Postgraduate Study in the UK | The Careers Service Postgraduate Study in the UK – Oxford University Careers Service
Oxford logo

There are 160+ universities in the UK and almost all of them offer postgraduate degrees. There is a large amount of variation in terms of:

  • Mix of teaching and research activities
  • Size and make-up of student population
  • Range of courses offered
  • Campus vs town-based

The most common postgraduate level degrees on offer are Masters and PhDs, but a wide variety of other qualifications also exists. See Types of Course for more information.

Universities awarding degrees must be recognised by the UK authorities (UK and Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies). In addition to institutions awarding degrees, there are also several hundred colleges and other institutions which do not have degree-awarding powers but who provide complete courses leading to recognised UK degrees. Courses at these institutions are validated by institutions which have degree awarding powers.

You may come across terms such as Russell Group which refer to groups of universities which share broadly similar origins and ethos.

Choosing where to study
Plus Icon Minus Icon

There are several course search engines available (TARGETJobs Postgraduate Study, Hotcourses, Prospects, FindaMasters, FindaPhD) which you can use to create a longlist of courses.

To narrow down your options:

Note that the reputation of the university as a whole may not accurately reflect the reputation of an individual department.

Doctoral Training Centres

There are a growing number of Doctoral Training Centres (often referred to as Doctoral Training Programmes (DTP), or Centres of Doctoral Training (CDT)), funded by UK Research Councils, which bring together academics from multiple disciplines, and sometimes multiple institutions, to work on common topics of interest. DTCs are more prevalent in the sciences, and in particular the life sciences, but are not exclusively technical.

Doctoral training (leading to PhD or DPhil) at DTCs is often more structured, offering taught courses in research methods and other areas. They may also provide opportunities to develop employability skills through internships.

Applications for PhD places are usually made directly to DTCs, and closing dates may be different (often earlier) to the general graduate admissions deadlines for the wider university. Find lists of DTCs for your subject area on the relevant research council website (linked from UK Research & Innovation).

Application process
Plus Icon Minus Icon


Most UK university closing dates for graduate entry are between Christmas and Easter, with many falling in mid to late January. Note that some Doctoral Training Centres may have deadlines that are independent of their host university, and they could be well before Christmas.

A sensible timetable for the year in which you apply could be:

Summer holidays preceding application: Start thinking about the kind of course you might like to do and review university websites. Make informal contact with potential tutors/supervisors, particularly if you are considering PhD applications. Explore possible sources of funding and make a note of any deadlines.

Michaelmas Term: Finalise which courses to apply for and check detailed application procedures for each. Attend workshops at the Careers Service on preparing applications and start gathering application materials. Don’t forget to look at funding deadlines and applications too. See a Careers Adviser if you would like to discuss how this course of study might contribute to longer term career plans, or for feedback on the content of your application.

Christmas Vacation: Finalise and submit applications.

Hilary and Trinity Terms: Attend interviews, make choices and concentrate on completing your current course!

What you’ll need

For most courses you will apply direct to the university using their online application system. A few courses have a centralised application system, notably graduate entry medicine and most teacher training courses (via UCAS), and the Graduate Diploma in Law (via Law CAB). Details differ between courses and institutions but you are likely to need some or all of the following:

  • Application form
  • Personal statement and/or research objective
  • Transcripts of university exam results
  • Two or three references
  • A CV
  • Examples of written work
  • Results of standardised tests (if relevant)
  • Payment of a fee

Check closing dates carefully. In the UK although most applications open during the autumn with deadlines between Christmas and Easter, some do close earlier (and scholarship applications may close as early as October).

Personal statements

Guidelines given vary from the simple “Provide evidence in support of your application” to the more common “Tell us why you are interested in the subject for which you have applied. Describe your academic interests and reasons for applying to XXX”. In general you need to convey:

  • Motivation, enthusiasm and a clear understanding of why you are making the application to this particular course, and to this particular institution.
  • How your academic background and other experiences have shaped your decision to apply and how the course contributes to your plans for the future.
  • Evidence that you have the ability, experience, skills and motivation to successfully contribute to the course, and to complete it.

Don’t use the same statement for all applications.

Need some help? Read more about writing personal statements and ask a Careers Adviser for feedback on your statement before you submit it.

Plus Icon Minus Icon

In the UK the cost of postgraduate courses varies, but expect tuition fees of £3k-£10k and living costs of around £12k per year. International students pay higher tuition fees than UK and EU students.

Many postgraduate students get money from a range of sources, for example, money from bursaries, part-time jobs, charitable trusts, private savings and loans. Funding bodies usually have strict eligibility criteria.

In the first instance establish how students normally fund the course you wish to apply for; course administrators and graduate admissions officers should be able to help with this. For general information on applying for funding see Prospects Postgraduate Funding Guide.

