(see also the FAQ section on the CEU admissions site)
Do I have a chance at acceptance if I don’t have a formal background in Gender Studies?
Yes! We recognize that formal training in gender studies, women’s studies, feminist theory, or other related areas is not possible in all areas of the world, especially not at the BA level. But we are committed to maintaining the high levels of geographic and cultural diversity that make CEU such a dynamic place to study, so we do our best to assess your potential in light of the opportunities you’ve had. We also value alternative sources of knowledge and evidence of individual initiative. If you’ve participated in a summer school or NGO workshop that exposed you to gender studies literature or have simply taken it upon yourself to seek out and read things, we take this into account (so please tell us!). See the guidelines below for writing your essay.
What’s the difference between the 1-year and 2-year MA programs?
As outlined at this LINK, there are first some formal eligibility requirements: if you have a 3-year BA degree, you can only apply to a 2-year MA. Further, if you are interested in the applied track with internship that is only available in the 2-year MA in Critical Gender Studies. All programs offer different scholarships, tuition fellowships, and different levels of financial aid on a competitive basis and the choice of elective courses at CEU in a given year is the same for each but the 1-year program condenses coursework and thesis research into a shorter period. In general, the 1-year program is for applicants who already have an MA in another discipline or a strong academic background in gender scholarship and want to get through the program more quickly, for many because they plan to continue in a PhD program afterwards. This does not mean that the 2-year programs (GEMMA, Matilda, or either track of Critical Gender Studies) are not also great preparation for those who go on to the PhD level. Applicants to 2-year programs should have at least some background in gender studies and/or related disciplines and often have quite a bit, but they can also be admitted with more practical experience if they can convey an intellectual interest that comes out of that. The 2-year MA programs are for those interested in conducting longer-term research or in taking a bigger variety and quantity of elective courses in gender studies and related disciplines. GEMMA additionally offers the variety of mobility to other universities with other specialties as well as language diversity; Matilda offers this, too, within its own consortium, with an emphasis on historical research and in conjunction with the History Department at CEU. One request: if you apply to both the 1-year and one of the 2-year programs, be sure to explain in your essay which one you prefer and why.
How can I write a competitive application essay?
The brief essay we require is of great importance as we evaluate applications. What do we look for in a good MA essay? First and foremost, we are interested in finding out about your academic and intellectual interest in gender studies. You can convey this by telling us about a personal, activist, or professional experience, some past research you’ve done, or by describing a research project you would be interested in conducting for your MA thesis. You may be able to combine several of these elements. The important thing is to convey what it is that interests you and why that’s important intellectually as well as politically or practically. If you do have an idea for a thesis topic, spend a paragraph or two outlining a research question you are interested in pursuing, and an indication of its scholarly importance. Tell us why this research should be done – what is at stake in learning more about this question? Make clear also what kind of sources and methods you envision using to carry out your project and what academic and practical preparation you may already have that will enable you to conduct your research. This can include previous methods training, theoretical background, or simply familiarity with the relevant context or resources you will need.
We are also interested in your background in, and commitment to, gender studies. If you have taken any courses that included gender topics, if you have read anything that was relevant for this field, please mention it in your essay. Also, if you have worked in an NGO or other organization which dealt with relevant issues, that is useful to know, along with your personal experiences that may have motivated you to apply to a program in gender studies. Whether or not you have any academic or professional background in gender studies per se, we want to know where your interest comes from, what critical questions animate your desire to pursue study at the MA level, and what motivates you to apply to the particular program you’re applying to.
What detracts from a strong application essay? First, we would like to accept students who are committed to an MA in Gender Studies. Therefore, if you are applying to more than one department at CEU, please write a separate essay addressing your interest in gender studies. Otherwise it is difficult to evaluate your application and we also assume you are not actually so interested in our department. Second, essays which contain very general information about the situation of women or sexual minorities in a particular country, or just summarize statistics, policy reports, or NGO/development initiatives without much reflection on why they are interesting, problematic, or otherwise important to understand are also considered quite weak. It is important to show that you can critically evaluate sources and have thoughts and ideas about what others may have written or done. Third, personal reasons and experience are very significant in choosing to study questions of gender but they are not enough: we are looking for your ability to link your personal experience to broader social issues and more theoretically, academically driven concerns. Finally, writing also counts. A disorganized essay full of typos and grammatical errors will not make a good impression, no matter how substantively enlightening it might be.
There’s also an interview? How should I prepare for that?
Yes, applicants who pass the first round of screening may be invited to speak briefly with one of our faculty over Skype in an informal interview. We may ask you to expand on something you wrote in your essay or to add additional information. We will be paying attention to your ability to express yourself orally, to articulate your intellectual interest in gender studies and how it fits into your future plans. It will also be an opportunity for you to ask us questions and to get a sense of who we are.
Are Gender Studies students allowed to take courses outside the department?
All students at CEU can take up to 4 CEU credits (8 ECTS) in another CEU department without formal permission. This does not include the courses from other units that we cross-list in our curriculum. Courses in Gender Studies, however, cover a range of disciplinary approaches and topics that vary some from year to year.
If I’m accepted, can I take on paid employment during my studies?
Our programs are full-time, even more than a full-time job. While some students, particularly those with a lot of background in gender studies and who are used to the academic culture of an English language institution, may be able to fit in a part-time job with the department’s approval, we generally do not recommend it (and more than 20 hours a week is not allowed in any case). We expect students to be devoting their full energies to their studies; these are intense programs which demand a lot from students and faculty together.
Can I hope to increase the financial support I’m offered after I start the program?
Unfortunately, no. The conditions of your offer of admission cannot be changed during your time in the program.
How should I plan financially for life and studies in Vienna?
CEU is proud to be able to offer financial support to a large number of students to a degree that is difficult to match at comparable institutions at the MA level elsewhere. However, funding is not complete so you will most likely have to supplement what you receive with your own or external funds. To estimate how much, please see this LINK. Please be aware that there is a small charge for course readers, a yearly enrollment fee, and transportation costs that must be borne by the student. At the same time, students who meet all their academic deadlines can apply for limited small research grants and conference support. See the program handbooks under each program description for details.
For more information please contact Anna Cseh, MA Program Coordinator.