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RWTH Master of Science English Taught Programs


cookd2

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When I was looking into which school to attend about this time last year, I didnt find any real information about RWTH's Master of Science English taught programs. I've put together an overview of everything I've noticed so far. Hopefully this will help people make their decisions in the future.

RWTH Aachen International Academy - Aachen, Germany

Master Program – M.Sc. Production System Engineering – Review

My Background:

I graduated from a technical school in the US with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. I finished in the top 35% of my class and showed consistent improvement of my GPA throughout my studies there. Upon graduation I applied to a few graduate programs for my M.Sc. in mechanical engineering. I was admitted to RWTH’s M.Sc. Production Systems Engineering program and decided to attend.

In addition to my studies, I completed a 6 month full time internship, and a subsequent 18 month part time internship (while attending classes) at a machine tool design firm.

After graduation I also completed a 9 week full time internship at a laboratory equipment design firm.

Program Overview:

The information presented about the program framed it as a program to teach various manufacturing management methods, and also some technical aspects of manufacturing (equipment design as well as process design). Overall I would say this is true. These classes are focused on tools to help modern engineers solve problems, as well as increasing their technical knowledge of manufacturing (namely machining and machine design).

Cost:

The cost of the program is EUR3700 per semester. While this is quite inexpensive compared to US standards, I was surprised to find out that German students (who take the same courses we do) pay only EUR500 per semester. The argument is that the International Academy assists its students in a way that RWTH does not assist the German students. Aside from the occasional help with some bureaucratic issues with the city or the university, I don’t see where (all) this extra money goes. Perhaps a semester fee of EUR1000 is more appropriate.

First Impressions:

I was quite surprised when I first found out how German classes were taught. The semester is about 15 weeks long (in total, you will probably have 13-14 lectures for each class). During the semester, there are no mid terms, no homework, no projects, and no group projects. Your entire grade is based on one final exam per class. Additionally, there are three main courses in the PSE program that are split up into two parts over two semesters. The (single) exam for each of these courses covers both semesters of material. To be honest, this was disappointing to me. I have always been someone who learns more from practical experience mixed in with lectures or theory. This was the main reason I decided to leave the program and transfer my credits to another school.

The problem with the single-exam system that is set up in these classes is that you end up being required to “learn to take the exam” and not being required to “learn to understand.” It is especially apparent during the examination months. I was fortunate enough to have my exams spread out over a month with at least a few days in between each exam. However, what I noticed is that while I’m studying and memorizing everything I can for one exam, the second I leave the exam room, my mind switches focus to the next exam – and nearly all from the previous exam is forgotten.

Teaching:

RWTH is full of smart people and smart professors. This was never an issue during lectures. The professors know the material well and can answer any questions you have about the topic in great detail. It is clear that they are passionate about what they are teaching.

There are, however, occasions where the professors will not show up to a lecture and you’ll be left to learn from an assistant. While they, understandably, cannot be expected to have the same level of knowledge as a senior professor, it is still disappointing when we pay eight times more than the regular German students, that the professors are not required to show up to all lectures.

Level of difficulty:

The classes taught as part of the PSE program seem to be on the Bachelor’s level. Although they are not easy per say, they tend to teach towards memorization rather than understanding. Since this is my only experience in graduate school, take this next statement with a grain of salt, however: It has been my understanding that the major difference between graduate school and undergraduate school is supposed to be the level at which the professors expect you to understand the material being taught. Bachelor students need to be able to recite the material, more or less, and master students need to be able to explain the theory behind the material. I did not/have not seen this distinction in courses at RWTH.

Notes/Lecture material:

All the classes are accompanied by PowerPoint slides with notes written underneath them explaining the content of the slide. These are translations from German material, but there have only been (quite literally) maybe 10-15 slides (out of hundreds) where the translation was an issue.

Although I would prefer to have a course accompanied by a text book, as it tends to provide a more organized solution to accompany lectures, the PowerPoint slides suffice.

Administration:

The Master office is in charge of helping you be successful during your stay at RWTH Aachen. And as far as I can tell, they are the sole reason that you pay an additional EUR3200 per semester. Needless to say, they are more than willing to help you with any issues you have – be it Visas, residence permits, finding an apartment or anything else associated with studying abroad.

There is also a course coordinator for each of the four master programs. They serve as the people who tell you what courses you need to take, what electives are appropriate, and I assume they can also help you find a thesis when it comes time to write one.

Concluding Thoughts:

Obviously, since I have decided to transfer to another school, I am unhappy with this program. There is too much of a focus on strictly theory and academics that I’m afraid I cannot say this is a practical degree for someone to pursue unless they are planning on continuing towards their Ph.D. For someone (like myself) who was, and is, planning on entering industry after master studies, a more practical, hands on program would be much more appropriate.

So, if you’re the kind of person that enjoys studying and learning strictly from lectures and reading, and plans to continue on to doctoral studies, then this program is for you. However, if you’re looking for a terminal degree to “bridge the gap” between your bachelor studies and industry, I would definitely suggest looking at M.Eng. programs or other similar programs at other schools. They tend to be project based, and will ultimately be more beneficial for your career.

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  • 1 month later...

My god. This was so spot on for how RWTH is running their graduate program for MSc. Media Informatics, I wish you wrote this last year! At least you have the luxury at staying in Aachen, with Media Informatics, we coordinate between the University of Bonn and Franhofer. In fact, we were instructed to live in Bonn our first year even though every course we can take in Aachen. Then every Friday, we have to travel 2 hours for German class on Friday - which I am taking in Bonn now. By living in Bonn, there is no way I can set up appointments with professors or the teacher assistants for any question I might have without missing out on another class.

I am extremely disappointed with the fact they do not put any emphasis on any textbooks, instead pure memorization of slides and scripts (if available[which is a mini-textbook containing bare essentials]). This places unbearable expectations of actually learning anything because they do not provide contextual background or sufficient examples that properly convey the material. When I asked if they can supply a textbook so I can actually follow along, I was literally asked why. The answer to that is simple - I cannot remember everything said in class.

The level of difficulty in my opinion is unrealistic and unmanageable. How can I claim I know to properly calculate on the exam 'The Phong Lighting Model' if all I am being shown is an equation which may or may not have every variable properly defined in the notes and the example is a picture of the result?

How the examinations are currently presented is another sore subject. My examinations were interlaced with lectures and final projects that needed to be completed (P/F) in order to take the final examination. I had to study for 3 exams in 4 days and present a final project for another course in the same week. So, coordination with other departments from the other universities and classes is essentially unheard of.These 'assignments' mean nothing other than to get you to the final exam which unfortunately does not properly reflect what you had to perform in class.

You got screwed over on the cost, I only paid 700€ unless taking DSH is not a mandatory for your graduate degree.

If you have not left yet and want to have a beer, send me a PM.

Edited by trooper09
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