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Choosing between UK translation master's: UCL, London Metropolitan or Westminster
Thread poster: Hannah Lawrence

Hannah Lawrence
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:30
French to English
Mar 4, 2018

Hi there,

I currently work in marketing and communications (since 2008), however I'm planning to start a master's in translation this September (2018), with the aim of working within translation afterwards. My mother tongue is English and I will be studying FR>EN translation. I also have some Spanish and hope to improve this in order to translate SP>EN in the future as well. One area I'm particularly interested in is localisation. This would fit in well with my previous experience, which includes a large amount of web editing, writing for the web, and use of CMS/wordpress, etc.

I live and work in London, UK, and am just looking at locally-based institutions. I am looking for a programme which is not purely theoretical but provides a lot of hands-on experience and therefore prepares you well for working in the field. I have applied to the following three universities, and am fortunate enough to have received offers for all three: UCL, University of Westminster and London Metropolitan University. So now it's a matter of choosing.

As far as I see it, each institution and programme has its own set of pros and cons (listed below), and I would really appreciate any advice from those knowing anything about these programmes/unis, or general advice on how these options might be viewed in the industry. Thank you in advance for any thoughts or insight!

*UCL: MSc Specialised Translation (Audiovisual)
+ small programme, approx 25 students
+ interesting modules: localisation, language and automation
+ university has a great reputation worldwide
- virtually no contact received from UCL themselves
- not entirely sure I want to specialise in AV (would I be restricted in work opportunities in that area by taking this programme?)
- less interesting modules: AV for hard of hearing, blind, etc (not sure on demand for this type of work either)

*University of Westminster: MA Specialised Translation
+ small programme
+ lots of hands-on translation time (4hrs/week)
+ lots of contact from programme team, and talk with current student
+ module on professional development, teaching skills for working in the industry
+ CIOL/ITI/CIUTI/UN MOU/Elia exchange partner (so good industry connections?)
- no module on localisation

*London Metropolitan University: MA Translation
+ small programme
+ work placement
+ localisation module
+ CIOL/CIUTI accreditation (so good industry connections?)
- a little contact from the university, but haven't been able to talk to any students
- the university generally has a pretty awful reputation amongst the general public from what I understand (how much does this matter? How is it viewed in the industry - surely that's more important?)

Best wishes,


United Kingdom
Local time: 00:30
English to French
+ ...
Hi Hannah Apr 4, 2018

We had interns (admittedly, 10 years ago +) from Westminster and London Metro so some insights regarding these two - no insight for UCL.

1/ Students from London Metro were completely out of their depth. To the point it was shocking.

At the time, we needed help in Fr->Eng and found that some students could not understand basic French (being French, I am a fairly decent judge of that).

I was genuinely shocked and contacted the teachers at the uni. We were told that BA students were studying the "methodology, the spirit of translation", rather than the language itself. Only in MA would they refine their understanding of the source language. Given the competitiveness of the market today, this was a suicidal position. Now, this was 10 years ago +, but at the time, I had the distinct feeling that they opened a translation department for no other good reason that there was a demand for it and they could cash in on the trend.

2/ Westminster Uni guys were of a distinctly higher calibre (for Ger->Eng). They knew their stuff and it looked to us that the admission criteria where of a much higher standard. I cannot comment much further.

I am almost tempted to suggest the following: do not spend too much time time and money on a translation university course. I am worried that unis (quality, respect for the written word, philosophy of the trade) are quite disconnected from the market trends (cheap, for tomorrow, thanks for giving us the translation memory).

Play your strength (editing, possibly copywriting based on material in foreign languages, knowledge of WP). In my view, the pure translation market is eroded, AI is a distinct threat and many of us will eventually end up post editing machine translated garbage - or is it rubbish?

Aces in your sleeve will be more IMHO your ability to "do marketing" (transcreate, get the message right in English, WP and social medias) rather than a diploma in languages. Look at job offers with languages: pay is terrible despite even for highly qualified people. That's bad omen! Fair enough, some people still make a living out of translation, it has its upside...

I hope you'll get other colleagues offering a different take on our trade!

All the best with your project



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