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decide_aposteriori
02-22-2008, 09:29 AM
I've applied to both UBC and UCL and am wondering which one you would prefer for a masters? My considerations are placement after the masters, rigor of the program, funding, location, and reputation.

FYI, I've been accepted to UCL and will probably have to pay for it. That's not a real problem for me. I just won't be able to really do that the next couple of years so would like to get funding in a PhD program (or get in to a top school and take on massive amounts of debt).

Antonio
02-22-2008, 11:22 AM
go to UCL

decide_aposteriori
02-22-2008, 11:36 AM
Could you elaborate? What would you say are the factors which influence your decision the most on choosing UCL?

Antonio
02-22-2008, 01:08 PM
Ok
From a money point of view, UCL is not that good: very few funding opportunities, high tuitions and London is expensive.
From a "life" viewpoint: London is amazing man!
From the academic point of view(which I think is the most important one): P.Jehiel, O. Attanasio, J. Heckman,W. Carlin and K.Binnmore.
What do you look for?

Antonio
02-22-2008, 01:10 PM
just to clarify...
by UCL I mean University College London.
There is also Universiteé Catholique Louvain.
But I was speaking about the former...

fp3690
02-22-2008, 03:11 PM
If we are talking about University College London, Ken Binmore is affiliated, but stays 4 months a year at Bristol and 4 at Caltech, and I don't think he really deals with anything at UCL. However, to the list above add Blundell and Meghir, and you have a kick *** faculty.

zsla
02-22-2008, 04:38 PM
People know that I like UCL very much. But one must be careful here. If the ultimate goal is to go to US for a PhD, then I think UBC might be better. But, if you wanna stay at the school for PhD after getting the masters degree, of course UCL has a lot more to offer in terms of job placement. Last year UCL made a placement to UBC, but the reverse direction is very hard indeed.

The US PhD issue arises (I think) because of the level of courses taken at the masters degree in both schools. I don't think that MWG is the text at UCL at the masters level. If you stay for Mphil, then you will see MWG a lot at UCl but certainly not in MSc. At UBC, the level of courses are close to PhD I guess (maybe identical). There are Tmians at UBC, they could provide better insight.

There are still risks of not getting admitted to US schools even if you go to UBC. You have to be among the best in your class to get good reference. So, it is another story.

reactor
02-22-2008, 06:19 PM
I got a masters from Canadian school (rival to UBC) and a masters from a UK school (rival to UCL), lol! :D:grad:

First of all congratulations! You are facing a sweet dillema in the sense that both schools are very reputable and you can make no wrong choice!

1) British professors have the reputation of being stingy with letters of recommendation but then 1.a) do US schools know about that and so they adjust their expectations? 1.b) how do non-british professors who teach in british schools behave?

2) You'll spend only a year in the masters so how important can location be? Anyway, I was told from many different and idependent (i.i.d.) people that Vancouver and especially the UBC campus is absolutely beautiful. I have London is unecessarily expensive for me and that is why I simply DON'T like it. It makes me feel poor :(. I depends in your lifestyle;I don't consider alcohol the cornerstone of any "good time" and I had a lot more fun with the people in Canada than the people in UK.
Notes: 2.a) I was told that London is a student city with many students.
2.b) UCL has practically no campus so it is "cityscape" vs "campus".

3) At UBC you will have midterms, 2-3 weeks of Winter break, 1-2 days for Easter break. At UCL (MOST PROBABLY. check it!) you will have NO midterms, perhaps exams only in May, 4 weeks of Winter break and 5 weeks of Easter break! Hurray!
I enjoy the UK system more because it gives me time to manage. I have time to arrange my reading and I don't have every 2 weeks a midterm to prepare for.

4) At UBC you will be graded A,A-,B+,B,B-,C etc, i,e. relatively = "your death is my life" = "every man for himself" etc You will have to beat the average in order to get high grades. On the other hand you are guarranteed that someone will get the high grade (as opposed to a UK class where theoretically there could be no 70%+ grades).

5) Can you stay in Canada or UK and work? (if for some reason you wish to work after the masters) I have been to at least 4 schools (US,Canada and UK) and I have seen students being so tired of professors, the educational system, studying etc that after the masters went to work. Where do you want to work: Canada or UK?

