Is it possible to do a PGCE and have a life?
May 1, 2007 6:10 PM   Subscribe

What is it like being on a PGCE course? (More specifically, Secondary Music and either Cambridge or Bristol)

I'm nearing the end of my second year of a Music degree, and in September I will be applying to PGCE (Post-Graduate Certificate of Education) courses. At the moment Cambridge and Bristol are the frontrunners, with Cambridge slightly ahead in my mind. However, if I do end up in Cambridge, there's a possibility that it will involve being in a Cam-Bristol long distance relationship (although it could also be Cam-London).

My questions are as follows:
- Doing any PGCE, anywhere, will I have time to visit/be visited by my boyfriend every couple of weeks? Would the likelihood of this be reduced dramatically if I went to Cambridge?

-Will doing a PGCE at Cambridge generally reduce me to being a ridiculously anti-social and stressed out human being? I know PGCE is different to Undergraduate but not being currently at Cam I am a little afraid of the Oxbridge high pressure thing.

Any other insight into being a PGCE student is very much welcome!
posted by Lotto to Education (4 answers total)
On the second point - it's a long time since I was a student at Cambridge but I remember there being a different atmosphere at Homerton than the other colleges. It's slightly in its own world because everyone is doing teaching and it's further out of town than most colleges (still not far except by Cambridge standards).

You should talk to some current students about how they find the academic environment, but I wouldn't worry too much about the high pressure thing. There is pressure at Cambridge, but I doubt its much worse than other "good" universities. Most people are pretty normal and do the usual amount of student work.
posted by crocomancer at 1:26 AM on May 2, 2007

I'm at Cambridge, but as an undergraduate, so I don't know much about PGCE.

Crocomancer mentions Homerton College. Until recently, this was the college you went to in Cambridge to do PGCE. In 2001 that changed, and you now apply to the Faculty of Education (as for any other post-grad course) and I think you can apply to virtually any college. There's plenty of information about this at the Faculty of Education site, and there's a useful page at Homerton.

If I were you, I would definitely try to end up at a college with a decent number of other people studying for PGCE. Homerton is the obvious choice, but I'm sure there are others with large PGCE groups, most likely the newer or grad-only colleges (maybe Girton, Fitz, Clare Hall etc?).

I'd strongly recommend coming to Cambridge and looking around some colleges before deciding where to go. You might decide you want the architecture, history and central location of somewhere like Trinity or John's, or you might prefer the more modern, informal atmosphere of the newer or non-central colleges. I wouldn't worry too much about location; nothing is that far away, and us lazy undergraduates tend to wildly exaggerate the distances (with the exception of Girton, which really is a bit of a trek, at least by Cambridge standards). Making an 'open' application is not recommended (applying to no college in particular) as girls tend to end up at all-girl colleges (fine if that's what you want, but don't do an open app if you aren't enthused by the idea).

The whole Oxbridge high-pressure thing is nothing to be afraid of. More modern, grad-focused, or non-central colleges are likely to be less stressful than centuries-old, undergrad-oriented, central colleges. Postgrads in general seem to be less stressed than undergrads, probably because they're better organised, have developed better study skills, and spend less time hungover. The set of people who do postgrad/PGCE is likely to be quite different to undergrads — there are quite a lot of over-competitive undergrads who will end up in the City earning millions, whereas postgrads are unsurprisingly a more intellectual and more mature bunch (obviously this is a massive generalisation, but it's probably true). I can't see any reason why you can't visit/be visited by your boyfriend every couple of weeks.
posted by Aloysius Bear at 2:38 AM on May 2, 2007

Can't comment on the relative merits of the courses, but having spent quite a lot of time in both places I'd much rather spend a year in Bristol. Although I gather that the schools round here can be a bit challenging. I've heard good things about Bath, from a friend who did a PGCE there.

If you don't have a car then Bristol-Cambridge is a pain, as you generally have to go via London, minimum journey time about 3.5/4 hours on a good day.
posted by Luddite at 7:47 AM on May 2, 2007

Consider asking your questions and read what others are saying at the Times Educational Supplement forums.
posted by Martin E. at 9:09 AM on May 2, 2007

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