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Postgraduate Life

Transition to Postgraduate Life

Postgraduate life can often be quite different compared to studying as an undergraduate. For PGT students, you will often find that you have less contact time spent in lectures and seminars, and instead you are required to spend a greater proportion of your time reading, writing, doing data analysis or carrying out other independent work in labs, fieldwork sites or archives. Life as a PhD student is also different from that as a Master’s student. As a PGR student, you may have significantly more time left to your own devices even compared to PGT students.

You don’t have to set yourself a fixed working timetable such as 9am-5pm Monday-Friday, although you might find this a useful way to separate your time studying from your own, free time in which you can relax and forget about university life for a while. You might have other responsibilities or part-time work which you need to factor into your week, so find the best schedule for yourself – there is no one-size-fits-all. Once you’ve found a routine that works for you, try and stick to it in as disciplined way as possible. For example, if you have a deadline and end up having to work longer hours than you would normally one week, don’t beat yourself up over it, but do try and take back some time for yourself the following week. It can be easy to slip into a pattern of unsustainable working hours, particularly at crunch times such as when writing up a Master’s or PhD dissertation, but setting aside time to not read, write or be in the lab is important – and, in the long run, more effective.

If you find you are consistently working long hours to meet unrealistic deadlines, in the first instance you should talk to your supervisor and try to address the problems with them. If you need further advice regarding supervision, or wish to make a complaint, talk to the SU’s advice service, details of which you can find here.

There are also courses run by Researcher Development which might help you to use your time more efficiently. The Library also has resources and workshops for all students, including specific workshops for both PGTs and PGRs. You can also take a look at our postgraduate Advice and Support page for more tips.

As postgraduate study is different to undergraduate study, particularly in terms of how much time you spend with others on your course, it’s a good idea to try and find other ways to meet people and get involved in campus life.

The primary element of Students’ Unions that students expect to meet new people through are clubs and societies. These are a great opportunity to meet people who are similarly driven by drama, sport, art, politics or any other niche interest you may have. We have over 300 sports clubs and societies that you can join, but we appreciate that as postgraduate students you may feel as though less of these groups may be tailored to you. As a postgraduate student, you may choose to join student groups that are tailored towards your research or background – more like our academic and cultural categories, for example. Look at our ‘Find a club or society’ search function, to see if anything is of interest to you! Each club and society will have their contact details listed, so you can speak with the students running the group and ask any questions you may have. We also have Welcome Fairs in September and January where you can meet almost all the student groups in person.

At the Students’ Union, we are committed to embedding sustainability in all that we do, and we offer some opportunities for students to also get involved with this. As you may have found with your searches of clubs and societies, we have some student groups that are dedicated to sustainable practices, like the Environmental Society and Biological Sciences Society, that you can join and attend events for. You can also volunteer in sustainability areas, both on and off campus, to make a difference in the community, including monthly canal clean ups, bulb planting in nearby parks, and helping at Bow Foodbank. We also have a Reuse scheme where students can donate unwanted items to find new homes with other students, which has diverted over 4 tonnes of items from landfill! Find out more information about how to get involved with our Sustainability team at the Students’ Union through this webpage.

On a similar note, the Students’ Union also has a Raise & Give (RAG) scheme that covers all the Students’ Union’s charity fundraising activity. RAG Is all about having fun and raising money for charitable causes. Each year, students elect RAG officers for Queen Mary and Barts and the London who then lead a student RAG committee on their campus and engage hundreds of students through events and activities to raise money for official RAG nominated charities. Student groups (Societies, Clubs, Student Media Outlets and Volunteering Groups) can also fundraise for their ‘adopted charities’, which you may encounter when you are part of a group, or even may see them fundraising on our campuses.

Alongside these sustainability and RAG opportunities, the Students’ Union also provides opportunities for students to volunteer in Tower Hamlets and across London, giving students the chance for new experiences, developing new skills and to make a difference. We have a wide range of different opportunities available with a variety of organisations, there is something to suit all interests and time commitments. We also have a scheme where if you log the community volunteering hours that you do, these can count towards receiving a Volunteer Award. To find out more information about volunteering opportunities with the Students’ Union, please visit this webpage.

