whom I have spoken choose to go there to be able to pursue internships at the UN. Academics wise it seems on par with other schools.

Definitely speak to a current student, and ask for one pursuing your areas of interest. Ask them as many questions as you can. They will be happy to answer them!

Good luck with the process!
posted by troytroy at 7:08 PM on August 30, 2014

Response by poster: Hi everyone,
thanks for the answers - they are great, keep them coming!

Just to jump in and answer troytroy's question about my motivation for grad school. I am really in the preliminary stages of working out what I want from grad school - to be honest lots of things. My main motivation for going back is to do more of what I love - my day job does not relate to any of the fields I listed so this is a chance for me to learn more and dedicate myself more to a field of interest. Also I am keen to have more of the international student experience before I get too old to appreciate it. Then there are the career reasons for going back - being a masters student would give me access to internships (most organisations these days seem to ask that your internship is part of a study program) and I'd love to think it would help me find a job in the field I study or one related, but of course I can't be sure of that.

I'm starting out looking at reputation but as much becuase that's somewhere to start, I know my final decision willl take into account lots more factors than just reputation. And of course I have to be accepted as well! The reputation issue is also to help me be realistic!
posted by EatMyHat at 1:57 AM on August 31, 2014

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