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MSc Reproductive & Sexual Health Research (pre-course info)

General welcome

I am delighted to welcome you to LSHTM and to the MSc Reproductive & Sexual Health Research. The year ahead will be very busy for you but also very exciting. LSHTM is a stimulating place to be, with a diverse student population, staff undertaking topical research and with a wide variety of seminars always available. You will find that you learn a lot from the other students and informal meetings with members of staff as well as from the formal teaching.

Lynda Clarke, Programme Director

Welcome week

• MSc Reproductive & Sexual Health Research welcome week timetable 2019 (pdf)
• Welcome week timetable (all programmes) (pdf)
​​​​​​​• Welcome week marketplace guide (pdf)

• International Students’ Induction & Reception: taking place on Monday, 4-6.30pm, and featuring talks on Tier 4 Visa terms and conditions, and healthcare and banking in the UK. This event is strongly recommended for Tier 4 Visa students, and may be of interest to other international students.

• Student Welcome Party: celebrate your first week at LSHTM with your new friends, live music and light refreshments on Friday, 5-8pm in the lower ground floor.

• Accommodation helpdesk: if you are still looking for accommodation, visit the helpdesk in our Keppel Street building, where former students are on hand to guide you in your search. Open daily 12-5pm Monday 23 to Friday 27 September.

• Bank letters: bank letters will be available 11am-4pm on Wednesday and 10am-4pm Thursday & Friday in the Library. From Monday 30 September they will be available from the Student Hub. You will need to provide the name and address of the bank where you intend to open your account. Visit our banking pages for details of banks with branches near LSHTM.

• Council tax letters: council tax exemption certificates can be obtained from the Student Hub from Wednesday 25 September onwards.

Term officially starts with an orientation period for all students. Some of the sessions are essential and some optional - we will run through the timetable on the first day. We will give you an introduction to LSHTM, the programme and the timetable. You will also meet our Programme Administrator, who is a key person for the smooth running of the MSc throughout the year. Later in the week we will have a buffet lunch to get to know you better. There is a good deal of spare time which can be very useful if you are still looking for accommodation or need to open a bank accounts etc.

Overview of the MSc

MSc Reproductive & Sexual Health Research Handbook 2019-20 (pdf)

Teaching starts in earnest the week following orientation. Most teaching sessions are timetabled 9:30am - 12:30pm and 2 - 5pm. For first year half-time students teaching normally starts on the Tuesday.

Every student is allocated a personal tutor, although this is largely for pastoral care rather than academic tutoring. A tutor is someone who takes an interest in your progress and with whom you can discuss problems, academic or personal. Allocation is made within the first two weeks and prior to that the Programme Director will field all enquiries and concerns.

One thing that we will push you to decide almost immediately on arrival is your options for Term 1. The range of options is very limited, which makes the decisions thankfully few. Choices will be discussed during the Programme Director's briefing during the orientation period.

Choices of modules for Terms 2 and 3 need to be made mid-Term 1. However, you will be well prepared for these choices because the handbook you will be given on arrival contains descriptions of the modules; because you can discuss your choices with your tutor; and because there is a module fair held in Term 1, where the organisers can talk to you about the module they offer.

The year is a very full one, but an exciting one. LSHTM is a stimulating place to be, with a wide variety of seminars always available. You will find that you learn a lot from each other too. Most students get stressed at some time or other with the sheer pace of the programme, but at the end of the year you will be amazed how much you have learnt and most students enjoy their year tremendously. There are private study periods in every week - but you will need them! There is a lot of reading to be got through. Because of the amount of study required it is not recommended that full-time students do more than 6 hours of paid work in any term-time week.

Summer project

We do not start project preparation until Term 2, although there will be a briefing session before Christmas. You can discuss any thoughts you have about projects with your tutor but we do not expect you to have any ideas at this stage because, after all, you don’t know yet what the programme will suggest to you!