Finally, the Students’ Union has an employability programme called the Skills Award. By registering for the Skills Award, you get access to additional free training sessions and career reflection sessions. You can expect to learn, develop and present your transferable skills, in a different way to what may be on offer as part of your postgraduate course – this could act as a nice change of scenery to the other forms of training offered by the University. We know that all students have different interests and career paths, but this varied programme should suit all needs, with training sessions like public speaking, first aid, leadership and mental health awareness. Learn more about the Skills Award, and register for future programmes, please visit this webpage.

Alongside these various routes of student engagement within the Students’ Union, we work hard to produce an events programme with postgraduate students in mind. These events are tailored specifically for you, with your schedules and interests in mind. To see what events we have going on for you, at the moment, please check our Postgraduate Events page through the button below.

Study Spaces on Campus

The Library has a full list of study spaces which can be found here. This includes more open (and potentially slightly busier and noisier) study spaces, such as the Hive (Ground floor), as well as quieter spaces, such as the bookable group study rooms on the first floor of both the Hive and the Mile End Library.

However, there are also a number of study spaces specifically for PGT and PGR students on Queen Mary’s Mile End campus (all of these spaces have power sockets located by each seat):

  • Graduate Centre Reading Room: Graduate Centre, Floor 7 Reading Room, Mile End campus (24 seats)
  • Library Research Reading Room: Mile End Library, Second floor (62 seats)
  • Library Postgraduate Taught Reading Room: Mile End Library, Second floor (69 seats)

There are also other study spaces on Queen Mary’s other campuses. Although these are not specifically allocated to postgraduate researchers, listed below are some of the quieter study areas:

  • Whitechapel Library, Ground Floor (196 seats; not all desks have power sockets)
  • West Smithfield Library, Ground Floor (54 seats, no power sockets at desks)

You can book these spaces by going to the library’s booking system here.There are also other spaces which can be used for study or group work, but which may be busier (and noisier):

  • Ground Café, Students' Union Hub, Mile End campus
  • The Nest, Students' Union Hub, Mile End campus
  • CafeGrad and Lobby, Graduate Centre Ground Floor, Mile End campus (some power sockets available)

The Griff Inn and IT Room, BLSA Building, First floor (40 seats, some power sockets at seats).

Study Spaces off Campus

If you feel like a change of scenery or want to find a study space nearer to where you’re living (if that’s not in East London), there are also several other study spaces which postgraduate students can take advantage of in London:

  • Senate House Library in Bloomsbury is another option open to all University of London students. There are study spaces and an extensive book collection, with a particular focus on arts, humanities and social sciences. You can find more details here.
  • The British Library in King’s Cross has reading rooms which are open to the public and free of charge. As the British Library is a copyright library (meaning it holds a copy of any material published in the U.K.), it has a vast selection of material and online resources. If you are unable to access an academic journal or e-book through Queen Mary’s library, for example, you will likely be able to access either a physical copy or an online version in one of the British Library’s reading rooms. You need to reserve a seat and order any books in advance, which you can do here. It is worth bearing in mind that the slots generally last only a few hours and you will need to register for a reader’s pass before booking.
  • The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in Russell Square has a library with research carrels which can be used by PhD researchers. See here for more information.
  • The Library and Archives Reading Room at Kew available from Tuesday to Thursday may also be useful for postgraduate students located in South-West London. Find more details here.
  • The Reuben Library at the BFI Southbank is also available for drop-ins, once you have registered. It has slightly later opening hours (11am-7pm, Tuesday-Saturday) and is located (just) south of the river, so may be useful for those based in South London or who prefer to study later in the day. Find out more here.
  • The Wellcome Collection Library is housed in the same building as the museum in Euston and is open 10am-6pm, Monday to Friday. More information here.
  • Another university library which you can apply for via the SCONUL access scheme. This can be particularly useful if you live in another part of London and would find it more convenient to use another institution’s library. For more details, see this page.

Recent News

PG Consultation Group

Thu 13 Jun 2024

The Students' Union is currently running an initiative to improve postgraduate research experience by speaking with our PGR community directly.

Advice & Support

Thu 13 Jun 2024

Tailored Guidance for Postgraduates

Postgraduate Life

Thu 13 Jun 2024

Transition to Postgraduate Life

Student Voice

Thu 13 Jun 2024

Ensuring Postgraduates are Heard


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