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3.4 The UK Option and some notable schools

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Let’s face it, the real reason many students went into linguistics was because we want British accents. It’s all too easy to be seduced by the romantic notion of attending graduate school at Oxford or Cambridge, particularly if you’re interested in historical linguistics. After all, at Oxford the department is still called Linguistics and Philology. Before you send in your application, though, you need to be aware that graduate programs in the U.K. are very different from the ones here, in several respects. Most obviously, the degrees themselves are different. You’ve got your taught degrees, M. St and M. Phil, and your research degrees, M. Litt and D. Phil. What the deuce do they mean? Basically, a taught degree is like an M.A., and a research degree is like a Ph.D.

Generally, you study for an M. Phil before going on to the research degrees, much like in a Ph.D. program you first receive your Masters degree. Compared to most graduate programs in the U.S., the U.K. programs are more focused on you conducting your own research rather than sticking you in graduate seminars or requiring that you have a certain degree of knowledge in all basic fields within linguistics. While this may seem like a great thing to many of you who hate meeting requirements, it has its downside; many people in the United States give less weight to doctorates from the U.K. because they don’t believe that these programs give students as thorough a background in linguistics, and because research in the U.K. tends to focus on areas of linguistics such as historical linguistics that tend to be less than popular over here. This means that you may find yourself having trouble getting a job back in the States with a degree from a U.K. institution, regardless of how prestigious the school is. This isn’t to say that your career is over — we know of at least one Harvard graduate who has managed quite well with a degree from U Edinburgh. But you do need to consider the possibility of having a career abroad (hey more languages) when you’re thinking about moving away for graduate school.

A final problem with attending grad school in the U.K. is funding. Schools in Great Britain can only afford to offer a few financial aid packages to students from outside of the European Union. Your best bet is winning a Rhodes or Marshall Scholarship, but of course those are not exactly being handed like pizza flyers. In summary, it takes about a lot more work to get funding for a U.K. graduate education than it does to complete the regular graduate school application process.

Still it can be a viable alternative. Here are four schools in the UK to consider.

3.4.1 Cambridge

3.4.2 Oxford

3.4.3 University College London

3.4.4 University of Edinburgh

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Written by applelinguist

January 7, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. […] phonetics? For more information about how the grad system works in the UK, please see “The UK Option” section. For more information about the University College London go to […]


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