I'm currently in the midst applying to do my Master's degree in a university in UK. It is a distance learning course and I am a full-time working professional. The application requires me to name 2 referee and they should be someone who knows me in an academic or professional role.

I am feeling a wee bit uncomfortable to let my supervisor and boss know that I am intending to pursue Master's degree due to the fact that they value productivity more than academic qualification.

Furthermore, I was somewhat an 'inactive' student while doing Bachelor's degree. I've never participated in any organization or published any publications.

As such, is there any avenue where I can find professional referee who will be willing to look at my application and endorse my application?

  • 2
    The people you work with who are not your supervisor and boss (peer coworkers) also know you in a professional role.
    – ff524
    Mar 18, 2014 at 9:36
  • I recommend convincing your supervisor that you will be more productive after further academic training, and then asking them to be a reference. The alternative is to pursue your degree in secret, which is a really bad idea.
    – JeffE
    Mar 18, 2014 at 22:08

1 Answer 1


As such, is there any avenue where I can find professional referee who will be willing to look at my application and endorse my application?

It can't just be based on the application, since the purpose is to provide additional information and personal impressions. It's possible in principle to hire someone, but it's a bad idea in practice. I see it on rare occasions in the U.S., maybe once a year or so. Someone will have a letter of recommendation from an "educational counselor" or the like, who was hired to advise them on their graduate school applications. These letters are almost entirely useless. There's only so much information they could provide in principle (since the letter writer has no special expertise in the subject area and doesn't know the applicant particularly well), and the little they could say isn't particularly trustworthy due to the financial conflict of interest (they are hired to get people into graduate school, not to provide an unbiased evaluation).

As ff524 pointed out in a comment, you can ask colleagues other than your supervisor. This is not quite as good as your supervisor, since they are not in as good a position to evaluate your work (and the admissions committee will assume that you asked your friends), but it's better than nothing and might be good enough.

Another possibility for getting an academic letter is to take a single class now, as a special student rather than enrolling in a degree program, and to ask the professor for a letter once you have impressed them with your class performance. However, this could be time-consuming or expensive, and there might not be any suitable classes available to you.

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