Postgraduate study and funding

Is postgraduate study right for me?


You may love your subject or think postgraduate study will give you a competitive edge, but will it help you get closer to your career goals? 

Consider the following factors

  • The price of the course – can you afford it? Is there funding available?
  • Is the course required for the profession or career you are interested in?
  • Do employers value the course? Is it mentioned in job specifications as essential or desirable?
  • If the answer to the above questions is no, or if you have no idea what you want to do at the end of a postgraduate course, you might want book a careers appointment to discuss your career objectives.

Postgraduate study and fundingChoosing a course


If you are in the process of choosing a course, the options can seem overwhelming. Where do you start to look and how can you differentiate between the plethora of courses available? You may be considering studying overseas, and this can bring a wealth of benefits (e.g. cultural, linguistic), and in some cases tuition fees can be competitive with the UK, but you will need to research your options carefully.

Here are a few factors to consider:

  • The quality of the course – is it taught by industry professionals (for more vocational courses, e.g. journalism), is it accredited by a professional body, is it recognised by employers, does the course content reflect current practices and debates in the sector, employment destinations of previous students on the course (how many have been successful in getting into their chosen field?). Are there any rankings you can look at?
  • The focus of the course – is it better to do a general course to “keep your options open” or specialise in a particular area to make yourself more employable?
  • Course fees – these vary considerably from course to course, often even at the same institution.
  • The availability of funding and/or the likelihood of being able to obtain (and find the time for) a part-time job alongside your degree.
  •  Other facilities at the university, e.g. library, IT, international student support (if appropriate) etc.

Postgraduate study in the UK

Choosing a course

Check if the course has been evaluated by external sources, look at surveys and rankings, check if the course is accredited by a professional body, and evaluate the institutions resources (teaching staff, library, IT, International Student Support etc.)

How much does it cost?

The average fee for home/EU students for a one year Masters course is around £3,000-£6,000. An MBA may cost in excess of £18,000. Fees are likely to increase for 2012/13 so always check the exact sum with your prospective university.

How do I apply?

  • There is no central admissions system for most postgraduate programmes – candidates submit an application directly to the university, at PhD level you may have to find your own supervisor.
  • The method of application depends on the institution and course – most candidates are asked to complete an application form. (you may also have to submit a CV and a research statement) Some universities now charge an application fee, and will not view the form until payment is made.
  •  In most cases there are no official closing dates for applications (with the exception of Dentistry, Medicine, Law and Teacher Training). However, many popular courses fill up quickly so it is important to submit the application as early as possible.
  • There are strict deadlines for funding applications so begin researching your options 12 – 18 months in advance and start applying 6 -12 months before the course begins.

Studying overseas

There are many good reasons for considering studying in another country, you will need to consider what your priorities are and prepare to do some intensive research.

Funding awards are usually only offered once a year, application deadlines are strict and it can take many months to organise a student VISA.

The quality of courses and universities varies overseas, you need to closely investigate academic standards and reputation.


  • The duration of the programme may differ from similar courses offered in UK universities (eg American doctorate programmes can often take 5 years to complete)
  • Terms also start at different times in different parts of the world (in Japan the academic year starts in April and in Australia it is February).
  • Studying in a country does not necessarily mean that you can work there either as a student or a graduate. Make sure that you check the visa regulations.

How much does it cost?

With tuition fees ranging from £3,000 to over £30,000 postgraduate study can be very expensive. Where and what you study will have a big impact on costs.
It is important to investigate the total costs included in studying abroad. Aside from course fees expenses could include, laboratory fees, accommodation fees, travel (including trips home), books, equipment, travel/health and dental insurance. University places are offered on the understanding that candidates will have enough funds to cover all of their costs before the course commences.  In many cases universities will ask to see bank statements or if applicable letters from a sponsoring organisation.

How do I apply?

Candidates for overseas courses are normally asked to submit an online or paper-based application form and/or a CV and covering letter.In some countries (especially the US) applicants are required to write a statement of purpose.  This document sets out why you are interested in the subject you have applied for and why you consider yourself to be a suitable applicant.

  •  Admissions departments will usually request that you send a number of supporting documents including a copy of your transcript, degree certificate, and references.
  • Check exactly which documents are required and start organising your application as soon as possible – it can take a long time to gather all the correct paper work together.


Research Councils, universities, charities, foundations, trusts, professional bodies and overseas governments may offer funding awards.

Generally, the number of funding awards for science subjects far outweighs that for the arts and social sciences, and there are less opportunities for funding at masters level than PhD. To maximise your chance of getting an award you should apply to as many sources of funding as possible.

  • Ask your prospective university – if Research Council or instituational funding such as bursaries or scholarships. is available they will advertise it, usually on their websites
  • Contact the course admissions tutor and enquire if any specific funding awards are available. He/she should be able to outline how students who completed the course have funded their studies.
  • In the case of study overseas – many universities have International Offices and Awards Offices; they may be able to offer assistance, but you will need to contact the universities to check. Some universities also fund graduates through teaching assistantships, particularly in the USA.