It is the desire of every postgraduate student to complete his/her studies within the stipulated time. But this is not the case in most tertiary institutions particularly in Science and Engineering based courses. This is due to a number of challenges which emerge in due course of the studies. Therefore, to complete the postgraduate studies in stipulated time it is important to have prior information on the following;
1. Source of funds
A postgraduate student has three alternatives to fund his/her studies; self-funding, partial scholarship/sponsorship or full scholarship. Whichever the source of funding, it is good to have a financial plan for the entire study period to avoid delays due to unavailability of funds. The minimum tuition fees for Masters and PhD Programmes is 1800USD and 4000USD respectively per academic year depending on the institution and whether the student is a citizen or non-citizen.
2. Course requirements
Carefully check whether you meet all the requirements for the course you intend to pursue and the area you will specialize in. Once you fulfill the requirements identify the area of interest in your post graduate course. For example if you are interested in MSc (Public Health) there are various sub-fields of specialization namely; Epidemiology, Community Health, International Health, Health Policy and Management among others. Note that areas of specialty vary from one institution to another.
3. University staff research interests
A postgraduate supervisor plays a big role in timely and successful completion of your postgraduate course. It is important that your research interests match with those of your intended supervisor(s). Moreover, there should be more than one supervisor in your research area so that incase the one supervising you leaves the university, you have an alternative in supervision of your work.
4. Availability of research facilities
Currently, most research institutions have websites. Do a thorough check of the facilities available. If possible make a visit to the institution and interact with the staff in charge of the research facilities and find out more based on your interest.
5. Mode of study and course duration
It is good to familiarize yourself with the mode of study (fulltime or part-time) and the duration of the postgraduate course you intend to undertake in a given institution. For Master’s degree program it is 2 academic years; either 1 academic year of course work and examinations followed by 1 academic year of research or 2 academic years of course work, examination and a research project. For a PhD Program; it takes 3 to 4 years (full-time) or up to 6 years (part-time). Assessment for a PhD Program can be purely research work or coursework, examination and dissertation.
6. University policies
Go through the policies of the university. They provide guidelines and procedures for compliance in a particular course. There are various policy guidelines on funding, research, data protection, equity, diversity and inclusion among others.
7. Personal interests
Having the passion in pursuing a given course is of great importance. It will give one the strength to overcome the challenges that may arise in due course of the studies. A research area of interest is identified from the courses which were the most interesting to you in your undergraduate studies or the questions you feel they still need to be answered despite completing the courses. You should be able to make a balance between social life and academic work.
8. Career opportunities on successful completion of the course
Available career opportunities will enable you make the best decision in the areas to focus on during your studies/research. Depending on your interest, upon successful completion of the course you can join industry or join teaching and research.
A report done by Frank Elgar on PhD Degree Completion in Canadian Universities indicated that only about half of all students enrolled in PhD programs actually complete the course admitted. The report is available at;
Could this be the case in most institutions of higher learning? Remember; once you are enrolled in the postgraduate course always develop a good rapport with your supervisors. Give the studies all the attention that is required and you will finally be in that graduation gown!