Masters Courses Q & A

You will find many different types of Masters, Diploma and Certificate courses in UK Universities at postgraduate level. We have listed some of the most common questions about masters courses and qualifications below.

For further information on applying for a postgraduate course and finding funding, including the postgraduate loan, see our Talk Postgrad advice articles, and our Student Voice articles helpful.

Q: What is a Graduate Diploma?
A: A Graduate Diploma - sometimes listed as a Grad Dip - is offered by some universities for students who have a degree but do not have the specific area of expertise to undertake a particular, usually very specialist, masters degree offered by the same institution. They are not the same as a Postgraduate Diploma - see below.

Q: What is a PGCE?
A: A Postgraduate Certificate in Education is required for a full teaching qualification in most state schools in the UK. Students must generally have a first degree. Other Potsgraduate Certificates also exist, relating to other professional areas.

Q: What is a Postgraduate Diploma?
A: These are often listed as a PG Dip, and they are usually either:
- Professionally or vocationally related, offering both academic knowledge and professional expertise for entry into a profession, or
- A requirement for a specialist masters course, generally offered by the same university, or
- The taught or module elements only of a masters programme but excluding the project or dissertation that makes up the final section of the masters course.

Q: What are the most common types and qualifications of Masters Courses?
A: There are many different types of masters qualifications and courses: the most common are MA and MSc, MBA, and MRes or Masters by Research. An MA (Master of Arts) is usually studied in disciplines relating to the arts, humanities and some social sciences, and an MSc (Master of Science) is usually studied in science subjects, including some social sciences, particularly management. If a department is offering both MA and MSc courses with the same or similar course titles, it is important to clarify how they are different.

Other masters qualifications often refer to a specific subject area or specialism, for example LLM (Master of Laws), Mmus (Master of Music), MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) or MOrth (Master of Orthodontics).

Q: What qualifications do I need to have to study a masters course?
In the UK most universities require either a 2:1 or 2:2 (upper or lower second) at undergraduate degree level, or overseas equivalent, for you to be accepted onto a masters course. If your first language is not english, there will be further english language requirements. These requirements are shown on the course listing provided by universities here on MastersCompare and will also be on the university websites in their postgraudate prospectuses. Some universitie swill also accept alternative qualifications, in particular professional qualifications. Some may accept also accept work experience if you have a long track record in your work area.

Q: Does each type of qualification have a set structure for teaching and assessment?
A: No. Course structure varies from course to course, and from university to university. Masters courses that appear to be similar and have similar qualifications, can offer very different structures and content, and different teaching and assessment methods. The course structure is not generally linked to a type of qualification. Teaching is delivered through lectures, seminars, classes, tutorials and laboratory sessions. Assessment can include examinations, vivas, assessed projects, group or course work, and the emphasis given to different elements will vary between courses. Some masters courses require students to actively participate in seminars and discussions: if this is not for you, have a look for a course which has less group work and discussion.

Q: How do 'taught' and 'research' masters courses differ?
A: Masters courses are generally described as 'taught' if all or most of the modules or course elements they offer are specifically taught via some of the methods as described above, although they may still include a research project or dissertation. Most offer EITHER a defined set of courses or modules all students folllow, OR a number of core modules plus a choice of optional modules. Research Masters still tend to include some taught courses, relating to research skills in the subject area, but the main emphasis of the course is usually a substantial research project. A research masters, or at least a masters course with a high proportion of research skills and project included, may be either a helpful, or in some cases, necessary, step before starting a PhD, or may be incorporated into a PhD programme. If you are not sure whether you want to study for a PhD, a Masters by Research can give you some idea of what undertaking a PhD might be like. Find out more about choosing a Taught or Research Masters.

Q: How long does a Masters Course take to study?
A: Masters courses in the UK are usually studied for one year full time or two years part time, but some courses are only offered as full time or part-time options, and occasionally courses may be longer, particularly if they are offered as part time courses or by distance learning. Part-time options can last for up to 5 or even 6 years but this tends to be only for very specialist professional courses.

Q: What are the course fees for a Masters course?
A: Course fees in the UK vary widely, ranging from around £5,000 to £10,000 or even higher for some management and highly specialised courses, for UK students, and higher for international students. Higher fees may be charged for specialist courses. Universities with a particularly good reputation may also charge higher fees. You will also need funds to live during your course, for a place to live, and for food, travel and other necessities.

Q: Do UK Masters courses offer funding?
A: Some courses do have funding, such as PGCEs and Social Work Masters. In most other cases, funding may be available for places on specific courses which are sponsored by companies or industry: this type of funding generally has eligibility criteria and may only be avaialble to some students. Apart from this, some charities and universities offer partial funding at Masters level which may be avaialble across a range of courses. You can see what is currently available as funding from different universities and charities on our masters funding pages on PostgraduateStudentships.

Find our more about applying for masters level courses and how MyPostgradApps can help you manage your applications.

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