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The basics
THE UK: Applying to University

Postgraduate education

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In the UK, the term postgraduate is used for master's and PhD studies, usually indicating further study for a student who already has a first degree (this is the equivalent of graduate study, the term used in the US). There are four main areas of postgraduate education in the UK.

Pre-master's courses are for students who want to study a master's degree but feel they need to brush up on their study skills, improve their English or simply adjust to life as a student again. They usually last between six months and a year and most include modules on academic study methods, research, computing skills, data analysis, interviewing, academic referencing and essay writing.

Postgraduate certificates and diplomas
There is a huge range of subjects available at this level. Often they are accepted as a professional qualification in their field. Many postgraduate diplomas are similar to master's degrees, although you will probably not need to write a dissertation. Some of these courses enable you to transfer to a master's course on completion

Master's courses
These are two ways you can take a master's course: via taught or research methods

• Taught master's (MA, MSc, MBA)
A taught master's usually involves a number of taught modules, as well as the researching and writing of a dissertation with the guidance of a supervisor - normally an expert in the field. They generally last for one year of full-time study.

• Research master's (MRes, MPhil)
If you're taking a research master's, rather than attending lectures and seminars you will devote all of your time to academic research. Some courses allow you to take a taught element, but your final mark will be on the quality of your dissertation.

Doctorate (PhD)
A PhD is the most common doctoral degree, which requires students to produce an original piece of significant research and write a dissertation under the guidance of one or possibly two tutors. While the PhD is the most common way to gain a doctorate, professional doctorates and New Route PhDs are becoming popular alternatives and involve a taught element with the research. The complete cycle of doctoral work may take anywhere between five to eight years.

postgraduate courses

Postgraduate eligibility criteria

Undergraduate degree
You will usually be required to have completed an undergraduate (bachelor's) degree of at least three years in length to enter a master's programme. For a doctorate, you will be required to have a postgraduate degree such as a master's or equivalent already.

Admissions tests
Generally your previous education and application (which might include an interview) will be the deciding factor in whether you are accepted. The only exception is that you may be required to take a GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) and reach a certain score in order to be accepted on an MBA course.

You will also have to prove you have sufficient English language ability by providing your IELTS score or other approved English language test.

Online courses
Online courses incorporate a range of delivery methods and many programmes can be studied entirely in your own country. You may therefore be able to complete the whole course without travelling to Australia, Singapore or the UK and the USA for workshops or seminars, while others may require some form of attendance in Australia, Singapore or the UK and USA or at local partner institutions. Check with your chosen institution to find out if the course is 100% online or if any attendance is required.

Full-time and part-time study options are usually available. With both you'll be supported through a range of media included printed study materials and the internet, and you'll communicate with your tutor and other students by mail, email or online via video conferencing and chat facilities.
You can study courses at every level including: undergraduate certificates, diplomas and degrees; postgraduate masters and MBA's and professional qualifications via online learning.

The entrance requirements to take a online course will vary depending on the institution and the qualification you're interested in pursuing. These requirements are designed to ensure that once you're admitted onto a course, you'll be able to manage your studies successfully. Most institutions will require a good standard of English language, because of the way the course material is delivered and they way in which your work is assessed.

University rankings
There are many rankings of universities and colleges which qualify institutions on any range of factors from academic research, student performance, surveys of educators and current/prospective students. Other rankings and league tables qualify specific academic programmes or departments.

An institution's ranking usually figures highly in the decision-making process of prospective students, however it is important to be aware if the ranking had the input or support from the institution itself.


More information

Read our post about Postgraduate Education and how it can influence your future.

Are PhD students ready to face a non-academic life? We discuss this question in this article.

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