Funding sources

UK Postgraduate Masters Loans

England: Loans of up to £10,906 (2019/20) are now available to UK and EU students (subject to eligibility) for study at UK universities. These are not means-tested. Repayment begins after your postgraduate course ends, and only when your income exceeds £21,000 a year. These loans are only available for students who do not already hold a masters degree. They are not available for students who have an integrated masters as part of their undergraduate study (eg via a 4-year science course) or for masters which are part of a PhD course. For full details see the official information and a useful overview from Find A Masters.

Funding for postgraduate loans is different if you normally live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

UK Postgraduate Doctoral Loans

Loans of up to £25,700 are available to UK and EU students. These are not means-tested. Repayment begins after your postgraduate course ends, and only when your income exceeds £21,000 a year. Note that the doctoral loans are not available to top-up funds from other UK government sources, for example a research council or NHS bursary. For full details see the official doctoral loan information and a useful overview from Find A PhD.

UK Research Councils (for research degrees)

Research Councils are the main public investors in fundamental research in the UK, with interests ranging from bio-medicine and particle physics to the environment, engineering and economic research.

Funding is allocated to university departments or to Doctoral Training Centres, who then nominate students to receive the awards. Most research councils also publish lists of courses and institutions that have received studentships in the past which may be useful as a guide. None of the research councils accept applications direct from students – you apply to the relevant university institution.

Eligibility, particularly in the types of courses funded, varies according to the relevant Research Council. Check the relevant information carefully.

NHS Bursaries

Government funding is available for Masters in Social Work courses and for Graduate Entry Medicine and Dentistry courses in the UK.

Disabled Student Allowance (DSA)

Funding of up to £20k is available for students diagnosed with a long term health condition, mental health condition or specific learning difficulties to contribute to expenses incurred in accommodating that condition.

Scholarships & awards

Information about available scholarships for each course should be provided by the institution you are applying to. Explore their graduate admissions and departmental web-pages, and talk to your potential department. There are also a number of more general funding search engines – none are completely comprehensive, but all are worth a try:

Funding specific to Oxford University

Use the Graduate Funding Search to find details of funding options at Oxford. The Graduate Prospectus, The University Gazette, and the University’s website have information about funding opportunities for those hoping to study at Oxford. In particular, The University Gazette publishes a supplement at the start of each academic year detailing scholarships, fellowships, studentships, grants and prizes. Oxford colleges also provide funding for many of their students, explore college websites to find out more.

Sponsorship by employers or other external organisations

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships allow graduates to be employed while working towards a postgraduate qualification (typically a DPhil) based on real projects in small to medium-sized businesses (SMEs). CASE, CASE-plus and Industrial CASE awards allow industrial partners to top-up research council grants for research students in science and engineering disciplines. They are available from NERC, EPSRC, BBSRC, MRC and STFC, though you should approach your department in the first instance.

Part-time work

This may be either within the university or outside it. These options may include research and graduate teaching assistantships, which are advertised in the educational press, in specialist journals, and on Talk to your department about teaching opportunities. At Oxford and Cambridge you may get work giving tutorials to undergraduates through colleges. Oxford University’s Temporary Staffing Service may also be able to help.

Charitable funding

Charitable Trusts are organisations that administer sums of money set aside by individuals or corporations to help specific kinds of people. They may be able to help with costs such as maintenance, fees, books, equipment, travel, childcare, field trips; however, resources are limited, and help, if any, is generally small scale. The charity’s aims are likely to be very specific, e.g. they may help according to age, sex, nationality, religion, subject area and so on. There is no point applying unless you are sure that you fit their requirements.

There is no one source of information on charitable funding, so you will need to look a range of resources. Use the scholarship search engines listed above, and the books (available at the Careers Service) The Directory of Grant Making Trusts and The Grants Register.

Funding for non-UK EU Students

Students from the European Union are entitled to many of the sources of funding described above. Career Development Loans are available only to students in England, Wales and Scotland. Research Councils can award grants to cover the tuition fees but not the maintenance costs. You might also find Erasmus, and the UK Research Office helpful.

Funding for International Students

International students will find that they are ineligible for many of the sources of UK funding. However, many institutions offer scholarships specifically aimed at international students, see above. You may also find the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), the International Education Financial Aid, and The British Council helpful.

Impact of Brexit?

The UK government has guaranteed that EU students starting a degree in the UK in 2019-20 or 2020-21 will pay the same fees as UK students and continue to have access to student loans and other funding for the duration of their courses.

The situation for UK students studying in the EU is not so clear. The current withdrawal agreement allows UK students to continue on pre-Brexit terms until the end of 2020. If a no-deal Brexit occurs each EU country will then make its own decision about the rights of UK students.

FindaMasters produce an excellent and up-to-date blog covering the likely impact of Brexit on postgraduate study.

Our Resources
Plus Icon Minus Icon

Related pages


The following books are available in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road

  • The Directory of Grant-Making Trusts
  • The Grants Register

Relevant events

Check for dates on CareerConnect

  • Seminars on applying for postgraduate study and writing applications for further study take place each Michaelmas Term.
  • Insight into Academia: programme of lunchtime seminars on accessing graduate study and careers in academia.
External Resources
Plus Icon Minus Icon

Funding search engines

Charitable organisations and special interest groups

Regional information sources

Further information

This information was last updated on 03 January 2020.
Loading... Please wait
Recent blogs about Postgraduate Study in the UK

Applications open for £6,000 MA journalism bursary and work experience at The Guardian

Posted on behalf of Scott Trust Bursary/The Guardian . Blogged by Julia Sadler on 25/02/2020.

