Q&A with a Masters student in Paris
Will Lobo is doing a Masters degree in Public Policy and Development at Paris School of Economics, or École d'Économie de Paris (PSE). We asked him some questions so that you can find out all about the benefits of doing a Masters abroad, the costs involved and the opportunities it opens up...
- 1. What made you decide to do an Masters abroad? And why the country and location you chose in particular?
- 2. How can doing an Masters abroad be advantageous? In contrast to an undergraduate degree or exchange, for example.
- 3. What are the extracurricular benefits of doing an Masters degree abroad?
- 4. What about the costs and admin of setting up abroad for a Masters, and general costs in Paris?
1. What made you decide to do an Masters abroad? And why the country and location you chose in particular?
Of course a number of factors contributed to my decision to study at Paris School of Economics (PSE) for my Masters degree. My primary reasons were the strength of the university and of the course, particularly in my fields of interest. The contrasting approach to UK higher education, however, was also a key consideration. We typically have around 22 hours of contact time per week (which is almost double what I would expect in most top UK economics Masters programmes) and the class size is just 20 which makes classes much more interactive. The approach taken by the PSE, and more widely in French higher education, is much closer to the school system than what we recognise as a university education. I find this combination of lots of contact time and small classes with top researchers to be much more conducive to learning although I appreciate that people have different preferences for learning styles. I believe that Dutch universities also makes use of problem sets much more than UK universities do.
France also appealed to me as I had great experiences living in Lille and Toulouse during the Erasmus study abroad year of my undergraduate degree. Paris is a city that I had visited several times but in which I had always wanted to live for some time. The Masters degree provided a perfect opportunity to do so. The Masters programme hasn’t allowed time to explore Paris to the extent that I would like to but having lived here for seven months now I am getting to know la capitale and indulging in my fair share of ‘library tourism’ (be sure to visit Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève if you are in Paris – the library from the film Hugo). Although the course is taught almost exclusively in English, living in Paris obviously presents many opportunities to improve my French.
Finally, the extremely low costs of the Masters helped me to make my decision. The two-year economics Masters at the London School of Economics currently costs over £40,000. My two-year programme at Paris School of Economics costs €500 in tuition fees.
2. How can doing an Masters abroad be advantageous? In contrast to an undergraduate degree or exchange, for example.
Studying for a Masters abroad can help students to develop a unique profile. I think that the Erasmus programme is a brilliant scheme and last year there were over 13,000 students from the UK who took part in it. At postgraduate level, however, there are only around 2,000 Brits studying in continental Europe. I am the only British student in my year group at the PSE and so I know that no-one else will have the same educational background as me. A Masters abroad really helps you to stand out.
Typically a Masters degree is predominantly a taught course, but bridges the gap between undergraduate learning and academic research. A Masters thesis is a substantial piece of work and it can be a great advantage to be supervised by a world leading researcher in your particular field. At postgraduate level a student’s particular interests are likely to be more narrowly defined, and so extending your horizons to Europe rather than the UK may allow you to identify and work with the leading academics in your particular field of research.
Photo of Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève by Raphaël Chekroun
3. What are the extracurricular benefits of doing an Masters degree abroad?
I was fortunate to be selected to attend the Franco-British Finance Summit in March which included an opportunity to meet the British Ambassador to France, Sir Peter Ricketts, at his stunning residence in Paris. I was able to attend this summit because of my connections to both Britain and France and was a very engaging and exciting weekend.
Inevitably the largest group by nationality on most Masters programmes is that of the home country. Half of my Masters classmates are French and the other half from elsewhere (South America, Senegal, Vietnam, Italy…). This offers opportunities to develop very strong friendships with both French natives and with people from all over the world.
We have been very lucky to have been offered accommodation in the wonderful Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris - CIUP. This is a collection of stunning student residences which house over 7,000 postgraduate students, athletes and musicians in the south of Paris. The Cité Internationale offers an unrivalled opportunity to mix with people from all over the world and to learn from and about other cultures.
4. What about the costs and admin of setting up abroad for a Masters, and general costs in Paris?
As noted above, postgraduate tuition fees in Europe are often far below those in the UK but there is huge variation. For the top economics schools fees range from around €250 per year at Paris School of Economics, and similar at Toulouse School of Economics, to around €12,000 at Barcelona Graduate School of Economics and Sciences Po in Paris. In terms of admin, France has a certain reputation and university applications are not exempt here so I would recommend starting to put together your applications well in advance of the deadlines.
Paris is of course an expensive city in terms of accommodation and other living costs, but students are often eligible for CAF subsidies on their accommodation. CAF is, however, a complex beast and bear in mind that income in the preceding year significantly cuts your CAF entitlement.