A free MSc in Financial Engineering sounds crazy but it looks like this is exactly what World Quant University seems to be doing. With an ethical goal of making education globally accessible to capable students, regardless of their financial situation, WQU launched their programme in 2015 by Igor Tulchinsky and has been gaining popularity, especially in the past few years.
The course is fully provided online and covers a wide range of topics/subjects that would be taught on a Masters in Financial Engineering.
Before enrolling for the course, I tried searching for online reviews but given that the course is relatively new, I struggled finding useful information which is what prompted me to write this post.
Key Information & Resources
Tuition Fees: 0
Intake: not disclosed
Duration: 2 years
WQU’s FAQ page and the student handbook do a pretty good job in covering the main questions that prospective students might have and I am sharing the links below:
List of Modules
This is the full list of modules that students are expected to study throughout the two years:
– Course 1 MScFE 560: Financial Markets
– Course 2 MScFE 610: Econometrics
– Course 3 MScFE 620: Discrete-time Stochastic Processes
– Course 4 MScFE 622: Continuous-time Stochastic Processes
– Course 5 MScFE 630: Computational Finance
– Course 6 MScFE 640: Portfolio Theory and Asset Pricing
– Course 7 MScFE 650: Machine Learning in Finance
– Course 8 MScFE 660: Case Studies in Risk Management
– Course 9 MScFE 670: Data Feeds and Technology
– Course 10 MScFE 690: Capstone Course
Having gone through the application process myself, I can say that it was pretty straightforward. Below I would like to share the steps:
(1) Create an account on WQU (provide basic info and upload a scan of an official ID, once you have enrolled for the course WQU will also require the official transcript to be sent directly to them by your university).
(2) Sit and pass their maths test (this is an entry requirement and you will need a score of at least 75% to continue your application). I will add more details regarding the maths test in a separate section of this post.
(3) After passing the maths test, you will be allowed to go through their induction materials. These materials allow you to understand more about the courses including the resources that you are given as a student. You will also have a number of tests/questions and you will need a passing mark for each question but you can treat this more like an open book exam and in my opinion they just have these small tests to ensure that students are familiar with course rules and avoid asking the same questions.
Preparing for the maths test will arguably be the most time consuming part of your application. This is because you need to score at least 75% on the test in order to be admitted on the course. If you fail it once you are allowed to take it a second time, if you fail again you will have to wait a month before being allowed to retake the test. If your calculus and stats are a bit rusty, you will struggle with it but WQU give you links to relevant online MIT lectures to use for your preparation. The MIT material might be overwhelming and although I am sure that having a solid grasp of all the topics covered in the videos would be helpful, I personally thought they could have provided more condensed study materials. My advice is to take the test once familiarise yourself with the type of questions and focus on those topics.
How Are Lectures Conducted?
Since this is a fully online degree, all the course materials will be available on WQU’s learning portal. You create your login ID when you apply and once you are enrolled for the course, you will gradually get access to the modules that you are registered for. A lot of the lectures consist of relatively short videos that cover core concepts. Students will also be able to download pdfs of lecture notes and video transcripts. There are weekly multiple choice quizzes that count towards the final mark. On top of that, at least for Financial Markets, students need to write 1,000 word essays which also count towards the final mark. These are then marked by other students in the form of a peer assessment and these grades also count towards the final mark. On certain weeks there will be group assignments due, these submissions will be marked by WQU lectures. This mainly applies to the Financial Markets module which I am currently enrolled for.
My Experience so far
I have enrolled for their September class and so far the experience has been positive overall although there are a lot of points that I found could be improved. I am listing both the positives and the negatives based on two months of study.
– The material is well structured, easy to follow and just to emphasise this part, it’s provided at no additional cost.
– A variety of teaching tools are used such as: recorded video lectures, notes and weekly one hour classes via Zoom. Again, for a free course this is amazing and you can tell that a lot of effort and planning have gone into it.
– There are group assignments which allow you to interact with other students.
– Expanding your network with your peers (we currently have both a LinkedIn and a Whatsapp group).
– Lecturers are very responsive in answering questions which get posted in the student forum.
– There is definitely some room of improvement for the content. Some of the assignment questions are not phrased in the best way, especially when compared to exam questions of other established financial qualifications such as CFA and FRM, the difference in quality is noticeable. This opinion is shared by a number of students on the course.
– Video lectures can be improved and could be made more engaging, especially when they are competing against a lot of free online materials.
– Peer to Peer marking might not always work and this has been the cause of a lot of arguments. The way students mark the work is that you submit your assignment and then two other randomly selected students will mark it anonymously. I have witnessed a lot of cases where students are just being spiteful and give unfair marks and faculty end up remarking the assignment. There should be a more robust system in place to ensure that assignments get marked in a fair way any with more consistent standards.
CQF vs. WQU
On the course I have met a lot of students who have/or are registered for both programmes. Since I have not had the chance of taking WQU’s quantitative modules I can’t make a comparison at the moment but will be updating you in the future once I have more information to fairly assess the quality of WQU’s materials.
I read mixed opinions online on this. Some people say this might be the future of education, others seem to be more sceptical. Personally, I think the truth lies somewhere in between. On one hand, while I think it’s a bit difficult to compare WQU to a degree from a standard university; a lot of people might doubt the rigour (arguably due to entrance criteria and the content), needless to say, employers will have a bias towards Ivy League Universities and might be quick at dismissing the degree. I have also read a lot of discussions about accreditation but I won’t touch that topic in this post. On the other hand, students don’t have to pay hefty tuition fees but have the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge. The degree can be done part-time so students can stay in the job market. Some employers/managers might be also be impressed by the dedication from students in studying and working full-time. For me, the content of the degree is valuable and is worth my time. I like that it devotes two modules in learning about stochastic processes, has a topic on machine learning and also covers computational finance. These are all topics that I am looking forward to studying.
I hope this post has given prospective students a good idea of what to expect from the course. As I take additional modules from this degree I am intending to share additional posts but if you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Happy studying.