Postgraduate students and Researchers

Many students undertake a postgraduate course or research. Their reasons for doing so are varied and include a desire to:

  • develop first degree knowledge
  • develop knowledge of a vocational area, for example information technology
  • enter a career in a professional area which requires postgraduate study such as teaching or the legal profession.

Types of study

Higher degree by research
All Doctoral and some Masters degrees are awarded after a period of original research culminating in a thesis. A Masters degree (MPhil/MRes/MA/MSc) usually takes between one to two years while a Doctorate (PhD) takes at least three years. Part-time postgraduate study is also a possibility.

Higher degree by instruction
Most taught masters courses usually last one year. These normally consist of lectures and seminars, and may include examinations. Training is given in research methods and a dissertation is written. Some courses require previous knowledge of the subject, but others provide the opportunity to study a new discipline. There are also conversion courses specifically aimed at students who have no prior experience of the subject. Examples include Information Technology and Psychology.

Diplomas and certificates
These are often vocational courses aimed at preparing students for specific career areas. Such courses are essential for certain careers, for example teaching (PGCE) or the legal profession (LPC, BVC). For other professions further study may be useful but not essential (such as a diploma in public relations). These courses usually involve both academic study and practical instruction.

Before undertaking any course you should assess:

  • which courses are available
  • how much will it cost
  • is funding available.

For some postgraduate courses there will be a clearing house and a closing date, but in most cases there is no fixed closing date and applications should be made directly to the institution of your choice.