PM me or post here for more or more specfic information.

decide_aposteriori
02-22-2008, 08:07 PM
Great replies everyone!

I would say I'm debating on whether I want to stay in the UK/Europe or go back to the US for a PhD. I really would like to work in the UK/Europe and it sounds like my chances are higher if I go to school at UCL. Also, I think the didactic factor, i.e. how the university teaches the student, that was mentioned is really important. I studied abroad in England and found the system to work well for me ( coming from someone who went to a large public US uni). But, I'm still wondering, overall would it be easier or harder finishing in the top at UBC or UCL (as in University College of London)?

The Canadian system sounds a bit similar to the US (but if anyone would like to correct me, as I don't know how grad school classes in the US are taught). Now this is something I actually don't like. I prefer to be able to tailor my weekly hours of study.

As for lifestyle, I'm not really a drinker (which did cause some moments when I was in England) but I have many wonderful friends in the UK and Europe. However, I'd rather be in Vancouver for all the things you can do outside. On the other hand, does UCL fund their PhD students well? After the masters, would I be able to live semi-comfortably in London? That's something very important to whether I go there.



Lastly, how many letters of rec do I need to get from the masters school when I apply to a PhD program? I think I would still send one or two from my undergraduate school. So, I'd probably only have to find one possibly two professors to write one for me.

Nebuchadrezzar
02-22-2008, 08:18 PM
how would you compare UCL (Msc) and Toulouse (M2) for a person who wants to go to the US (top departments) for a PhD?

reactor
02-22-2008, 10:23 PM
how would you compare UCL (Msc) and Toulouse (M2) for a person who wants to go to the US (top departments) for a PhD?

Ask Asianecon who got a masters in Toulouse. If you start a new thread with your question you'll get more replies.

reactor
02-22-2008, 10:56 PM
to decide_aposteriori:

First of all: Have you applied for housing? If not, apply now! (or at leat have everything ready) Even before you make your decision because it is hard to find housign close to either of the schools. Trust me, you have to do this now.

As concers your decision:

My feeling is that (other things being equal*) it will be easier to be in the top of your class at UCL than at UBC, because (I think):

UBC is one of the top 2 (the other being UofT) Canadian departments (whatever people say Western Ontario and Queens do not match the reputation of UofT or UBC) and thus will attract the best students (who did not go straight for PhD) with academic or professional plans. In UK most econ postgraduate students are international => they might consider Toulouse, Tilburg, Pompeu Fabra, Bocconi etc and other EU schools (apart from Cambridge, Oxford and LSE) => the quality of students at UCL will not be as high (based also on my own experience of Canadian vs UK econ masters students).

Be aware of students with professional plans! In UK these students most probably will go for MSc in Finance, Financial Economics, Finance and Economics (and so on) while in Canada the MSc in Economics still attracts a lot of students with professional plans, and these students can be very competitive!

other thigs being equal*: how well organised are the lecturers? can you find past exam papers? In UK making past exam papers to students is a tradition. When I was in Canada there was a huge premium for "resourcefulness" i.e. finding past exam papers. If however the UK course changed recently past exam papers will be of little help but still the lecturer may give you a "mock/sample exam" but it largerly depends on the lecturer. From what I've seen from a top 5 UK econ masters, both micro and macro where poorly taught because the lecturers where unwilling to help.

There is a chance that at UCL your flatmates will be more friendly and less competitive with each other (because of the grading system) and so you can study with someone (which helps no matter what your level is).

Advice: in the masters you will learn the material in your own study time; from your study. In the lectures you will find out what you need to study, what are you expected to know for the exam etc. Perhaps the lecturer might address few questions, perhaps not. Be prepared to study on your own and discuss questions with your classmates, the lecturers will hardly "teach" you.

Check if UCL econ masters has midterms or december exams. In general, having 4 weeks if winter break and 5 weeks of easter break Term Dates (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/current-students/term-dates/) will give you time to "catch up" and off set a bit or so the poor teaching.

I'm not sure of how much value it is but UBC you will probably have your fall grades sooner.