Applications are now open for the Scott Trust Bursary to study one of the following journalism MAs:

This is open to all students with a right to work in the UK who have a 2:1 or above, in any subject. The bursary covers fees and includes £6,000 living costs, as well as 6 weeks work experience at The Guardian. There is also the possibility of a 6-month full-time contract with The Guardian on completion of the course.

Deadline for receipt of application is Thursday, 30 April 2020.

EU Settlement Scheme presentation and advice session

Posted on behalf of Oxford University Student Immigration Office. Blogged by Julia Hilton on 25/02/2020.

When: Tuesday 3 March, 2020, from 13:15-14:15
Where: Examination Schools, 75-81 High St, OX1 4BG
Sign up on Eventbrite >>

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss student concerned about staying in the UK, we invite you to a short presentation on the EU Settlement Scheme on 3 March from 13:15 at the Exam Schools. This session will be hosted by the Oxford Student Immigration Office. They will help you understand who should apply under the scheme and give you practical information on how to apply. There will be plenty of time for you to ask questions at the end.

EU Settlement Scheme

If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, you and your family can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. If your application is successful, you’ll get either settled or pre-settled status. The EEA includes the EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. It’s free to apply to the scheme. Read further information about the Settlement Scheme.

Research Internships: How to Find and Fund Them

Blogged by Karen Walker on 21/01/2020.

WHEN: Monday 27 January, 12:00-13:00
WHERE: The Careers Service, 56 Banbury Road
👍 Add the event to your Facebook calendar

Are you an undergraduate interested in gaining research experience? Do you think further study might be for you, but you’re not sure about the research element? Do you have a research project in mind, and want to explore ways to facilitate it?

This session will explore some of the reasons why research internships can be a great idea, whether you’re considering an academic career or think you might want to head out into the corporate world. We’ll talk about some of the skills you can gain, and give you some pointers as to where to look for internship opportunities and funding. We can’t promise an exhaustive list of research internships in every field, but we hope to give you some good ideas to get you started!

EU Settlement Scheme presentation and advice session

Posted on behalf of Oxford University Student Immigration Office. Blogged by Julia Hilton on 13/01/2020.

When: Thursday, 23 January 2020, from 13:30
Where: Examination Schools, 75-81 High St, OX1 4BG
Sign up on Eventbrite >>

If you are an EU or Swiss student concerned about staying in the UK, we invite you to a short presentation on the EU Settlement Scheme on 23 January from 13:30 at the Exam Schools. This session will be hosted by the Oxford Student Immigration Office. They will help you understand who should apply under the scheme and give you practical information on how to apply. There will be plenty of time for you to ask questions at the end.

The rights and status of EU citizens already living in the UK or arriving to do so by 31 December 2020 (if there is a deal) will remain the same until 30 June 2021. If you are an EU national or family member and plan to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021 you need to apply to the Settlement Scheme by that date to get either settled or pre-settled status. The UK has made agreements to cover you if you are from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland as well.

If you are not planning to live in the UK beyond 30 June 2021 you do not have to apply under the Settlement Scheme. Further information is available here and additional advice sessions will be held by the Student Immigration Office in 2020.

Study China 2020

Posted on behalf of Study China 2020 University of Manchester. Blogged by Julia Hilton on 11/12/2019.

The Study China programme is now accepting applications for the 2020 programme.

If you are interested in spending three weeks in China and living at a leading Chinese university, then this is the ideal opportunity for you. Please visit The Study China’s new website to find out more

Study China will fund your accommodation, tuition, airport-transfer and organised excursions. Study China runs during the summer, and is separate from your degree. You can check out eligibility criteria here.

During the programme, you will complete an intensive Chinese Mandarin course designed to develop your written and spoken language skills, as well as cultural classes, trips, and excursions. We offer classes for all abilities, ranging from absolute beginners through to advanced speakers.

 Study China 2020 will be hosted at:

  • Beijing Normal University (Beijing)
  • East China Normal University (Shanghai)
  • Zhejiang University (Hangzhou)

 Programme dates:

The course will run for three weeks from Sunday 2 August until Saturday 22 August 2020.

 To apply:

For more information or to submit an application, please visit our new website:

The application window will close: 17:00, Friday 7 February 2020.

To maximise your chances of being offered a place on the programme we recommend that you submit your application as soon as possible. However, please do take time see our application tips page.

For more information, visit Twitter: @StudyChina_. Instagram: @StudyChina_Official. Facebook: @OfficialStudyChina

This page displays current related blog posts. If none display, you can still stay up-to-date with our newsletter sent regularly to all Oxford students.

Older posts can be found in our archive of past blogs.