Steps to Postgraduate Study : Practical consideration
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Steps to Postgraduate Study

A guide to asking the right questions about taught postgraduate study in the UK

Practical considerations

What practical things do I need to think about (finance, accommodation, visas and applications)?

Funding taught postgraduate study

The cost of postgraduate study in the UK varies between subjects, courses and institutions. Living expenses also vary across the country.

  • To find out more about fees and funding contact the international office / admissions office at the university or college you are considering.
  • Students from the UK, European Union (EU), and non-EU countries may be charged different fees. Fees are usually more expensive for non-EU students.

Sources of funding

Getting funding can be hard and needs research. You may be able to find funding related to your course, from your employer or other external sources. You may need to find funding yourself.

For students who normally live in England (and the EU), the Government has:

  • announced a new Master’s degree loan scheme for 2016-17 where master’s students under 60 can access a loan of up to £10,000 towards the cost of their study. The loans are administered by Student Finance England and information about eligibility and the application process can be found on their student finance page at The Student Room.

For students who normally live in Scotland:

  • the Student Awards agency Scotland (SAAS) provides loan funding to cover tuition fees for certain courses.

For students who normally live in Northern Ireland, taught postgraduate students can access up to £7,028 in the academic year 2015-16.

Other sources of funding are available:

  • Banks may offer professional and career development loans, but they may have strict lending criteria.
  • Some specific loan schemes are available for Law or MBA students.
  • Some course providers offer funding assistance or bursaries. They may target students from certain countries or alumni, but information on their websites should make this clear.
  • Disabled students can access specific financial support to help with disability-related living expenses.

Information about funding

Most postgraduate course providers publish information about funding on their website. This will cover scholarships and bursaries.

Other sources of information about postgraduate funding include:

Government information sources:

Full or part-time study? On-campus or distance learning?

How and where you can, or want, to study will depend on your circumstances.

  • Part-time courses, distance learning and combinations of modes of study are all options if you need to stay where you currently live or work.
  • Although many courses have a range of study options, you should ask the university or college what this means in practice.
  • Some vocational courses have to be studied full time.
  • Think how you like to learn, and the amount of face-to-face conversation and connection you want with other students and staff. Make sure you choose a type of study which suits you.
  • If you want to study a particular course you may need to consider moving. Alternatively, distance learning or a combination of learning on campus with online learning ('blended learning') may be an option.

Will accommodation be provided?

Most universities have some postgraduate accommodation. They usually explain how they allocate it, and often have lists of local landlords.

Keep in mind that finding out about accommodation costs will be critical in working out what the overall cost of postgraduate study will be.

Priority may be given to international students. This does not mean they will be able to help all international students. They will typically also only be able to offer a limited amount of accommodation for international students with families.

Ideas to try
  • You could ask the university or college to put you in contact with other postgraduate students looking for accommodation.
  • Contact the institution's accommodation department at an early stage for advice, particularly if you have specific accommodation needs.

Is a visa necessary for international students?

If you are from a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area country, you should not need a visa to study in the UK.

If you are coming from outside these countries you will need a 'Tier 4' study visa. See how to apply.

Leave plenty of time to understand the rules and apply for the visa and course.

The visa is granted for study at a particular university or college. So you will need to have a place on a course first.

You can apply to as many courses and institutions as you like, but you will only be able to accept one offer. Once you have accepted its offer, the institution will issue you with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), which you will need to apply for the visa.

If you are applying via an agent or an educational adviser at a particular university or college, they will help you to apply. Their websites and offices for dealing with international students will also offer advice.

Resources for information and support

Are international students allowed to work?

Students from the EU are allowed to work, so long as they follow rules in their home country about working abroad as a student.

The study visa for students outside the EU is a little more restrictive: the rules depend on your place of study. For more information see the UKCISA guidance.

Visa regulations change and you should check the current regulations before you begin any work.

Ideas to try: ask whether a work placement is a formal part of the course. If it is not, then you may not gain some valuable types of work experience such as an internship or work placement.

Additional resources for information and support

What qualifications do I need?

Every taught postgraduate course will have its own entry requirements set out in the course information. For international students, this will make it clear what level of written and spoken English the course requires.

Some applicants will have a first degree in the subject they wish to study, but this is not always a requirement. Applicants should consider that:

  • Many people do not study the same subject as a postgraduate that they studied for their first degree.
  • Courses at some universities and colleges will consider applicants who have relevant work experience instead of a first degree. This is known as 'recognition of prior learning', and depends on the subject area – for example it may be more common for business courses but rarer in the sciences.
  • Some courses will also recognise higher education qualifications that are not degrees but combine work experience. (In the UK, example qualifications are the Higher National Diploma (HND) or Higher National Certificate (HNC).)
  • Some courses will accept professional qualifications.
  • Ask if your experience meets the requirements. If you do not meet the requirements for a course the university or college may still be able to help. They may know of other study options or courses elsewhere, more suited to your qualifications.

Useful to know: On institution websites, look out for courses or areas of the website which mention Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) or Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL), sometimes called Recognition of Prior Learning. This will tell you whether the institution accepts alternative study or experience, and in what circumstances.

Applying for a taught postgraduate course

In most cases, you will need to apply separately for each postgraduate course, even within the same institution.

Applications are usually sent direct to the institution. There is no UK-wide application system as there is for undergraduate courses.

There are some exceptions:

  • UCAS Postgraduate scheme handles applications to a selected range of institutions
  • A number of professional or vocational courses run 'common application schemes' (for example, in law, teaching, social work and clinical psychology).

The deadline for applications varies between postgraduate course providers. So you will need to ask each one you are applying to when this is.

UK and European Union (EU) students can apply for as many courses as they like in most subjects and accept all the offers they wish (although they may need to give a deposit). Once they have offers, they can decide which offer to accept nearer the starting date. But leave enough time to arrange other important things like accommodation.

International students can also apply to as many courses and institutions as they like, but they can only accept one offer. They will need to apply for a visa to study at that university or college.

Common applications schemes:

  • For Social Work MA courses, applications must be made through UCAS
  • For Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) qualifications, applications must be made through UCAS Teacher Training
  • For the Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies (or CPE) applications must be made through the Law Central Application Board

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Where to find further information