The norm for our students is to complete their project in London. If you were expecting to return home for the project period, or include other travel plans, you should discuss this with the Programme Director or your tutor after a week or two settling in. We normally expect students to remain in London until the project submission date. Travel, or returning home for the project period is possible, it just needs to be discussed and will not be recommended if it introduces risk of a sub-optimal project. However it is quite common to submit your project early if you need to get back home early for whatever reason.

Computer skills

For those of you who need to improve your computing skills, any practice you can get between now and start of term will certainly help you. All assessments are submitted in Word and basic spreadsheet skills are also very useful. Therefore any practice with Word and Excel will help! Simple skills like being able to copy files from one place to another, using Windows Explorer, will save you time struggling in a class. We use the statistical package Stata extensively during the programme but we do not expect you to know this package in advance.

An inexpensive Casio calculator which is available locally will be recommended when you arrive.

Information for new half-time students

The first thing to say is that students studying half-time at LSHTM usually do well, enjoy themselves, and pass successfully - so please look forward to a good two years!

We refer to this method of study as “half-time” because you really do need to allow half of each term-time week for study. It is often possible to reduce this to two days actual attendance but this cannot be guaranteed and in any event it is unwise to use private study time for anything except just that. The programme requires a lot of personal reading and study; it is easy to fall behind if this is not budgeted for. A certain flexibility with employment arrangements is essential.

Term 1

The first term for full-time students is an intensive one where they are introduced to reproductive health, some demography, statistics, computing, epidemiology, social science methods and other courses. For half-time students the pace is more manageable, but the problem arises about which of these courses to take first.

The recommended option is to attend on a Tuesday and a Friday in the first term. This picks up Epidemiology and Statistics, but leaves Friday afternoons free in most weeks. If you wish to take Extended Epidemiology (optional) then you will need to attend on Wednesday mornings as well – only a minority of students usually do this. No reproductive health sessions are therefore taken until year 2, which means that the module Sexual Health in Term 2 must be left until year 2.

The disadvantage that arises from half-time study in the first term is that modules in Terms 2 and 3 do assume that you know all the first term material and therefore some extra work is sometimes necessary to fill in gaps in knowledge, however this has not proved to be a serious problem for previous students.

Terms 2 and 3

In Term 2 full-time students take four modules. All modules are designed on a “five half-week” basis, so one module will run all of Monday/Tuesday plus Wednesday morning for five weeks, with the other in the latter half of the week. Often the Wednesday half-day will be timetabled for private study but this cannot be guaranteed and some modules do timetable taught sessions on the Wednesday.

For half-time students, attendance on more than two days of the week may not be necessary - we timetable to avoid this - but it is sometimes required.

Some modules are better timetabled for half-time students than others and you can’t be sure of the actual arrangements until you get a timetable for your chosen module. However no module timetables sessions outside their respective half of the week and therefore if you plan to be in student mode for the whole of that half-week then there will be no problem.

In Term 2 it will be possible to take up to two modules by distance learning. This may be of particular interest to half-time students, although usually take-up is low. The choice of modules is limited and must be taken in Term 2. Details will be available at the start of the term.

In Term 3, one more module is taken, running in the second half of the week i.e. Wednesday afternoon, Thursday and Friday. The remainder of the week is for private study/revision. There is then about two weeks for revision before the exams, which are in early June.

The advantages of half-time study

1. Students must take five modules in across Terms 2 and 3. For half-time students, the only requirement is to complete these over the two years. Therefore there is much greater flexibility over which modules to take, and when. Half-time students can, if they wish, take a module from one timetable slot in one year, and another from the same slot the following year; a flexibility that full-time students do not have.

2. Half-time students do not take any formal exams until June of year 2 (although each module has a written assessment attached which is done as part of the module). That means in year 1 there is a large gap between the end of modules in May and the start of the next academic year. Many half-time students are able to arrange with their employers to go back to work for this period and “bank” their half-time entitlement to allow some full-time study over the revision/exam/project period in year 2.

