Choosing a Divinity School in the UK

Matt has prompted me to try and answer a question a student of his had on how to choose a divinity school in the UK. There are many factors that one should consider; here are some that come to mind.

Masters or PhD?

I knew when I came to the UK that I wanted to do another masters degree. The education I received during my masters from Southeastern was outstanding, but it didn’t necessarily prepare me for the research that I would need to do at the PhD level. Not always, but usually, if you have not undergone any type of “real” research the universities you are applying to may want you to undergo a one-year masters degree before commencing towards doctoral work. I also considered that having two degrees from UK universities may open me up to opportunities that I may not necessarily have by only studying in the US. 

I am quite pleased that I did the masters degree. It has been a time of tremendous spiritual and academic growth. It has definitely prepared me for the research that will take place at the doctoral level and in some ways I feel a bit ahead of some of my friends who came straight from a seminary into the PhD.

Subject area and Supervision

Your subject area and supervision are pretty key to choosing a program. All faculties try and have a balance in what they can offer in their research but its interesting how each faculty also has a sense of identity and what they are known for and what kind of researchers they produce.

Because the UK PhD is all about the individual research you need to look for a program and or supervisor that suits what you want your research project to look like. This is why it is important to look at faculty bios and research. You should look for faculty members at the university that can provide supervision for the project you are wanting to do. More frankly, will the scholar want to supervise the project you are researching? Being able to find a supervisor you can work with will make your experience much more enjoyable. This looks different for each person. Some people may choose a supervisor because he or she is the best in the discipline. Others may choose supervisors who are not as prominent in the field right now but are brilliant at guiding the student through the thesis project. So also consider what type of supervisor you may need.

Residential or Distance?

There are options to do a PhD either residentially or at a distance. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to either. Most if not all of the major universities require all full-time PhD students to be residential. So, if you want a degree from any of the bigger named universities residential is probably what you’ll want to do.

Community

This is not so much solely about the UK, but should be considered when pursuing doctoral studies. What kind of community is there at the university? Both academically and personally. New College has a wonderful sense of community among both faculty and researchers. Because I work in the Old Testament, several of us began putting together “gatherings” for Old Testament faculty/researchers and our families. We get together and just hang out. I can’t tell you how much we’ve enjoyed getting to know one another’s families. There is a real sense of community when you realise how many other families are doing exactly what you are doing and learn from others about living in the UK, traveling around Europe, and coping with being attached to such nerdy people.

Anybody else have any thoughts?

Visa Applications

The following post is about visa application for a U.S. citizen moving to the UK on a Tier 4 student visa. Regulations are always changing and the process may change when you start your visa application. I write this as general advice.

The visa application process begins 90 days before your program begins. The 90 days before your program is the 90th day from the date that your acceptance letter tells you that it begins (The 90 days for me was not actually when my modules start but when orientation begins). So, by this time you have already applied to your chosen programs, and confirmed with the university that you are accepting their offer to study. Be warned–when the 90 days finally hits, you have a lot of work to do! You are probably trying to sell a lot of your possessions and possibly a home if you own one. (The fact is, you own more than you want to ship to the UK, and your probably don’t like your stuff enough to pay for storage for however long you’ll be gone. We’ve been fortunate that we sold the vast majority of our things and what we do have left Aubree’s Mom is storing in her attic.)

You are going to busy logistically on top of the job you probably have, spending time with your family, and studying. Filling out the application for your visa immediately is important so don’t put it off. It takes a couple of weeks for them to be processed and then you’ll want to buy your plane tickets, so you want to give yourself plenty of time to make sure your visas were approved and buy plane tickets at a reasonable amount of time before your arrival.

After you have accepted your offer from your University they will soon send you what is called a CAS # (I can’t remember what it stands for presently). This is the number that you will need in order to fill our your application.

The actually filling out of the application is not too difficult as long you know exactly what they are asking for which is sometimes not the clearest. One example from our experience was what is our “Given Names.” In the U.S. anytime you have to fill out your name on an application for example it usually asks for you FIRST NAME, MIDDLE NAMELAST NAME. For the visa application form is just asks for your GIVEN NAME and then for your SURNAME. We simply assumed that my given name is Lucas. What becomes even more fuzzy is that on the online portion of the application when you hover over the help icon it just says, “Given Name such as John.” The key is to enter everything as it appears on your passport. My given name is Lucas Glen. As long as you enter it in all the information as it appears on your passport you should be fine.

I also had a bit of confusion on the biometric appointment that is needed. I was confused about how to make an appointment and when to make it. If you complete your application online, after you complete your application online you will be directed to schedule an appointment. Each member of your family going to the UK with you will also have to have their own appointments so try and schedule them as close together as you can.

After completing the application and attending your biometric appointment you will have to print off your application and then mail it to the UKBA in New York. When you mail it in, I would suggest 1 day shipping in order for it to arrive faster. Once they receive it, you should receive an email from the UKBA saying that they have received your application and a general time frame for when they will inform you if it was accepted. After they review your application they will then email you again saying it was accepted or not and then 1 day ship your package back to you.

This was our general experience. I had a lot of anxiety because applying for a visa is expensive and you don’t want to have it rejected because of a simple mistake and then have to re-apply.

