Thanks to Loris Lysiotis, Student Recruitment and Study Abroad Officer at the London School of Economics and Political Science, for a very illuminating talk about applying for graduate programmes at the LSE. We learned a lot in a relatively short time about the 125 year history and famous alumni and visiting lecturers who have, and still do play a part in the life of LSE to make it the unique place that it is today.
Founded in 1895 by the Fabian Society, the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) specialises in researching and teaching social sciences, with 25 academic departments covering anything from accounting and anthropology to sociology and statistics, and a number of academic disciplines, including international relations, having been pioneered at the LSE.
The LSE was created to study the causes of inequality and poverty as well as issues of governance, which remains very much the basis of the way it conducts both its teaching and research to this day – looking at the big problems the world faces and how best to find the solutions which will make a better society.
At the very heart of London, next to Covent Garden, all teaching and learning takes place on what is a very compact area, meaning no long journeys to classes! The LSE library has over 4 million printed items over five floors, so is really an immense resource for research and studying. Also on campus are a doctor, dentist, cafes and restaurants, as well as a very active students’ union. The LSE careers service has very close links with many of the big employers in the City.
There are 13 graduate residences at LSE which are not directly on the campus. If you don’t manage to secure a room there, LSE will help you find a suitable alternative.
The LSE has nurtured a number of Nobel Prize winners who sometimes return to give lectures, and LSE academics have published hundreds of books and articles across the social sciences, so you can interact with leading authors in your discipline. Many act as advisors to governments, corporations and NGOs.
With 11,000 students in total, 70% from outside the UK, there are 6,000 graduate students, 80% of this group being from overseas. There are over 140 graduate programmes to choose from in the 25 academic departments, and 40% of their staff are also ’international’. LSE is a member of the University of London which means that if you join LSE you automatically gain access to many resources at other member universities, such as UCL and KCL.
With students from over 140 countries LSE is very international and there are many student societies based on language and / or cultural interests. In terms of your studies LSE also has regional research centres so, for example, you may be studying international relations but have a specific interest in a particular region or country, in which case you can find courses tailored to this area of interest.
Amongst the 25 academic departments, as well as the more obvious ones such as economics there are also more specialist departments like economic history, the European Institute and gender studies. The Language Centre offers 10 languages which are taught as ‘extras’, including languages for social scientists which are directly relevant to your studies.
The vast majority of Master’s programmes, like elsewhere in the UK, last one year full-time. Executive programmes are for people with a number of years of work experience – basically Master’s programmes which tend to be delivered very flexibly or part-time, and sometimes without needing to be in London.
One other interesting type of Master’s is the double and joint programmes, where you do one year at LSE and one at a partner university. At the end you obtain two Master’s degrees, one from LSE and one from the partner university. Partner university details can be found on the LSE website.
To find out more detail about all the programmes on offer including recommended reading lists, it is very important to spend time on the LSE website to ensure that before you apply you know exactly what you want to apply for, and why.
Generally, you will take a number of year-long and half year courses with some compulsory and some optional modules. Lectures can have a large number of students attending, seminars being much smaller with between 8 to 15 students in a class. There are three terms with teaching taking place in the first two.
The third, summer term, is reserved for revision and exams, but also in the vast majority of cases you will also be needing to complete your dissertation. This can be between 8000 to 15000 words, depending upon the programme. For some programmes you may need to complete a project. The relevant information for all programmes can be found on the LSE website.
You can expect to be spending around 15 hours per week in lectures and seminars, with about 20 hours guided independent study, doing things like presentations, essays and group projects, so you need to be very self-motivated.
There are MPhil/Phd and MRes/PhD programmes and these are both integrated programmes. This means the MPhil and MRes components must be taken at the beginning and cannot be ‘skipped’. The main difference between these two is that the MRes is more like a ‘regular’ Master’s with taught elements and dissertation to be submitted at the end of the year. MRes/PhD programmes tend to be a little longer (4 to 6 years) than MPhil/PhD programmes (3 to 4 years), depending upon the specific programme. Make sure to do your research to make sure you understand exactly what you want to apply for!
You will have a lead supervisor and need to spend around 40 hours per week on your research project. As well as your academic department and supervisor, LSE has a PhD Academy to offer additional support when carrying out your research, as well as professional development, as not all PhDs want to become academics. LSE is keen to help you succeed beyond your academic research.
By the end of your Programme you will submit a PhD thesis of between 80,000 to 100,000 words.
Take a thorough look at the LSE website for all programme details and entrance requirements. There are also ‘country pages’ with information concerning how your qualifications etc equate to UK standards.
You can only apply for two programmes at the same time, so the very first step is for you to narrow down your choices to those two programmes. The same can apply for PhDs, so make sure you do your homework!
The ‘Statement of Academic Purpose’
A very important part of the application process is submitting your ‘Statement of Academic Purpose’. This can generally be two to three pages in which you can tell selectors about why you find certain modules in LSE’s programmes interesting, how they connect to your previous studies and what you expect to learn and achieve in your time at LSE. Again, check the word limits for the Statement for the programme you want to apply for. Some have stricter word limits than others!
If you apply for two programmes, you will need to submit two statements, one for each. If you are applying for a PhD programme, in the vast majority of cases, you will need to submit a detailed research proposal, outlining exactly what you want to research, as well as a sample of your work (e.g. an English essay written at university). Make sure you check the requirements for your programme before you start your application!
Applications for all LSE graduate programmes open in October each year, and they have ‘rolling’ admissions, which means they remain open until all spaces have been filled. Generally this doesn’t happen before January or February, but the earlier you apply, the more chance you have of getting a place!
Interviews are not required for Master’s programmes. For PhD applications your written application will determine whether you get to the interview stage. This is why your ‘Statement of Academic Purpose’ is so important. The necessary academic prerequisites can be found on the website, but a good 2:1 or equivalent first degree for Master’s programmes is the general rule (for Economics a First Class).
For a PhD programme in the vast majority of cases you need to either have a Master’s degree or be studying for one at the time of applying.
Scholarships and Awards
Do your research on the LSE website about LSE funding. There is no kind of separate application format. When you apply you submit your application for your programme(s) and then once you get access to the online system there is a financial support application which you need to complete. You will then be considered for all funding you are eligible for from LSE.
External scholarships etc may have their own processes and deadlines so be sure to do your research well in advance!
Check out the LSE website for more information about country and departmental awards, as well as PhD studentships etc which can cover tuition fees and an annual stipend to help with other expenses.