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Postgraduate Education – the Practicalities

Qualifications required for a postgraduate course, how to apply, and information sources – for both UK and international students.

Do You Qualify for a Postgraduate Course?

Specific entry requirements for postgraduate courses vary considerably, so you should always check entry requirements with the institution you are interested in.

  • Most universities and colleges require a first class degree or a good second class honours for a Masters as well.
  • Some courses specify that you have to have achieved a 2:1 or above; others a 2:2 or above.

This is true as well for a PhD. But you will probably also need a Masters degree, an MPhil or an MRes as well as evidence that you know something about research procedures.

  • Also useful would be some experience of working alone on a research project as well as evidence of good writing and communication skills. The latter is especially important for humanities and social science doctorates.

If your qualifications are gained outside the UK, you could ask your local British Council office for help about the comparability of yours with those in the UK. After that you could contact your chosen institution.

  • Universities and colleges have English language requirements so you should check what will be needed.
  • For a postgraduate course you may need an IELTS score of 6.0 to 7.0. Check with your local British Council office where and when you can take the test.

Applying for a Postgraduate Course

There is no centralized admissions system for postgraduate courses in the UK, so you should apply directly to your chosen institution(s).

  • The exception to this rule is the UKPASS service, which has been introduced by UCAS and which covers 18 universities and colleges. If the university or college you want to apply to uses this service, you will be able to complete your application online.

Universities and colleges using UKPASS

For the most part, each institution has its own procedure.

  • You should leave a lot of time for your application because it may take time for the university or college to process it and make a decision.
  • In the application you should write about your academic record and possibly mention your research interests.
  • Work experience is also important, so think about the skills you have acquired from work experience.
  • When writing your personal statement, think carefully about why you have chosen your programme and what it means to you.

You should draw up a shortlist of institutions and courses.

  • You can apply to any number of institutions but student advisers recommend a shortlist of six to eight institutions.
  • Apply directly to the universities and colleges either through their paper forms or, if you are from overseas, you may apply online via the British Council’s website (www.educationuk.org).

Check with departments about the closing date for applications.

  • Give yourself plenty of time by starting your application process one year before the course begins.
  • It might be a good idea to apply to more than one institution to ensure you secure a place.

Entry and Employment Regulations

Scholarships

  • If you are a applying for a scholarship, apply at least one year before the course begins.
  • If you are overseas, you need to demonstrate that you can support yourself whilst in the UK in order to get a stduent visa.

Sources of Information

A number of websites give useful information about postgraduate courses.

  • These include UCAS, (www.ucas.com/how-it-all-works/postgraduate), which lists all courses and gives details of its UKPASS service.
  • Then there is Prospects, the UK’s official graduate careers’ website, (www.prospects.ac.uk/postgraduate_study.htm).
  • Overseas students should take a look at the British Council’s website for international postgraduates (www.britishcouncil.org/learning-infosheets-choosing-your-postgraduate-course.pdf).
  • Another useful site is jobs.ac.uk.