Contact hours and independent study
Within your programme you will take a number of courses, often including half unit courses and full unit courses. In half unit courses, on average, you can expect 20-30 contact hours in total and for full unit courses, on average, you can expect 40-60 contact hours in total. This includes sessions such as lectures, classes, seminars or workshops. Hours vary according to courses and you can view indicative details in the Calendar within the Teaching section of each course guide.
Each course generally comprises a series of lectures. As graduate students, an important part of your learning will be done through reading the course literature and discussing the issues in and outside seminars. You should understand that you will be expected in your own written work to go considerably beyond the content and approach of lectures in your subjects. Lectures are intended to fulfil various functions, but they are not a substitute for independent reading and thought. Lectures are intended to provide you with an overview of a particular subject area, its related concepts and issues, and to introduce the most important relevant academic literature. This can mean that lectures will often not be able to achieve the depth of coverage that you will find in the relevant literature. Lectures also provide you with exposure to the individual styles and approaches of different teachers at LSE.
In addition to lectures, teaching is conducted in seminars. These are usually held weekly over the period of the course, with students allocated permanently to groups of, normally, ten to fifteen. Although each course has a 'Teacher Responsible' (also known as 'Course Coordinator') for its overall organisation, the academics involved in the teaching of courses are responsible for individual seminar groups. While lectures can attract large numbers of students, seminars are limited in size and provide an opportunity for you to give presentations and discuss issues raised in the academic literature. You are expected to supplement formal contact hours by extensive unsupervised reading, preparation for seminars and essay-writing.
We expect full-time MSc students to spend at least 40 hours a week on their studies. This combines your face-to-face teaching time in lectures and seminars, as well as reading time, meeting with academics during office hours and general preparation for classes. The amount of time actually spent in class will vary depending on which courses you take (some courses have longer lectures/seminars than others), but you should expect to spend between five-ten hours a week in class in the first two terms. In the third term, you will be busy preparing for exams and dissertation, so it would be a mistake to expect the work to slow down once teaching has finished for the year.
Course teaching – lectures and seminars – will be held in the first two terms (Michaelmas and Lent Terms). The third term (Summer term) is dedicated to preparing for examinations and beginning to write the bulk of your dissertation. The Course Guide will explain the hours of study for each course.
All taught courses are required to include formative coursework which is unassessed. It is designed to help prepare you for summative assessment which counts towards the course mark and to the degree award. LSE uses a range of formative assessment, such as essays, problem sets, case studies, reports, quizzes, mock exams and many others. Summative assessment may be conducted during the course or by final examination at the end of the course. An indication of the formative coursework and summative assessment for each course can be found in the relevant course guide.
LSE is internationally recognised for its teaching and research and therefore employs a rich variety of teaching staff with a range of experience and status. Courses may be taught by individual members of faculty, such as lecturers, senior lecturers, readers, associate professors and professors. Many departments now also employ guest teachers and visiting members of staff, LSE teaching fellows and graduate teaching assistants who are usually doctoral research students and in the majority of cases, teach on undergraduate courses only. The teacher responsible for each course can be found in the relevant course guide.
You will be assigned an academic mentor who will be available for guidance and advice on personal or academic concerns. The academic mentor will be your most important academic link with the Institute and the School. The academic mentor will have set office hours and usually additional times during the first few weeks and will be happy to offer advice on courses, MSc regulations and on administrative matters generally, eg, on the prospects of proceeding to higher degrees such as MPhil/PhD.
Your academic mentor will not necessarily be your dissertation supervisor. Dissertation supervisors will be allocated once topics have been agreed in the second term.
There are many opportunities to extend your learning outside the classroom and complement your academic studies at LSE. LSE LIFE is the School’s centre for academic, personal and professional development. Some of the services on offer include: guidance and hands-on practice of the key skills you will need to do well at LSE: effective reading, academic writing and critical thinking; workshops related to how to adapt to new or difficult situations, including development of skills for leadership, study/work/life balance and preparing for the world of work; and advice and practice on working in study groups and on cross-cultural communication and teamwork.
LSE is committed to enabling all students to achieve their full potential and the School’s Disability and Wellbeing Service provides a free, confidential service to all LSE students and is a first point of contact for all disabled students.