Further study

An increasing number of students consider postgraduate or further study as an option. When you are thinking about what to do next, why not look in to what you could gain by undertaking further study? Students choose this option for many different reasons, such as:

  • To develop specialist expertise in an aspect of your first degree subject
  • To change direction into a new subject area and develop some new skills
  • To enter a profession such as teaching, social work or law for which a postgraduate course is essential
  • To enhance your employment prospects in areas where specialist knowledge is needed
  • To move on from your HND, Access Course or similar to gain further qualifications

This section provides further information to help you explore the courses available, find out how to apply and look at possible sources of funding. Once you have done some initial research you can get further advice by talking to us at Purple Door.

Types of courses

When considering postgraduate study it is essential to think about the type of course that you would like to study. In general terms, there are three main types of courses:

  • Taught – These are generally between 9–12 months long and involve you attending university in order to learn about a given topic. For example, Masters Programmes or Postgraduate Diplomas and Certificates would be classified as "taught". 
  • Research – This is an in-depth study into an area of interest or specialism resulting in the production of a dissertation.  This would normally be conducted over a period of two or three years. The most well-known research qualification is the Doctorate of Philosophy or PhD, which is also known as the DPhil.
  • Professional – These are courses that are required specifically for you to qualify in a specific career area, such as law or accountancy. These qualifications differ slightly to research and taught programmes as they are generally awarded by professional bodies.

Finding courses

There are wide ranges of courses available and this can seem overwhelming. In order to make your choice, you should think carefully about the following:

  • What do you hope to gain from your further study?
  • What are you interested in?
  • Does the course attract funding?
  • What are your options for when you finish the further study?
  • Where, geographically, would you like to study?

The Prospects website includes up-to-date information on the courses available including:

Applying for courses

Most postgraduate courses do not have set closing dates, with the exception of some vocational areas such as teaching, medicine and law. However, on popular courses, competition for places can be fierce so apply as early in your final year of study as you can. To find out how to apply you need to look at each course and institution’s application process as these do vary. Most will require an application form sent directly to the institution outlining your personal details and suitability for the course that you would like to study.

We have provided further advice on writing your personal statement and applying for postgraduate study in the section below. 

If you would like one-to-one feedback and advice on your application, you can make an appointment with a careers adviser.

Funding

Unfortunately, there is no entitlement to funding for postgraduate study. However, in 2016 the government introduced a loan of up to £10,000 for postgraduate study in order to assist with course fees and living costs. The UK government has also confirmed that PhD loans will be introduced in 2018.  If you start your search early and explore all the options, there is every chance that you will gain some sort of funding, even if this means supporting your study through part-time work. You can find further advice on funding below.

Studying abroad

When you are considering studying abroad, you need to think about how you could get the most out of your time and what benefit it would be to you.

  • Start with some background research - The postgraduate guide to studying abroad explains the process, from finding the right course and institution and exploring your funding options to preparing your applications.
  • Think about where you would like to study – you can find out information on specific countries by using the country specific information on the Prospects website.
  • Do your research – what is the culture or education like in that country? What entrance qualifications do you need? Will the qualification you gain be recognised back in the UK?
  • Do you have the language skills to succeed with overseas study or would you need to consider English-speaking universities only?

Further advice and information

General

  • TARGETpostgrad - Includes an essential guide, course details, application advice and funding options
  • Prospects - Search for postgraduate courses
  • Steps to Postgraduate Study - A guide to asking the right questions about taught postgraduate study in the UK
  • Postgrad – Online resource for UK and European postgraduate programmes
  • FindAMasters – A database of postgraduate masters degree courses in the UK
  • FindAPhd – A database of PhD opportunities in the UK
  • www.jobs.ac.uk/phd - Search for PhDs, research studentships

Applying

Funding

Studying abroad

  • Guide to studying abroad – Information and advice from Prospects
  • FindAMasters - Guide to international postgraduate study
  • Canada International - Advice from the Canadian government on studying in Canada including study permits, funding and scholarships. 
  • Study in Australia - The Australian government website with advice on studying and living in Australia and how to apply. 
  • Education USA - US Department of State website supporting applications to study in the US. Includes links to local offices around the world who can offer practical support. 
  • Fulbright Commission -  An education commission promoting student exchange between UK and US students. Offers scholarships, grants and advice. 
  • Study in Europe -  European Commission site on studying across the continent with advice on various exchange initiatives and specific country information.