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Mapping the masters market

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A team of researchers at the University of Stirling has set out to take the pulse of the ELT masters provision in the UK, Claudia Civinini writes. With our experience in compiling huge lists of masters, it doesn’t come as a surprise that such research would attract our attention. In a study funded by the British Council, the team has indexed UK ELT masters provision and elicited students’ opinions on a range of topics related to their programmes. As well as practical guidance for providers and recruiters, the team hopes to develop a theoretical understanding of the student experience, which has been lacking to date for Tesol students.

The study was articulated over three phases. The first one audited all ELT masters courses in the UK with the help of their programme directors, and will be transformed into a list of 144 courses with details of key features. This will be available on the British Council website in the next couple of months. The second part surveyed 500 students at the start of their courses and 350 at the end, gauging expectations and decision-making processes. The third phase consisted of four focus groups with students – two in England, one in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland. The team is still going through the data, but they have shared with the Gazette some interesting insights emerging from their work.


On the providers’ side, the team has some good news. Although the ELT-related masters course provision could be considered overcrowded, the UK has an edge over its US and Australian competitors, as one-year programmes seem to be a pull factor for international students.

However, the student body has changed over the years, and the researchers urge providers to know their students well and make sure they offer what they ask for. Compared to the past, more and more pre-service teachers choose courses that were before populated only by experienced teachers. The team said that students are starting to see ELT masters as an ‘entry level qualification’ into the teaching profession. This shows also in the modules that students choose: practical and pedagogical modules are the most popular; apart from second language acquisition, only one theoretical module (research methodology) made it into the top 10. The study will be published soon on the British Council’s website – maybe in time for Iatefl.

Picture: Dr Vander Viana , Prof Fiona Copland and Dr David Bowker, part of the research team.