Yup. My last pair was Aurum lasted. These were a Japanese last he modified that he thought would fit my foot well (wide forefoot with a standard heel). You can see the difference between the two below.
You're over thinking it :). My MSc program had prep work too. Pretty much basic and useless stuff given to you in order to have common ground and something to discuss when the course starts or if there is a history of students not being prepared for the course work. Usually the former. Most people don't take it too seriously.
Just calculate it as an potential ROI for each. Your network will be the biggest takeaway after you graduate. Look at what industries the alumni are in and which most closely aligned with what you want to do.