A friend (and classmate) of mine nearly got ruined at a top Canadian econ MA! He had no time to catch up and with all the midterms and december finals he got mediocre grades. Fortunattely he applied before the grades where available, the schools did not ask for his grades and he got in a top 20 US econ phd with funding and he is excelling!

Out of a miracle, I got good grades and decided that I had enough and changed field.

There is funding for UCL econ PhD students but it is mostly from the Economic and Social Research Council (http://www.esrc.ac.uk/) where the department has a quota (say 10 students) and recommends the strongest students to apply to ESRC for funding (and most probably they get it).

If I was to choose, I would choose UCL because of my study method (I need my time).

decide_aposteriori
02-23-2008, 12:36 AM
thanks reactor!

All of the information is really helpful, reps to you. I am going to have a hard decision once I hear back from UBC. I really love UBCs location but overall I would say I'm leaning towards UCL (and I will start looking for housing soon!). UCL, moreover, states on their website that the PhD takes about 3 years to complete so if I stayed there it would be a total of just 4 years.

The funding options at UCL are still a bit sketchy, I feel like I could get screwed pretty badly but that's why I'll apply to other schools too.

fp3690
02-23-2008, 05:44 PM
People know that I like UCL very much. But one must be careful here. If the ultimate goal is to go to US for a PhD, then I think UBC might be better. But, if you wanna stay at the school for PhD after getting the masters degree, of course UCL has a lot more to offer in terms of job placement. Last year UCL made a placement to UBC, but the reverse direction is very hard indeed.

The US PhD issue arises (I think) because of the level of courses taken at the masters degree in both schools. I don't think that MWG is the text at UCL at the masters level. If you stay for Mphil, then you will see MWG a lot at UCl but certainly not in MSc. At UBC, the level of courses are close to PhD I guess (maybe identical). There are Tmians at UBC, they could provide better insight.

There are still risks of not getting admitted to US schools even if you go to UBC. You have to be among the best in your class to get good reference. So, it is another story.

Is Mas Collel a necessity for rigorous treatment? How about Varian's Microeconomic Analysis? Or, for that matter, any other books I am not aware of.

Olm
02-23-2008, 08:25 PM
I disagree, Reactor. Yes, the reputation of UBC and UofT in terms of research are above Queen's and UWO; however, in terms of being admitted to top schools for PhDs, UWO and Queen's are both far far ahead of UofT and UBC! Besides, the funding at UWO is the best in the nation for a student only intending to get an MA ($20k a year plus tuition for every admitted student!). Thus, I would recommend both UWO and Queens over UofT and UBC for the Master's degree.

reactor
02-23-2008, 11:12 PM
Thus, I would recommend both UWO and Queens over UofT and UBC for the Master's degree.

Maybe I would do the same but I am talking about what the majority thinks before they attend the MA, not the "informed minority" (after completing a MA, us and the admission committees).
Perhaps only a very small number of students would choose to go to UWO or Queen's over UofT or UBC, such a small set of students that we could ignore in the present situation.:) (measure 0)

zsla
02-24-2008, 12:26 AM
Is Mas Collel a necessity for rigorous treatment? How about Varian's Microeconomic Analysis? Or, for that matter, any other books I am not aware of.

Of course not. But it is a complete source and a classic. In most places, it is closely followed and it became an anchor (or a criterion) for measuring success. If a student has done very well at a course in which MWG is closely followed and rigorously treated, then it is a natural sign for adcoms. That was what I wanted to say.

Varian and Jehle-Reny are all good sources. I think they are complements rather than being substitutes for MWG.

Pablo1
02-24-2008, 03:15 AM
But it is a complete source and a classic. In most places, it is closely followed and it became an anchor (or a criterion) for measuring success. If a student has done very well at a course in which MWG is closely followed and rigorously treated, then it is a natural sign for adcoms.

can_econ
02-24-2008, 07:52 AM
ok I'm at UBC so I'll comment on this one. First, Vancouver and London are world class cities for very different reasons, so this will factor in. Both are pricey cities, but tuition in Canada isn't (and most students get some aid).

