Postgraduate Study

 People choose postgraduate study for a variety of reasons


such as:

  • a need to specialise further in a particular academic area
  • a need for a particular professional or vocational qualification i.e. teaching or social work
  • academic research
  • not sure what else to do

If you know you want to keep on studying, think carefully about the following:


  • what subject do you want to study?
  • do you have the necessary qualifications?
  • how do you want to study it e.g. part-time full time, distance learning?
  • how are you going to fund it?
  • where do you want to study?


Postgraduate study is divided into research based or taught degrees


  • a doctorate PhD, DPhil or DEng these are by research
  • a masters - MSc, MA, MBA MEd, MRes or MPhil these can be research or taught
  • a certificate or diploma




It will usually take 3 years to complete at a minimum. You will undertake an original piece of research, which you then write up and present as a thesis. This is a long-term project and is therefore very demanding and you need to be sure you can maintain the motivation required. So ask yourself:

  • have you enjoyed dissertation or project work?
  • do you want to research a subject, which is normally related to your degree?
  • do you want to work in academic research?

Normally a minimum of a 2:1 in your degree is necessary.




Masters courses are usually 12 months in length, comprising of taught modules, examinations and a project or dissertation. The course may be vocational or academic. A 2.1 is usually required for entry.


Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas


  • most of these are vocational
  • usually last for 9 months with sometimes an option to produce a dissertation after the diploma is completed to upgrade to a Masters qualification


Do your research


The Prospects  and TARGETcourses websites contains a postgraduate course database that you can search. 




Normally you apply directly to the institution so you are not limited to the number of institutions you can apply to. You should apply around February or March in your final year.

Some postgraduate courses in teaching, law and social work, for example, have a clearing house that will deal with your applications. There are likely to be closing dates for these courses and you are advised to apply early.

If you are applying for research-based study discuss this with your tutors. They will be able to give you advice on your suitability, research topics and method and timing of your application. You will also need a strong academic reference.


Postgraduate Study Abroad


You could consider this, but you need to be aware of the following:

  • you will need to start your research around 18 months before your intended start date.
  • costs are high, particularly in the US.
  • establish your reasons for wanting to study abroad - you may have to convince an institution of why you wish to study there.
  • if applicable, make sure the course you want to study is acceptable to the appropriate professional bodies in the UK.



From summer 2016 a postgraduate loan will be available to help you pay for a Master’s course.

To get a postgraduate loan:

§         you have to be studying a taught or research Master’s course

§         you can be studying at a university or college by distance learning

§         you have to be under 60 at the start of the first academic year of your course.

§         you must normally live in England.

For more information please visit Postgraduate Loan

A postgraduate course can be an investment leading to a future career but you need to think carefully about how you might pay back the loan.

The Research Councils and Arts and Humanities Research Board offer some funding for postgraduate study.


Useful websites



Research Councils



Other websites