First Post from Edinburgh

Greetings from Edinburgh. I landed on Tuesday after around 18 hours of travel. It was a bit shocking to finally arrive but I am excited to be here. Within a few short days, I can see why so many Edinburgh alums were sad when their programs ended and had to leave. It is such a lovely city. Each day I am shocked by the treasures I discover.

The first few days in Edinburgh were busy. Busy, busy. I spent the majority of my time trying to find a flat before Aubree arrives. After a couple of frustrating days of emailing, calling, and viewing around the city I found a nice flat that Aubree and I can call home. It is located just outside of New Town and is around a 20 min. walk to New College. After securing our flat I then opened up a bank account which was quick because I had all the right documents. The last couple of days I have been enjoying the city and exploring what she offers.

I plan on my next post will be about the visa application process for an American coming to the UK. I have reflected on this process for a bit and thought it my be helpful for others considering making the move. All the best to you who read this blog.

Leaving Raleigh

I’ve been a bit slow on blogging lately because of the upcoming move to Edinburgh. It was troublesome to make time to actually preparing for school let alone blogging to the three of you who read this. The month of July was busy. Filled with home repairs, Craig’s List, and donations and on 2 August with renters moved in, Aubree and I officially left Raleigh.

It was definitely bitter sweet. We are both extremely excited about moving to Scotland and the numerous adventures that will include. But I think it hit us both that we are saying good-bye to our home. Aubree and I were married in Kansas City, then lived in Branson, MO for the first 3 months before moving to North Carolina. For us, Raleigh was our home–it was what we knew and those in our community knew us. We were saying good-bye to the community that the Lord had blessed us with for nearly 5 years. We both came to the realisation (I’ve started writing in Queen’s English to get prepared) that if we would not have been blessed by great community it would not have been as hard to say good-bye.

So we drove from Raleigh back to Missouri and Arkansas to visit our families. We have been nomads these last few weeks but are thankful for the time we have spent with our families. It is the most concentrated time either of us have had with our families since we left. Now, time is being devoted to last minute items before ground control to Major Tom–photocopies of passports, plane tickets, matriculation forms, Greek, and Hebrew. Three days and counting to my new home, the Old Country.

Visa approved

I am very excited to announce that my visa application was approved. I received the email yesterday from the UK Border Agency. Once I had sent in the application, it took around 6 days to hear back on its status. Although the directions for completing the visa from A-Z could be much clearer I am happy about the turnout time of hearing it was approved.

I just purchased my one-way plane ticket to Edinburgh. I arrive on August 21. That gives me just over a month to get everything else in order and to visit family before leaving.

Finding a flat in the UK

As my wife’s and my time in the U.S. continues tick down, I find myself searching for flats in Edinburgh more often. Although still a bit soon to be doing any real type of search for a new home, I find it helpful to see what kinds of options will be available to us.

The difficulty finding a flat for us is that we are bringing our dog along. The process of bringing a dog with us, is every bit of a hassel as it sounds and often proves challenging to find living arrangements that allow for pets. A website that I have found helpful so far is lettingweb.com. Lettingweb contains an advanced search feature that filters your searches for pet friendly flats among other amenities. Hopefully, this website might prove helpful to anyone else that may be searching for a home in the UK.

Cultural Blunder Numero Uno

This is a previous post from another blog but I thought would share it as a part of the details of my family and I moving to Edinburgh.

Several months ago I began the application process for New College. Completing an application at New College is extremely easy because with the online account, you just upload your documents and when everything is uploaded you can then send your application with total peace of mind that you have submitted all that is needed.

My blunder, however, came at the very beginning of the application process: setting up an online account with the university. To begin the process you must enter your name (as it appears on your passport–otherwise getting your visa could prove quite challenging) and then your date of birth. Unlike the US where we normally give our date of birth as: mm/dd/yyyy the UK ordering is dd/mm/yyyy. Now, my birthday is May 16 (for those desiring to send me good things on that day–cash is always nice) which means I was entering in that I was born during the 16th month which may only occur in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Seeing as the University has not made the switch the official trekkie calendar it kept rejecting my enrollment.

I cannot emphasize enough how many times I entered my birth month as the 16th month hoping for Edinburgh to get a clue from all those TNT reruns! My hope continued in vain (Error: Please enter valid information). After several days (it felt like weeks) I emailed the university to inform them that their online enrollment was suffering from glitches (I know, I’m such a good samaritan). After emailing back and forth with a very helpful individual at the university he started troubleshooting the problem immediately: was it the software update, no the software is fine. Maybe, I should try using a different browser, no, same error. Maybe, try using a pc rather than a mac (I know, it’s funny to think about the mac being at fault or using a pc as the solution). Finally, I emailed him the actual error message. “Oh!”, he said (wrote). “You are entering in your date of birth wrong. In the UK, we enter our DOB as dd/mm/yyyy not mm/dd/yyyy like you do in the states.” Surely, I could not have made such an easily avoidable mistake. I mean–I can read. I do have a masters degree after all. I looked at that opening page nearly 30 times. But the next time I looked there was something different–something had changed (it really had not), next to the empty field box I saw it–dd/mm/yyyy. Now, I knew that I was bound to make cultural miscues during our time abroad. I just had no idea that it would come at the very FIRST step in the process. I’m sure those of you who know me are not at all surprised that I would misstep so early. All I can do is shrug and smile at your assessment.