University application news

Following on from my news on Facebook and Twitter recently that I had not been accepted onto the MSc course I recently applied for I have subsequently received better news. As you know, in November I wrote about applying to do an MSc at the University of Manchester after attending a postgraduate open day. I completed this application and submitted it at the end of January once I had secured the various academic and professional references I required. It was all submitted online and I received a receipt for it and it gave me a link and a login to a website through which I could check the progress of my application.

However, they didn’t indicate how long I should expect to wait for news on my application, whether that news was good or bad. After a couple of weeks I called the postgraduate admissions department and asked them when I should expect a reply either way and they told me to just keep checking the website, any developments, progress or requests for further information would be posted there.

And so I did, for a further four weeks. All the while during this time it was of course impossible to make any long term plans beyond September and I was turning down a number of work opportunities because they would have interfered with the university course was I to be accepted on it. So after six weeks I’d decided that I’d had enough of this and sent the postgraduate admissions department an e-mail asking why it was taking so long for them to reply to my application and explained why this delay was causing me problems.

They wrote back the next day informing me that I had not been successful in my application because the course entry requirements require a 2(i) bachelors  degree and I only have a 2(ii). I was of course fully aware of this requirement before I applied, but you may remember from my previous post on the subject that I was advised by a member of the computer science department’s staff that my industrial experience would be taken into account to compensate for my 2(ii) degree award. Had I not been told this I wouldn’t have bothered applying in the first place.

Naturally, I wasn’t particularly happy about this, and so once I’d calmed down and finished ranting about it on Facebook I composed this balanced and wholly reasonable e-mail back to them:

Many thanks for your prompt reply.

While I expect have no choice but to accept the decision of the admissions department, I would like to draw your attention to a couple of issues and would invite your comments and advice on them.

Firstly, I was of course fully aware of the published entry requirements for the MSc in Advanced Computer Science and IT Management before I submitted my application. The reason why I proceeded with my application was because I attended the Postgraduate Open Day in November, when I had the opportunity of speaking with a member of staff from the Department of Computer Science. She advised that although I only had a 2(ii) bachelors degree my considerable industry experience gained since graduating in 1999 would also be taken into account.

Are you able to confirm whether or not this was taken into account, as advised, or was the decision purely made based on my BSc award? Had I know that what the lady I spoke to said was not true, or had I been told outright that my application would not be considered with a 2(ii) bachelors degree, I would not have submitted an application in the first place and used my time and effort considering other options. In this regard I consider that you have wasted my time and given me false hope.

Furthermore, if it was a simple case of refusing my application based on this one factor, it would have been very useful if you could have informed me of this decision earlier, rather than six weeks after my application was submitted and only after I pressed the issue with you. With respect, it is unreasonable to expect people to wait ad-infinitum for a decision as it is difficult to plan based on unknown factors.

I look forward to hearing from you with any comments you may have on this matter.

It took a couple of days for them to reply, but the reply came and informed me that industrial experience is only taken into account if you want to apply to do the MSc on a part-time basis rather than a full-time basis over just one year and that this should have been made clear to me at the open day (it wasn’t). They then offered to convert my application to a part-time application, to which I agreed.

The good news is that a few days later I was offered a place on part-time course and today the formal offer letter arrived. It’s the same course with the same content, but taught over a period of up to four years rather than just one, so it depends on what sort of time commitment you can make around your other commitments. The more time you can commit the less time it will take to complete the course, so it’s ideal for people like me who work for themselves rather than having a full time job.

When I was initially not accepted onto the full-time version of the course I did look for “plan B” study options at other institutions around the country. Unfortunately it seems that nowhere else in the country does a masters course with management elements such as the MSc from Manchester, so it’s either that course or a straight computer science course elsewhere. In all respects the Manchester course is ideal, so I am very glad to have received this news and very much look forward to starting in September.