Postgraduate or graduate education refers to the courses and qualifications beyond undergraduate level. This can include further degrees, certificates, diplomas or professional qualifications. Postgraduate study doesn’t need to be directly connected to the course you graduated in at undergraduate level, though it is often the case, and a strong performance in your undergraduate degree can certainly help strengthen your application.
There are a wide variety of postgraduate study options available in the UK. Ultimately, your choice will depend on your unique interests and career goals. Some students opt for academic or research-based courses, whereas others are more suited to vocational options. Take care to evaluate your individual circumstances before committing to a postgraduate path.
Here is an overview of some common options at postgraduate level:
Master's Degrees: these are typically one or two-year programs that provide advanced study in a specific subject area. Some popular master's degrees in the UK include Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc), and Master of Business Administration (MBA).
Doctoral Degrees: these are advanced research degrees that typically take three to four years to complete. Doctoral degrees in the UK include Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Education (EdD), and Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).
Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas: these are shorter programs that provide specialized training in a specific subject area. They can be a good option for those who do not want to commit to a full master's degree program.
Professional Courses: these are programs designed to provide specialized training in a specific profession, such as law, medicine, or teaching. Examples of professional courses in the UK include the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), and the Postgraduate Diploma in Medical Education (PGDME).
Research Degrees: these are research intensive programs that typically lead to a PhD or other research-based degree. They can be a good option for those who are interested in pursuing a career in academia or research.
Typical Postgraduate Course Length
The length of postgraduate courses in the UK can vary depending on the type of course and the institution offering it. Bear in mind that many courses also offer part-time and even online options if you are looking for more flexibility.
Here is a general guide:
Master's Degrees: these are typically one or two-year programs, with some programs lasting up to three years. The length of the program will depend on the subject area, the level of study, whether the course is full-time or part-time, and the institution offering the program.
Doctoral Degrees: these are advanced research degrees that typically take three to four years to complete, although some programs can take up to six years. The length of the program will depend on the research topic and the progress of the student.
Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas: these are shorter programs that provide specialized training in a specific subject area. They typically last between three and twelve months.
Professional Courses: these can vary in length, depending on the subject area and the level of study. For example, a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) typically takes one year to complete, while a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) can take between nine and twelve months.
Research Degrees: these can also vary in length, depending on the research topic and the progress of the student. A PhD typically takes three to four years to complete, while other research-based degrees can take longer.
It's important to note that these are general guidelines, and the specific duration of a postgraduate course will depend on the program and institution offering it. Make sure to check the institution’s website for the specifics relating to each course.
Postgraduate Course Structure
The typical structure of postgraduate courses will vary depending on the institution and the program you are enrolled in, but there are some common elements.
This is a typical course format:
Induction: at the beginning of the course, there will usually be an induction period where you will be introduced to the course, the institution and your fellow students. You may also receive information about the support services available to postgraduate students, such as academic writing support and career advice.
Taught modules: postgraduate courses typically involve a mix of taught modules and independent study. Taught modules are similar to undergraduate courses in that they involve attending lectures, seminars and workshops. You will almost certainly need to complete assignments and/or assessments. The main difference between undergraduate and graduate study is that postgraduate courses tend to be more specialized and focused on a specific subject area.
Independent study: postgraduate courses also require a significant amount of independent study, often more so than at undergraduate level. This may involve conducting research, reading academic literature, and preparing for assessments. Independent study is an important part of postgraduate study as it allows you to further develop your critical thinking and research skills.
Research project or dissertation: you are usually required to undertake a research project or dissertation. This is an opportunity for you to conduct original research in your chosen subject area, and to demonstrate your ability to apply research methods and analysis. The projects and dissertations are typically more developed and more rigorous than at undergraduate level.
Assessment: postgraduate courses are typically assessed through a combination of coursework assignments, exams and your research project or dissertation.
Support: throughout your postgraduate course, you will have access to a range of support services, including academic support, pastoral care, and career advice. Many institutions also have dedicated postgraduate societies and alumni networks to help you connect with other postgraduate students.
Postgraduate Application Process
The application process for postgraduate courses in the UK will obviously vary depending on the institution and program you are applying to, but here is an overview of the typical steps involved in the application process for postgraduate courses in the UK:
- Choose your course and institution: the first step is to research and choose the course and institution that you want to apply to. You should consider factors such as the program content, location, cost, and entry requirements.
- Meet the entry requirements: postgraduate courses in the UK typically require a minimum of a Bachelor's degree or an equivalent qualification. Some courses may have additional requirements such as relevant work experience.
- Prepare your application: you will need to prepare an application that includes your academic transcripts, personal statement, CV, and any additional documents required by the institution. The personal statement is an important part of the application and should explain why you are interested in the course and how your previous experience and qualifications make you a good candidate.
- Submit your application: you can usually apply online through the institution's website or through a centralized application system such as UCAS Postgraduate or Studyportals.
- Receive an offer: if your application is successful, you will receive an offer from the institution. This may be a conditional offer, which is dependent on you meeting certain requirements such as achieving a specific grade in your undergraduate degree.
- Accept your offer: once you have received an offer, you will need to decide whether to accept it. You may need to pay a deposit to secure your place on the course.
- Apply for funding: if you need funding for your course, you should research and apply for scholarships, grants, and loans that are available to postgraduate students.
It's a good idea to check the specific requirements and deadlines for the course you are interested in via the institution’s website.
Tutors for Postgraduate Study
Keystone provides consultancy and undergraduate and graduate tutoring services for those looking at postgraduate study. Keystone’s team have years of experience providing support on all aspects of university applications, including subject/institution choices, personal statements, entry requirements and interview preparation. Many of Keystone’s staff and tutors are educated to postgraduate level and are able to provide expertise across a wide range of disciplines.