Choosing a postgraduate course

The UK offers a wide range of taught postgraduate programmes or postgraduate research programmes, which are respected and recognised throughout the world.

Choosing a postgraduate course

There are currently over 21,000 university postgraduate courses to choose from.

Most masters and diploma programmes can be completed in one year. They are often linked to specific careers, such as a master in marketing.

Other postgraduate courses provide an entry point into specific career sectors, such as the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), which is a prerequisite to becoming a teacher in most schools.

If you complete a diploma or masters course, you will be in a good position to go on to do a doctorate.

Taught courses

Taught courses generally result in the award of diplomas, certificates and certain masters degrees, such as a Master of Arts (MA) or Master of Science (MSc).

They usually consist of a number of modules on specific topics with a set amount of contact time with staff through seminars, tutorials, lectures and one to ones.

Taught courses most commonly come in the form of a master degree.

  • One to two years full time.
  • Two to three years part time
  • Includes seminars, lectures, tutorials, project work, oral work, some research, a thesis/dissertation and exams. The balance between these varies.
  • You may also have the option of leaving out the dissertation/thesis and gaining a postgraduate diploma (PG Dip), useful if you want to specialise in a certain area.

Research degrees

University postgraduate research courses involve the in-depth study of a specific field, usually related to your first-degree subject. Research courses generally result in the award of masters degrees and doctorates (PhDs).

PhDs can be started immediately after your first degree or a masters course. They involve research into a chosen topic under the supervision of an experienced academic.

  • Three to four years full time.
  • Five to six years part time.
  • Considered very intellectually challenging.
  • Includes a thesis of around 100,000 words and usually an oral presentation.

Masters programmes by research (MA, MSc, MPhil, MRes)

Put simply, these are masters programmes that rely on your own private research, supervised by an experienced academic, as opposed to a taught programme.

  • One to two years full time.
  • Two to four years part time.
  • Similar in structure to a doctorate, only shorter.
  • Includes the production of a thesis and usually an oral presentation.

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