3. Full-time students are required to work on their research project from shortly after the exams until the deadline in early September. Half-time students can of course plan and work on their project over the whole two-year period and therefore have more flexibility. However very few actually do this! For all the good intentions the norm is actually for half-time students to do little towards their project in year 1 but arrange more time off from employment in year 2 and cope with exams and project almost as a full-time student would. This is up to you, but it is a good idea as trying to do the project half-time in year 2 can be stressful if pressure from your job increases. Remember however that at the end of year 1 you still have not been taught some basic material of term 1 and this does make it more difficult to make progress on the project in year 1. Organising to have extra time for the project in year 2 is a good idea!

Reading list

Background Reading

You are not expected to purchase any background reading volumes but you may like to look at some of the following if you can locate them in a library.

Websites with recent data, evidence and news of current initiatives include:

- The academic journal Reproductive Health Matters
UNFPA
- WHO: RHR / Maternal and Perinatal
Countdown to 2030
FP2020

You may also find that the following books provide valuable overviews and insights:

Collumbien M., et al. Social science methods for research on sexual and reproductive health. World Health Organization. 2012.

Cornwall A. and Welbourn A. (Eds) Realizing Rights: Transforming approaches to sexual and reproductive well-being. Zed Books. 2002.

Tsui A. et al. (Eds) Reproductive health in developing countries: expanding dimensions, building solutions. National Academies Press, Washington. 1997

Elizabeth Pisani. The Wisdom of Whores. Granta Books. 2008
A well-received and hard-hitting book about the “AIDS Industry” by a former student of ours.

Harcourt W. Power, reproduction and gender. Zed Press. 1997

Gray A. and Payne P. World health and disease. Open University Press. (3rd edition, 2001).

Reproductive biology

Students should familiarise themselves with the basics of reproductive biology, if not already known.

Johnson M. Essential reproduction. Blackwell Science. (7th edition, 2013)

Methods

Important texts for term one methods courses:

Kirkwood B. and Sterne J. Essential Medical Statistics. Blackwell. (2nd edition, 2003)

Webb P., Bain C., Pirozzo S (ed.). Essential Epidemiology: An Introduction for Students and Health Professionals. Cambridge University Press. (2nd edition)

Rowntree D. (1991) Statistics without tears. Penguin.
For those of you completely new to statistics this book helps with some of the basic concepts.

Ward N. The Epidemiological Approach (4th Edn.). Wolfson Institute: London 2004.
A small but surprisingly informative introduction to epidemiology. A good primer but will not replace the main Epidemiology text recommended, so you may prefer to go straight for that.

Note: Everyone will need to purchase both Hennekens & Buring and Kirkwood & Sterne, which are available in paperback. It is not necessary to purchase a demographic textbook unless you have a particular interest. Several copies of most key text are available in the School’s library.

Information for returning half-time students

Welcome back to the second year of your programme!

An important thing to remember is that E slot modules run in the second half of the week i.e. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday am, with the remainder of the week for private study/revision. You will need to consider this when making arrangements with employers etc.

Exams and the summer project are important times for you this year – basically because you have to cope with them in the same way as full-time students but you have other calls on your time. Added to that is the fact that much material which goes into the exams you studied a long time ago and you will have to dredge it up again.

Consequently you must allow yourself adequate revision time - we suggest 3 full weeks intensive study - and you need to make provision for this with your employer. There is usually one week before the exams in which the School tries to concentrate all revision sessions on offer. Do find out when this week will be and try and attend. Having said that, this is a postgraduate programme and as such we do not lay on masses of revision - we mostly leave it up to you. Some students form revision groups and these are a good idea! Do get past papers from Moodle and practice with them, especially Paper 2.

For projects, we have always recommended that half-time students try and book as much time off as possible during the summer so that you can devote it to the project. Projects can develop slower than you think. If you manage it in less time than budgeted then you’re in credit, but this is much better than being in panic, with work demands to cope with as well. Please don’t hesitate to discuss potential problems with us.

Don’t forget that you also have full access to things like the one-off special courses that are laid on, often during reading weeks, as well as the Careers Service.

Page last updated September 2019