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Postgraduate Study in the UK | Postgraduate Study in the UK – Oxford University Careers Service
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UK universities & courses on offer

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. Three main “mission groups” are: Russell Group, Million+ and University Alliance. While they may provide a useful way of finding similar institutions they are unlikely to greatly influence your choice of institutions.

Choosing where to study

There are several course search engines available (listed in ‘External resources’, below).

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)), funded by UK Research Councils, which bring together academics from multiple disciplines, and sometimes multiple institutions, to work on common topics of interest. Examples at Oxford include the Systems Biology DTC and the Interdisciplinary Bioscience DTP. 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 as well as possible 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 Research Councils UK).

Application process

Timetable

Most UK university closing dates for graduate entry are between Christmas and Easter, with many falling in mid to late January. With this in mind, 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? Ask a Careers Adviser for feedback on your statement before you submit it.

Funding

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 and TargetPostgrad.

Funding sources

UK Postgraduate Masters Loans

Loans of up to £10,000 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. For full details see the official information and a useful overview from Find A Masters.

UK Postgraduate Doctoral Loans

£25,000 doctoral loans will now be introduced in 2018. Find A PhD provides a useful overview.

Scholarships, bursaries & 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:

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.

Professional & Career Development Loans

Professional & Career Development Loans are bank loans usually offered at a reduced interest rate, and with interest paid by the UK government while you are studying. They are usually only available for courses which have direct link to an onward career.

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 Jobs.ac.uk. 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 find the European Social Fund, 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.

Our Resources

Related pages

Books

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

  • The Directory of Grant-Making Trusts
  • The Grants Register
  • Grants for History: A Guide to Funding 2014
  • Perfect Personal Statements
  • Building your academic career 2008
  • Grant Seeking in Higher Education: Strategies and Tools for College Faculty

 

Relevant events

Check for dates on CareerConnect

  • Insight into Academia: programme of lunchtime seminars on accessing graduate study and careers in academia.
External Resources

Funding search engines

Charitable organisations and special interest groups

Regional information sources

Further information

  • Prospects– extensive advice and information for those considering further study, including course searches and funding sources.
  • TargetPostgrad– search for courses, funding and lots more information.
  • Hot Courses– course search at all levels of study and including part-time options.
  • Education UK– British Council website aimed at international students interested in studying in the UK.
  • Vitae – primarily for postdoctoral researchers, but also has a section on applying for PhDs.
  • Research Excellence Framework– results of the 2014 assessment.
  • Quality Assurance Agency– assessments of teaching quality.
  • Unistats– information about institutions based in part on student satisfaction surveys.
  • RCUK– links to UK Research Councils.
  • Find a PhD
  • Find a Masters
This information was last updated on 06 January 2017.
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Recent blogs about Postgraduate Study in the UK

International Careers Day 2017

Blogged by John Gilbert on January 10, 2017.
  • When: Saturday 21 January 2017, 11.00-15.00
  • Where: The Blavatnik School of Government

Find a global career at our biggest fair of Hilary

  • Explore international careers  – from postgraduate study to policy consulting, and from international development to diplomacy.
  • Meet over 30 exhibitors at the fair, and attend presentations about their opportunities.
  • Learn from professionals at our two panel talks – about working with international organisations.
  • Get your CV checked at our International Development CV Clinic! Slots open for booking on CareerConnect from Wednesday 18 January.

 

Fair booklet now available online

Download the preview of our fair booklet to see details about exhibitors at the fair.

Organisations attending include:

  • ACTED
  • Adam Smith International
  • ATD Fourth World
  • BARBRI International
  • Carfax Education
  • College of Europe
  • Crown Agents
  • Diplomatic Academy of Vienna – Vienna School of International Studies
  • French Embassy and Institut Franҫais du Royaume-Uni
  • Fulbright Commission
  • Global Academy Jobs
  • Guiyang Prime International Academy (贵阳普瑞国际公学)
  • Hertie School of Governance
  • Infosys Ltd.
  • INSEAD PhD in Management
  • International Committee of the Red Cross
  • The Internship Office – Oxford University Internship Office
  • Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program at Stanford University
  • Multilingualvacancies.com
  • Oxford Analytica Ltd
  • Oxford Policy Management
  • Perm State University
  • Schwarzman Scholars
  • SOAS University of London
  • Study Options
  • Terre des hommes Foundation
  • TPP
  • Tsinghua University Education Poverty Alleviation Office
  • University of Oxford, Alumni Office
  • University of Oxford, Student Fees and Funding, Student Affairs
  • The World Bank Group

Panel talks

Policy and Practice Work with International Organisations

12:15 – 13:15 

Come and hear about the myths and realities of working in the development sector. Our speakers  have worked with a variety of organisations and will give candid accounts of the steps they took after University, what has enabled them to move into rewarding roles and advice about any changes in their sector affecting recruitment trends.

