First Person Accounts (FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of Indian graduates who have pursued, or are pursuing, a post-graduate course (LL.M. or otherwise) from different universities across the world.
Supraja Subramanian is an Indian law graduate who has pursued two post-graduate courses outside the country. The first of these was an MSc in Applied Criminology and Forensic Psychology at Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland. The second, the LLM. (Hons.)Forensics, Criminology and Law at Maastricht University.
In this FPA, the ’16 graduate of Saveetha School of Law discusses the reasons for her slightly unconventional choices, the differences between her MSc and LL.M. experiences, and a whole lot more.
Your first master’s was an MSc in Applied Criminology – what got you looking at this particular degree? Once you knew that you wanted to study criminology, how did you go about selecting just where to apply?
While pursuing under graduation in Law, I realised that I enjoyed studying criminology the most but also, that litigation was not my cup of tea. During my final year, I wanted to utilise my free time by discovering my interests and looked for short, distant certificate courses.
It was then that I stumbled upon International Forensic Sciences, Pune which offered an array of certificate courses, all related to criminology and forensics.
After deep contemplation, I enrolled into their six-month course on Forensic Psychology and Criminal Profiling. Although I had always wanted to pursue my higher education in a foreign country, this course helped me decide what I wanted to specialize in – criminology integrated with forensic psychology.
I researched on universities in the USA as well as in the UK. I found the universities in the UK to be more suitable for me who did not have an academic background in science/psychology but wanted to study forensic psychology.
I narrowed down to pursuing Applied Criminology and Forensic Psychology at Edinburgh Napier University because I found the course extremely intriguing and also because it was in Scotland, one of the most beautiful places!
To your mind, what were the advantages of the MSc as opposed to the more popular LL.M.?
An LLM is the most obvious and pertinent masters that an LLB graduate would opt for and it builds upon the existing knowledge. For my area of specialization, I would compare the MSc and LLM to being two sides of the same coin.
While the MSc focused on the root cause and science behind crimes – criminological theories, psychology, neuroscience, effects of imprisonment, importance of rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders; the LLM focused on dealing with the effects of crime from a legal perspective – forensic evidence in the court, flaws committed in the criminal justice system, testimonies and confessions and the psychology behind them.
In my opinion, the advantages of pursuing MSc were learning about the less popular methods of dealing with crime, namely, treatment and rehabilitation as opposed to LLM, in which we learn more about the most favoured deterrence and retribution.
Any advice on the application process itself? How did you use your past work experience and education to support your application?
During my undergraduate days, I utilised as many opportunities as I could by taking part in moot competitions, attending seminars and volunteering. These activities definitely made my application stronger as I was able to prove my inquisitiveness and enthusiasm along with soft skills like teamwork and time management.
Moreover, the certificate course I had done during my final year equipped me with better chances of securing admission since it proved to be a bridge between my LLB and the MSc I was aiming for.
Regarding the application process, I would advice the prospective students to watch out for scholarship deadlines, some of which must be met months before the course application deadline. The application procedure overall is straightforward and simple.
Did you apply for/receive financial aid from Edinburgh Napier University?
No, I did not apply for any financial aid. The university offered a concession on the condition that the full tuition fee must be paid in a single payment before the start of the course. I availed this concession.
How was the MSc experience itself? What were some of the more challenging aspects of the course?
For someone who had opted for commerce stream even in high school, I found the MSc course extremely new, interesting and thought provoking. Most of the lectures were delivered by special guests such as police officers, ex-convict, forensic psychologists, diversion centres and other practitioners from the criminal justice agencies which made the entire course all the more exciting.
Another aspect of the course I enjoyed the most was the field visit to the court and prison; the summer school I was able to participate in through which I went to Florida Atlantic University, USA; and the optional work placement module. In addition, I learnt many practical skillsets like using facial recognition software and working on violence risk assessment.
What was most challenging was the difference in the educational system compared to India! Studying before and preparing for classes, critically analysing the given problem and writing assignments with plenty of references was indeed very challenging.
In addition, my course was assessed only through written assignments – essays and reports, which was quite a test since it required intense research and I was used to the Indian written exam method.
After you completed the MSc, you opted for an LL.M., this time at Maastricht University. Again, what were the reasons behind this move, and why narrow down on Maastricht?
Although I followed my passion and secured the MSc degree, being a student of law, I felt incomplete without pursuing LLM. I was determined to find a university offering an LLM course specializing in forensics or forensic psychology.
I came across two universities – West Virginia University, USA offering an LLM in Forensic Justice and Maastricht University, Netherlands offering LLM in Forensics, Criminology and Law.
Maastricht University is highly ranked and reputable for law courses. I also felt that the course offered by them was very unique and yet relatable to my previous masters from ENU, which helped me narrow down to it.
What were some of the differences in the learning experience between ENU and Maastricht?
Three points are worth mentioning. Firstly, at ENU, students had to prepare before classes. This was followed by a few questions and the lecturer summarizing the readings. In contrast, UM follows the system of Problem Based Learning in which students prepare for classes based on themes and the discussion that follows is moderated by students themselves. This method allows for exchange of knowledge, personal experiences and kindling of critical analysis.
Secondly, the study load at UM was thrice more than it was at ENU. Although being strenuous, at the end of the year, I find this more rewarding. Thirdly, ENU offered many workshops aimed at helping international students get acquainted with the facilities offered at the university and to feel more comfortable overall.
On the other hand, UM’s focus was only academic and they also offered an honours track to all high performing, motivated students. Both universities offered several extra-curricular opportunities.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is considering a master’s abroad?
Remember that an LLM is not the only option out there! In depth research is necessary as every degree, every university and every course offers something different. Consider what the university has to offer and read reviews by former students.
Once admitted, quickly familiarize yourself with the concept of critical analysis and start working on the thesis on time to avoid last minute hassle.
If you would like Amicus Partners to provide some personalised advice on your LLM applications, please fill in this form and we shall get back to you as soon as possible.