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lindsey_elizabeth

Brandeis Heller vs University of Edinburgh vs Uppsala University

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Hey!

I was recently admitted to Brandeis University (M.A. in Sustainable International Development), University of Edinburgh (MSc in International Development), and Uppsala University (M.S. in Sustainable Development). The programs are pretty different and I'm having a difficult time deciding between the three. I think I'd eventually like to work with an intergovernmental or nonprofit organization in fair trade or corporate social responsibility. I'm particularly interested in human rights (and sustainability, but mainly human rights) within the garment industry but am keeping an open mind as I start my graduate studies. 

I'm curious how each of the programs is viewed by potential employers and those in the development world. For those who graduated from one of the programs, was it easy to find a job after graduation?

I'm also interested in hearing thoughts on one-year vs two-year programs. I'm leaning towards the University of Edinburgh but am a little concerned that one year might not be enough time to prepare me for a career in international development. There are quite a few extracurriculars, and I have some time to figure out what exactly I'd like to do before the program starts, but I'd still only be able to take two core courses and four electives. I'm not sure it's enough considering I have no background in development. The other programs are both two years.

For anyone who graduated from one of these programs, what were the pros and cons?

I have to make a decision within the next few days and I'm completely torn. Any input from other applicants or graduates of the programs would be amazing :) 

Edited by lindsey_elizabeth

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Hey there.

I'm going to Lund U. for Int. Development and Management.

Before making my decision I talked to people with Masters level education in development who were working for INGOs, and the consensus was to choose whatever program will give you the most opportunities for international fieldwork during the program, and that offers the greatest amount of skill development. If your not a doctor or an engineer you need some hard skills to get a decent job in the field. Lund's program is founded on both knowledge and statistical analysis, research design, GIS, and program management in combination with a 20 week field placement and a thesis, which allows me to get all of the above plus the opportunity to deepen my knowledge in a particular specialization. In order to check all those boxes I needed a two year program. If you have no background in development a one year program may not be good enough just because you won't be able to get summer or semester internships in the field.

However sometimes the only difference between you getting a particular job is a masters degree listed on your CV. And if you've had conversations with people at the UN or consulting groups etc. and you fundamentally have the skills but just need that credential, go for the one year program.

It sounds like your indecision mostly comes from not knowing what you want to focus on yourself. Note that Corporate Social Responsibility, Fair trade, Sustainability Sciences, and Human rights are literally different fields, even though all may overlap with sustainable development topically. You'll do CSR if you join a private sector consultation regardless, so I would exclude that from the decision making process. You're not going to get much human rights advocacy skills out of any of those options; you'd need a M.P.P. or a M. International Relations degree. So I would exclude that possibility too from your decision. Now you're down to deciding on programs that either have an emphasis on fair trade or sustainability sciences. Check the faculty and which schools have the strongest Econ and Geography or Env/Ag Science professors that actually teach in your program. If they have examples of either or both, and offer the skill development you need, go for that one.

 

Edited by Indevmng

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Congratulations on Lund! I applied to Lund as well and was placed on the wait list. Their program looks great but considering how far down I am on the list I'm not very optimistic about my chances of being admitted. 

My indecision definitely comes from not knowing what I'd like to focus on. I think it's going to be hard to choose a specialization until I start taking some classes in the field. For that reason, it would be nice to have some options and flexibility within my graduate program. Brandeis and Edinburgh seem to offer that flexibility but I'm worried that Uppsala is too science-heavy. If I knew I wanted to focus on something like environmental conservation or climate change, it would be perfect, but I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to that yet. If I want to take courses in topics like social justice or gender and development, I would have to take them through another department. I'm not sure how feasible that is and I think that by doing that I might be trying to make the program into something it's not.

I'm actually considering the possibility of an M.P.P. or an M.P.A. after graduating and the one-year MSc at Edinburgh might provide the perfect foundation for that. Edinburgh does offer quite a few extracurriculars that would complement my studies (e.g. seminars and work through the Global Development Academy). Students have the opportunity to pursue self-led individually created coursework, which would allow me to gain credits for volunteer work or an internship, and they have a work-based placement option (through which students have the option to go overseas) for the dissertation period as well. So it's possible to get a well-rounded education and development experience with an international organization, it will just take some serious planning and time management (which isn't a bad thing). Still, I wish I could take a few more courses.

My main concern about Brandeis is its international reputation. I'm not sure how strong their alumni network is and I feel like it may not be as well-known globally since it's a smaller school. There's no doubt that it would provide me with a well-rounded education in development studies, and the school itself is rooted in social justice (which is great), but I don't think it has the brand name that Edinburgh does. I can pursue international fieldwork through any of the three programs but Brandeis offers the most opportunity to gain that experience I think.

Do you have a background in international development already? And did anyone you spoke to mention the importance of graduating from a well-known institution?