Speakers

  • Dr Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS human rights organisation,
  • Dr Anna McCord, formerly ODI, economist, independent consultant for DFID and others on public works and governance programmes
  • Dr Terry Roopnarain, OPM, anthropologist specialising in social development and gender
  • Dr Leslie Groves, formerly DFID, independent organisational change expert specialising in inclusion and human rights

 

Research and Strategy Roles in Governance and Development

14:30 – 15:30

Working at the interface between research, strategy and implementation sounds exciting and rewarding – but what is it really like? What are the stepping stones following a degree at Oxford? And which skills and competencies count for joining or working alongside major international organisations today? Speakers in this panel will share their experiences and insights from their career journeys and current roles.

Speakers:

  • Mr Sam Daws,  Director, Project on UN Governance and Reform, Oxford, and former First Officer to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
  • Dr Annette Idler,  Director of Studies, Changing Character of War Programme, Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke College and DPIR, Latin American Centre Affiliate, University of Oxford; and Research Associate at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding, Graduate Institute Geneva
  • Dr Neil McCullough, independent consultant in economics and governance, formerly Asia Foundation, Oxford Policy Management

Organisation Presentations

11:00 – 12:00: The World Bank
11:05 – 11:20: TPP
11:25 – 11:40: BARBRI International
11:45 – 12:00: Infosys Ltd.
12:00 – 12:30: OU Internship Office
12:05 – 12:20: INSEAD PhD in Management
12:25 – 12:40: Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program at Stanford University
12:35 – 13:05: Schwarzman Scholars
12:45 – 13:00: Tsinghua University Education Poverty Alleviation Office
13:05 – 13:20: Fulbright Commission
13:25 – 13:40: Oxford Analytica Ltd
13:45 – 14.00: Adam Smith International
13:45 – 14:05: Oxford Policy Management
14:05 – 14:20: Crown Agents
14:10 – 14:40: ICRC
14:25 – 14:40: Diplomatic Academy of Vienna – Vienna School of International Studies
14:45 – 15:00: Global Academy Jobs
15:05 – 15:20: Carfax Education

International Careers Day 2017 – save the date!

Blogged by John Gilbert on December 20, 2016.
  • When: Saturday 21 January 2017, 11.00-15.00
  • Where: The Blavatnik School of Government

Hilary Term sees one of our biggest careers fairs, for students and researchers looking for an international career. We’ll have representatives from a whole range of sectors, with a particular emphasis on international development, governance, consultancy and further study – with exhibitors, organisation presentations and panel talks.

To get a taste for the organisations that attend see last year’s fair booklet – and watch this space for 2017’s!

Scholarships for Scottish students to study in the USA!

Blogged by Abby Evans on November 9, 2016.

For the academic year 2017-18, the Saint Andrew’s Society of the State of New York will offer Scholarships to the total value of $60,000 to enable Scottish graduates to study for a year in the United States. Up to two Scholarships will be offered of not less than $30,000 each. The Scholarship will be tenable from September 2017 to May 2018 at a university in the United States within a radius of 250 miles from New York City, or within the area of Washington DC. Where a student cannot find a course for his/her special subject of study within the geographical area indicated above, the Society will consider allowing the Scholarship to be held at another university in the United States.

Preference will be given to candidates who have no previous experience of the United States and for whom a period of study there can be expected to be a life-changing experience. Selection will be on the basis of an all-round assessment, including personality and academic achievement.

Eligibility:

Candidates must be Scottish by birth or descent, and will be expected to have current knowledge of Scotland and Scottish current affairs, and of the Scottish tradition generally. The Society expects its scholars to be good ambassadors for Scotland.

Candidates must also be:

  • either graduates of a Scottish university, or of Oxford or Cambridge, who have completed their first degree course (so as to be qualified to graduate) not earlier than 2016;

or students of a Scottish university,

  • or of Oxford or Cambridge, who expect to complete their first degree course (so as to be qualified to graduate) in 2017.

Further details and application materials are available from Dr Abby Evans (abby.evans@careers.ox.ac.uk). The closing date for applications is Wednesday 1 March 2017. Interviews will take place in Edinburgh in the week beginning 24th April 2017 (to be confirmed).

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.