• June 3rd, 2020

Postgraduate students should specialise in areas of interest

Professor Jairos Kangira

It is common that some people suffer from indecision when it comes to whether they are prepared to enrol for a higher qualification or not. The indecision is coupled by not knowing exactly what field or area they actually want to specialise in at postgraduate level. 

Sometimes the long time spent out of university after the completion of the first degree or graduate degree adds to the confusion and indecisiveness. Lack of proper guidance has affected many students who enrol for wrong postgraduate degrees, at master’s and doctoral levels.  This has had devastating results.

Other students enrol for a postgraduate degree simply because they have learnt from friends and the grapevine that that the degree programme is popular. Sometimes the word of mouth is powerful and deceiving. Such students take an impulsive decision and take the programme. The programme might not have strict entry requirements and this is common in generic master’s programmes. Universities use various means of advertisements that entice students to apply for postgraduate degrees. Some of the adverts are so appealing that they short-circuit the reasoning of prospective students. Before they know it, students become culprits of the ornamental language of advertising, especially in electronic adverts.

When a student enrols for a postgraduate programme that does not match his or her honours degree, or master’s degree, chances of passing that degree programme are reduced. In this case, the progress the student makes is sluggish. Some students take longer than the normal time to complete their degree programmes, if at all they do. There are some students who have spent several years studying for their master’s and doctoral degrees, and abandoning their studies because they made a bad choice from the beginning. 

Another problem that hampers progress in postgraduate studies is some students’ unrealistic ambition. There is need to be practical in approach to postgraduate studies. Some students force themselves into a postgraduate degree because a friend, relative or workmate has registered for it. It is important to consider the fact that situations differ. It is not a crime if you do not register for a postgraduate programme that some of your acquaintances have registered for. It is a fact that naturally, some individuals can go as far as grade 12 or first degree or master’s degree only. If you are such a person, do not make your life miserable by doing what is beyond your capability. Be realistic and contented with whatever level you have reached. Competition for the sake of competition can have disastrous effects.

In order to guarantee success at postgraduate level, students are advised to take up programmes of their interest and which  have something to do with what they covered in the their undergraduate or master’s degrees. A student who studied an honours degree in linguistics, for instance, may want to pursue a master’s degree in the same field. It would be a misnomer for the linguistics student to take a master’s degree programme in business administration or in history. It is proper for the student to pursue a postgraduate degree in linguistics. When it comes to research in linguistics, the student might have a passion of ‘syntactic complexity’. Another student in linguistics might have an interest in ‘transitivity’; yet another in ‘phonetics and phonology.”  The three hypothetical students used here have taken areas they enjoy researching on. Their chances of successfully completing their degree programmes are high. 

Careful planning complements ‘interest’ in a postgraduate programme. Most students who succeed in their postgraduate studies plan their studies in advance. Whey have registered for the studies, they work systematically with their supervisors and complete their studies in record time. These students submit their work timeously to their supervisors. When supervisors are happy with the work, they provide immediate feedback. In the end, this process becomes of great benefit to the student.

As discussed above, the key words which should guide the choice of a postgraduate programme are ‘interest’ and passion’ about the discipline and the specific area of research when writing a dissertation or thesis. People should not use the bandwagon mentality when it comes to deciding whether to enrol for a postgraduate programme or not. It does not pay dividends.

Professor Jairos Kangira is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia. He writes on his own accord. 
Email address: kjairos@gmail.com

Staff Reporter
2019-08-16 08:13:23 | 9 months ago

Be the first to post a comment...