I'd don't really know much about UCL's MA program, though they seem to have sent a number of their PhD grads to top North American schools in the past decade, so I'm guessing their PhD program must be good if you're into the kind of stuff they're good at.

On UBC's MA: unless your background is great, the first semester (you take micro, macro, math, metrics) is tough and a lot of work but I found it really consolidated what I learned in undergrad and brought my econ knowledge up to a solid graduate level and left me very well prepared for my PhD. The level at which material is taught in the first semester seems (in my view, though it's hard to get a good comparison) to be at or only slightly below that of comparable courses in top 50 North American PhD programs. That being said, the courses try to cover all of the major bases - eg my micro course covered consumer theory, producer theory, partial equilibrium, GE, game theory - so as compared to PhD programs some depth is lost to get a good breadth of coverage in one course; the other difference is in PhD courses you're expected to be able to solve harder problems.

Elective courses vary in difficulty, and the second semester isn't as tough for most people as the first, but you get opportunities to write papers and take classes in fields of economics that you're interested in. Many of these elective courses are taught by top-notch professors who have published widely in the field they're teaching in. I felt the quality of teaching was good throughout the program, and professors were eager to interact with students in class, office hours, etc.

If you have a great undergrad background and references then maybe a UBC MA would give your PhD application that edge it needs to get into a top school. That being said, I don't know of any students from UBC who have gotten into top 9 schools in the past couple of years. Note that this also reflects the fact that few of us who used UBC's MA as a stepping stone to a PhD would have done so if we could have gotten funding at a top 9 school straight out of undergrad. Still, between the ~10 of my classmates who ended up doing PhDs, people had admission offers at places like UCLA, Michigan, Rochester, U of T, etc; some other placements from previous years are listed here: http://www.econ.ubc.ca/grads/ma_grads.pdf (it looks like the list is reasonably representative, and hence misses some decent placements).

As for fall grades - my official transcript that I sent in didn't show them, but I could input them online for schools that asked, I sent them to my UBC references before they sent most of their letters, and I sent them in to Yale before the application was reviewed. So you get the grades fast enough for them to be useful to you.


Hope that was useful, just respond if you have other questions.

Good luck!

reactor
02-25-2008, 11:38 AM
to can_econ:

great extensive information! :)

I have some experience of Canadian econ MA so I will ask the "juicy" questions:

If someone's undergraduate background is not "great" what would you say are the chances of getting good grades at UBC econ MA?

Is there time (for those who do not have the "great" background) to "catch up" before the exams?

(Important) When you say "tough" courses do you mean "deep level of analysis" or "taught quickly and in a "rushed" way" ?

Do students get competitive with each other or is there a friendly, cooperative enviroment?

(Important) Is there material available for students to prepare for the exams?
(problem sets, past exams) (or do you have to be "recourseful" in order to get these?)

Any idea about how many UBC econ MA's got in the UBC econ PhD?

can_econ
02-27-2008, 04:21 AM
to can_econ:

great extensive information! :)

I have some experience of Canadian econ MA so I will ask the "juicy" questions:

If someone's undergraduate background is not "great" what would you say are the chances of getting good grades at UBC econ MA?
Depends on what you mean by them not having a great background... if you have great intuition, a good econ background, but are short on math background, then you should be able to pick up the math as you go from the math class, tutorials, class, and studying. If you have a background in engineering, physics, etc, it might take some work to get the level of intuition and familiarity with eocn but there are definitely engineers (etc) who have done very well in the MA.

But the level of people in the program is quite good, and in your grades profs will judge you and your class against what level they expect of MA students. Everyone in the program was a relatively 'good' student in their undergrad, but as far as I could tell basically no one had the background to get into a top PhD program with funding out of undergrad, but everyone had a good enough background to get into the UBC MA. So the quality distribution of students is limited. Despite this some people definitely struggled more than others and I don't think that looking at peoples' application profiles (as they are often posted on TM) would be that good a way of picking out who would do well. Some people coasted a bit on strong backgrounds (even if you did that you'd have to work hard); most people who succeed though did so (in my opinion) either because they're naturally very hard working and kept it up, or were very motivated to get a PhD in econ and hence ended up working hard to learn the material. But it's hard to generalize who succeeds, and a lot of people don't.

