Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 11 Oct 2007

I want to take an MA but I work and have a family. Distance learning would be easiest, but I hanker after classes.

Hillary's Advice

You donít say what MA you want to take, or why, but Iím wondering if you absolutely need to do it now? After all, if you are longing for the pleasure of plunging back into a learning environment, it would seem to make sense to wait until your children are old enough for you to feel comfortable about leaving them in the evening, and for them, in turn, not to resent a mother who is so busy working and studying that she doesnít have any time for them. Otherwise you could end up with the worst of all worlds Ė tied in to a programme of classroom-based study, without the time to be able to relax and enjoy it as much as you would like.

If, on the other hand, you badly need to get on with an MA now, maybe to enhance your job prospects, then distance learning would be the better option. It would be flexible enough to fit around your family life, and with the extensive online resources now available, you would almost certainly feel well taught and supported. You might even find it surprisingly congenial, as many distance learning courses now build in regular opportunities for students to get together.

Either way, you will need to be highly focussed and very well organised to take on the very considerable work of an MA on top of your other commitments. Check out the recently-published Managing Part-time Study: a guide for undergraduates and postgraduates by Caroline Gatrell (Open University Press. £16.99) to see how to do this.