There is a professor in Department X. I will be applying to Department Y & Department Z for a MA that really fits my interests. Now, I am wondering whether the professor in Department X will also hold classes in Department Y & Z, or whether these classes are shared and accessible over multiple departments anyways (how does this usually work in the UK? I don't really know). How do I ask him this question, how do I best phrase it? I am a bit unsure about this. Right now I have

I am currently thinking of applying for X at Uni X, and am wondering whether I could then attend your courses too?

  • but it sounds a bit strange to me? (English is not my native language)
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    Just ask them! Faculty will likely speak one or more human languages. If you have questions about how to phrase things in English, you should ask a friend (ideally one who is a native speaker) or use the English Language Learners site. ell.stackexchange.com – MJeffryes Dec 12 '17 at 16:31

US student here.

Typically you wouldn't need to ask. If the course is allowed in your degree plan (i.e., course of study - the classes you're allowed to take for credit toward your degree) then you can just enroll. I've taken two statistics courses and three systems engineering courses as a math student - these were allowed in my degree plan.

You may need to ask, however, if the course is majors-only. Sometimes these major-only courses are for students enrolled in the department and may have limited space for out-of-department student.

If you're still unsure, ask both a graduate head in your department and the instructor of the course you want to take.

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Don't act yet.

There's no need to ask yet. You aren't enrolled at the university, so there's no need to ask. If you must ask, then ask an administrator, rather than the professor. (Professors are busy, they'd rather have fewer emails.) Assuming you're accepted, then you have several options.

Exception: You should ask if your decision to enrol depends on the answer. (See comments for further discussion.)

Just turn up.

You can sit at the back of the class and ask the professor afterwards, e.g., Hi, I sat-in on your course today and I really enjoyed it. I'm not formally registered, but I'd like to continue attending, is that okay? You can answer any follow-up questions in person. For large classes, this approach is fine. For smaller classes (or tutorials, lab sessions, etc.), you might want to ask in advance.

You needn't ask: Attending an occasional class on which you aren't registered is fine, but it is courteous to ask. (See also Allowing a student to sit in during class.)

Ask in advance.

You can attend the professor's office hours and ask something along the lines of, e.g., Hi, I'm studying ..., but I'd like to attend your class ..., is that okay? Again, you can answer any follow-up questions in person. The same question can be asked by email.

What's better?

It really depends on the professor. Personally, I'd favour a student just turning up to my class. It requires the minimal effort on my part.

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  • Hi! I do not live in the same country as the professor and am not a student at that uni, and part of the reason why I would be applying for the course is that I would love to work with that professor (but there is no course in his department I could apply to). So I can't wait until I am accepted and then ask him. – userjmillohara Dec 12 '17 at 16:50
  • @J.Miller You're applying for an MA in subjects "Y & Z that really fits [your] interests]," but you actually want to study subject X. That seems rather peculiar. Regardless, I now think (as previously highlighted) academia.stackexchange.com/questions/100379/… is perhaps the most applicable (the standard advice applies to your case too). Albeit, see also my next comment. – user2768 Dec 12 '17 at 16:57
  • The MA will have a syllabus. That syllabus will most likely be published online. (Albeit, xkcd.com/773/.) You can search the syllabus to find out whether the professor you want to work with teaches any classes on the MA. (Note that taking a professor's class isn't the same was working with the professor.) – user2768 Dec 12 '17 at 17:01

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