As for chances of doing well? I'd say it really depends on how weak a background you're talking about, and how motivated the person is.



Is there time (for those who do not have the "great" background) to "catch up" before the exams?
It's a semester system, so you write midterms during the semester and exams at the end of the semester. The required classes have problem sets (which are graded, though the grades on them don't matter much); problem sets force you to learn the material at the pace it's taught and realize where gaps in your knowledge lie. Profs and TAs have office hours (+ people work together) so there are opportunities to get help if you're having trouble with some of the material.

I'll mention It isn't the UK system where you have 3+ months for material to set in (or be forgotten) before you write your exam, and whether this is a good thing depends on how you learn. Educational system is a matter of preference to a large extent and I don't mind the North American system.



(Important) When you say "tough" courses do you mean "deep level of analysis" or "taught quickly and in a "rushed" way" ?

Bit of both and depends on the class. Things didn't always feel like they were rushed in class, but the pace was still consistently fast. Macro was more rushed. For Micro it was both - we covered a lot of ground, and had to know and be able to work with some of the more abstract material (and do proofs) that were a big step up from undergrad. I'd say the same about econometrics.

These were MA and not PhD classes - but the way they were taught, I think if you did a good job of learning the material I think you'd be in great shape for a subsequent PhD program and would come in with a good understanding of some difficult material which many people would be seeing for the first time.


Do students get competitive with each other or is there a friendly, cooperative enviroment?

Friendly/cooperative


(Important) Is there material available for students to prepare for the exams?
(problem sets, past exams) (or do you have to be "recourseful" in order to get these?)

Depends on the course - some profs are very good with this, but 3 of my 4 profs in 1st semester were teaching their course for the first time so didn't have old exams; problem sets and class notes usually give a good indication of the types of problems you're expected to solve anyways. I didn't think there was much premium to resourcefulness. In 2nd semester the PhD aspirants felt a lot less pressure to do really well, but I still don't think there was much of a premium to resourcefulness; profs got to know you in second semester anyways (if you participated in class) so would be able to base any reference letter on that as well as on exams; so the exams weren't as important.



Any idea about how many UBC econ MA's got in the UBC econ PhD?
8 of my MA year, 6 accepted + one person from the 2005-6 MA class. This is on the high end for people going from UBC's MA to PhD as far as I know.

Hopefully this is useful.

econyun
02-27-2008, 05:59 AM
thank you can_econ.

reactor
02-27-2008, 10:00 AM
thank you can_econ. UBC econ MA seems a lot better than I thought. :)
(but still, time to learn the material makes a big difference between the two programs)

econyun
02-27-2008, 10:53 AM
so can_econ, where are you doing your phd now?

decide_aposteriori
02-27-2008, 09:53 PM
stop giving so much good information. I feel more informed then before but just as unsure!

reactor
02-27-2008, 10:17 PM
I remember in a final we had to give an example where more information "hurts" the players.

I'm comparing the programs only from the point of one's chances of getting good grades. I'm ignoring:
1) the chances of getting good letters
2) the impact of the letters to the admissions committee
3) the level of preparation for the PhD first year
4) location
5) cost (important!)
and perhaps other aspects too that I'm not even aware of.

so the fact is that there is more time to study the material in the UCL program; is that good? It depends on your self-discipline.

Also I don't have much information about the teaching quality. I have encoutered excellent researchers that teach awfully and diminish the chances of getting a high grade (my chances).

batmanisafatman
02-28-2008, 05:22 AM
There are multiple colleges within UCL. I wonder which one is being discussed. Personally I'm interested in SOAS's Dev Econ Program. Any thoughts on its caliber internationally and the requirements for getting in?

decide_aposteriori
02-28-2008, 05:39 AM
to batmanisafatman:

I applied to SOAS development economics and I got in. I think I applied mid january and they let me know by email mid-feb. I applied randomly after hearing it had a good reputation from a UK friend of mine. So, at the very least, it sounded like it was well known in the UK. I think if you want to go into development economics the program is a good one. I know that it is ranked one or two spots higher then Sussex in the guardian for development economics, which is saying quite a bit.