Thanks so much for the advice and input. I have a lot of soul-searching to do over the next couple days!

Edited by lindsey_elizabeth

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Yeah I can't speak to Uppsala's course structure but Lund is very rigid, there are no electives so if you need some flexibility to explore your interests, that has to be taken into consideration. Luckily Lund offers a foundation in public health, economic development, natural resource management, and rural v urban poverty, so I felt that it covered all my bases.

I have some international work and project experience in Haiti and the Philippines, but not a substantial amount, so getting more through my program was a priority. The thesis option then allows me to develop some specialized knowledge as well. The people I talked to: 

M.A. at London School of Economics -> UNDP

McGill -> UNEP

Lund U. -> Human rights watch group in Honduras.

What I took away from those conversations is that brand value offsets deficits in international experience because the employer, while not necessarily knowing how you might perform in the field, knows at least that you have the steel to get admitted and succeed in a rigorous and competitive academic setting. The girl I talked to who went to LSE actually mentioned that the most valuable part of her experience was connecting with a organization she interned with via her academic network, and that provided her with the real skills she needed to be in demand; the reputation of her school was more helpful in securing that first internship then it was in securing her future employment.

Of course you have to evaluate these decisions in terms of cost-benefit, because school ain't free. My friend from McGill doesn't have a masters, she just went to the middle east and started asking for work from organizations. Some people agree, especially if you're not sure what you want to do in the first place, that your best bet is to get the international experience and explore your interests just by going out there and volunteering/working. She compressed 10 years of career development into 2 and is managing medium sized projects now.

Check Brandeis' statistics on the percentage of people working in their field after graduation and within the first year, and check Linkedin to see what people have graduated from those programs are doing now. It often gives you a decent idea of what kind of preparation the program can provide for you, and how much the reputation is working for or against them.

 

 

Edited by Indevmng

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This insight has been incredibly helpful. I actually had to make a decision by today and I chose Edinburgh. I did take a look at the faculty members at each university that teach the required courses and the electives I'm particularly interested in. I found that the research interests of the faculty members at Edinburgh best align with my own and I feel like it's going to be a very good fit for me academically. Edinburgh seems to offer many of the experiences and opportunities that the other universities do, the school just relies on students to take the initiative rather than requiring them as part of the curriculum (which, at the graduate level, I don't think is a bad thing). Between the required coursework, electives, and extracurricular activities, it's possible to get a well-rounded education in development studies and I think it will serve as a solid foundation for a career in development or further studies. Plus, I'll be done in a year, which as you mentioned has some nice financial benefits. 

It's pretty impressive that your friend from McGill managed to get her foot in the door by moving to the middle east and getting in touch with development organizations. With the exception of some highly specialized fields that require an advanced degree, work experience seems to be the best way to break into any career. If it were eight years ago and I had just graduated from college, I might do the same thing. I think I'm too old for that now though!

Have you been to Lund? I went to Copenhagen with my boyfriend last spring and we took a day trip to Malmo and Lund. It's a really pretty town and there's a lot of great stuff nearby (like Copenhagen). Two years there (or I guess one and a half with the field placement) is going to pretty amazing.

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Sounds like you came to a solid conclusion. Congrats! You're gonna get a great education there.

I haven't been to Lund or Malmo before! I've spent a little bit of time in Copenhagen and Stockholm, so I have a vague idea about what to expect. Just got to get myself ready for 2pm sunsets for the winter.

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Haha you and me both. During an information session here a while ago, they mentioned that Edinburgh is on the same latitude as Moscow and my boyfriend will not stop talking about it. You'll just have to go somewhere warm during your second year so that you can escape some of the winter months. There's something about being in such a cold place that's nice though too. It kind of unites everyone since you're all in it together. We were in Lund for Walpurgis Night at the end of April and the whole town celebrates the start of spring with music, drinks in the park, and a bonfire. It's definitely a lively town and small enough that you should be able to meet people really easily. Everyone we met was incredibly nice and friendly. My favorite coffee ever comes from a town about 45 minutes away so you'll get to take lots of good fika breaks too. It's called Koppi and I'm sure it's all over Malmo and Lund. You're going to have such a great experience!

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Hello Friends,

Greeting from SE Asia. I am Susan from Myanmar.

Have anyone heard of SID program of Brandeis University (Heller School)? I applied to that program since 7th January and admission team emailed me that I need to wait four to six weeks after admission deadline  (15th January) . As more than 5 weeks after I had applied to that program, I am really stressful for waiting the admission results.

Furthermore, I get success in scholarship to support my study at Heller but I need to promptly submit admission acceptance from Heller school. I am so worried since I don't wanna lose any chance to extend my education in America. I tried so hard to get success in applying scholarship and now admission acceptance from Heller school is he last thing I need to make my dreams come true. I don't know how to do with delay.

Any suggestion and thoughts would be helpful.

Thank you!

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