• Research and taught masters

    Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon

    Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon

    I tried looking up the Web for research and taught masters in our universities; it seems there are none. What are research and taught master degrees?

    When I first enrolled in postgraduate “taught” courses in the UK, I chanced upon several academics (two from Africa and one from Indonesia) assigned in research units of their respective universities and on sabbatical leave. From them I learned they need not sit for lectures, unlike me, following a regular schedule of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a working lunch once or twice a week when my class had to work with our respective teams. This was when we were engaged with an aspect of institutional management adopting features from one another’s home practices. Our taught class of 14 fellows (several of us British Council grantees) had lectures, seminars, workshops and presentation of case studies, sometimes as individual assignments. Our capstones were projects related to any aspect of institutional management that we could introduce in our home universities. We also had to write about our capstone project which, after undergoing a double blind peer review, qualifies it for inclusion in a leading journal. Mine was a workshop design on curriculum, which, together with those by several tutors and other fellows, was later published by the Society for Research into Higher Education. It was not all work though, since I managed to visit parts of London and its suburbs — taking full advantage of my student discount pass long before the 2003 superb oyster card which was good for all types of public transport could be availed of from Gatwick to Greater London.

    In applying for admission into a research masters on a fellowship, my newfound friends said they had to send evidence of how well they performed in their first degrees — transcripts of records, written evaluation about their research competence by former professors and senior colleagues, specimens of their completed research and a draft of a research proposal which was to be the springboard for the capstone research — all to assure the grant-giving party and the University that they could do well in a research master program. Each brought a draft, albeit an improved one, on which to work on further with a supervisor who had been assigned to each fellow. All three of them were on science. In my case, I was not in a degree program, mine being a postgraduate course in institutional management at London University’s Institute of Education, after which was another study grant of eight weeks at Surrey U in Guildford for a Staff Development in Higher Education course. Several weeks of attachment at St. Andrews University in Scotland capped the London Institute of Education course.

    Over the years after my studies, I was on the lookout for a research masters in our universities and it seems there is none. A research masters, unlike a taught masters which is course-based, involves learning through research. Surfing the Web gives valuable returns of past and current studies. Working independently, there is much less contact with one’s tutor/supervisor than one would have in a taught masters. One’s research area would be in a specialized field and is a basis in considering one’s university of choice since one’s needed experts as mentors/supervisors are available. Once admitted, a fellow is assigned a tutor who will assist in all aspects of the research process. Together with the tutor, the fellow draws up a reading list. Where to stay in these crucial weeks? Besides one’s dormitory room, the next best is in the library to which dormitories have online connections. In some universities, there is a facility called The Quiet Room used for meditation or reading. Its walls are adorned with mantras and soothing, refreshing, calm images of meadows, clouds, etc. that induce a restful mood. The next weeks are spent on literature review, firming up the conceptual framework, finalizing research instruments, collecting and treating data, analyzing, interpreting and drawing conclusions and recommendations. The Internet not available at that time in the Philippines makes me conclude why it could have been rare that we would have or know of a research masters. Once the research report or thesis is in proper shape, the candidate prepares for a public presentation and an oral defense after which the report is finalized. The research report is reformatted and peer reviewed for journal publication.

    The usual degrees for a research masters are a Master in Philosophy (MPhil) or Master of Research (MRes) — an advanced research-based degree which allows the candidate to focus on a particular topic in-depth and independently, to complete a major research project, which ideally should be within the research agenda of the home university or in a new field in which the home university has a stake. A Master of Arts (MA) or artium magister as at Harvard, is “usually awarded in disciplines categorized as arts or social sciences, such as communications, education, languages, linguistics, literature, geography, history and music. A Master of Science (MS/MSc) (scientiae magister) is usually awarded in sciences disciplines, such as biology, chemistry, engineering, health and statistics and has a stronger research component.” Such programs could last for 18 months minimum while science studies could take two years or more. A research masters would suit those who consider pursuing a research-based career or focusing on a particular field of study. After which, they could opt for a PhD rather than for a practitioner’s doctorate. <http://www.studential.com/post graduate/study/research-vs-taught-masters>

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    Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, PhD, one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and institutional management experts, held top academic positions at Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) before heading chartered institutions. She studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Great Britain and Japan. An internationalization consultant on call, she is copy editor of the Liceo journals, and professorial lecturer at the Graduate Studies of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro City). Awards include a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the Commission on Higher Education.


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