Help for students who wish to do postgraduate study including what postgraduate study is, why to do it, how to choose a university, funding sources, how to make applications and write personal statements, help with interviews, and study abroad.


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What is postgraduate study?

Study towards a Master's or doctoral degree, or a postgraduate diploma or certificate, that is taken after having obtained a Bachelor's degree. This study may, depending on the degree taken, may be through a taught course or through research.

Masters degrees

The titles of these degrees vary according to the subject and the method of study, but there is no standard definition so you will need to check exactly what is involved in studying for a specific Masters degree at a specific university.

Some common titles are:

You may come across many other titles!

Masters degrees may be awarded following a taught course or on a research basis.

Taught courses follow a similar structure to undergraduate degrees, usually over one year of full-time study or two years part-time. During the academic year you will follow a programme involving some or all of the following: seminars, lectures, coursework and exams. Over the summer vacation you complete a dissertation or research project and the degree is awarded on satisfactory completion of all these elements.

Research Masters degrees involve “the sustained, rigorous, critical and systematic investigation of a defined subject” over a period of at least one year. You will work independently to prepare a thesis under the guidance of a supervisor and are likely to receive training in research skills. You will normally be required to take a viva (oral examination) on your thesis before your degree is awarded.

Many students begin a research master’s degree with the aim of upgrading it to a PhD after the first year of study. In this case, you are never actually awarded a Masters but continue your research to the more demanding standard of a PhD (see below).

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

This is the highest level of academic qualification and the title of PhD is used across the full range of academic subjects. It involves an extended period (at least 3 years) of supervised research resulting in a thesis which "forms an addition to knowledge, shows evidence of systematic study and of ability to relate the results of such study to the general body of knowledge in the subject and is worthy of publication”. It is more demanding than a research Masters, not only in its length but also in that your research must be original and add something new to the existing knowledge on that subject.

Again, you will work independently to prepare a thesis under the guidance of a supervisor and will normally be required to take a viva. Once your PhD has been awarded you are entitled to use the title of “Dr”.

Your choice of supervisor is crucial – it is important to choose someone who not only has the necessary expertise in the subject but who will be committed to supporting your research and who you feel that you will get on well with. See 10 truths a PhD supervisor will never tell you for advice on choosing a supervisor.

You will often be required to register for a research Masters initially and then apply to be upgraded to a PhD student.

For excellent information on whether you should do a PhD or not see

Postgraduate diplomas and certificates

These are often vocational and include professional training, such as the PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) required to qualify as a teacher or conversion courses such as the Graduate Diploma in Law.

These courses usually last for one academic year of full-time study or two years part-time and involve seminars, lectures, coursework and exams. You may have the opportunity to upgrade your diploma to a Masters degree by writing a dissertation after you have completed the taught course.

Why do postgraduate study?

For interest in the subject?

Whatever you choose to study, you will need to enjoy and be interested in the subject to keep yourself motivated, especially for research degrees. In some areas, particularly humanities, this is the most realistic reason for postgraduate study, especially if you don’t intend to go on into an academic career. But do consider whether your interest is so great as to be worth the time, effort and cost of a postgraduate degree.

As a career move?

A professional postgraduate qualification is essential for some careers (law, teaching, psychology) and may be helpful in others (journalism, human resource management, politics, economics). If you want an academic career, a PhD is essential – not because it is required by law but because of the competition for academic posts.

Employers in other career areas are not always as impressed by a postgraduate degree as postgraduates think. Only 20% of graduate recruiters will offer a higher salary to postgraduates. The majority of recruiters will value postgraduate degrees more for the skills gained through study (such as self-motivation and analytical skills) than for the actual subject knowledge gained.

The Occupational Profiles at will give an indication of whether a postgraduate degree is likely to be helpful in entering that career field.

Will doing a master's get you a better job? Well, maybe ... (Guardian Article)

Because your tutor has recommended it?

This can be encouraging and flattering – but it is you, not your tutor, who will have to undertake (and pay for!) postgraduate study so make sure that you too are sure it is the right option for you.

To improve your academic record?

A postgraduate degree can sometimes help to compensate for poor results in your Bachelors degree or A-levels, but not always: many employers are rigid in their requirements for UCAS points or a 2.1 even for postgraduates.

To keep on being a student?

In the past, many students carried on into postgraduate study because they enjoyed student life so much or to put off the day when they would have to go out into the “real world”. The financial pressures of being a student today means that this reason is less often quoted but it still happens. Don’t use postgraduate study as an excuse not to think about a future career at all!

To put off making a career decision?

If you undertake a taught Masters, it won’t actually put off your decision that long: many job applications need to be made at the start of the academic year. Where the extra year can be an advantage is in giving you time to build up your employability skills through involvement in University activities or in gaining work experience. Do think beyond your postgraduate degree and make sure it fits in with any future career plans.

Who can do postgraduate study?

You don’t have to have a First to go into postgraduate study (although it will help, especially in getting funding). A “good” 2.1 (65% or better) is usually expected. However, people with lower grades, including 2.2s, are regularly accepted onto postgraduate courses, especially if you have obtained better results in modules relevant to the postgraduate course than in your degree overall.

A relevant degree is usually required but “relevant” can be interpreted very broadly. For example, Law and History graduates regularly go on to postgraduate degrees in politics and international relations while politics graduates go on to LLM courses. Some Masters degrees, for example in Business, Computing and Psychology, are designed as conversion courses for graduates in other subjects.

Universities have a great deal of freedom in who they accept onto their postgraduate courses, so if you are in any doubt speak to the relevant department or the Graduate School at the university in which you are interested.

Choosing a UniversityImage of graduate hat

Your choice may be restricted – a taught course may be only available at one or two institutions; you may want to carry out research under a particular supervisor or you may need to stay in Kent for your further study.

If you are completely free to choose where to go, your decision may be difficult. You have the following options:

Stay at Kent.

There are many advantages in this: you know the University, the teaching staff and the area so you will not have the same potential problems in settling in and finding accommodation that you might elsewhere (this could be particularly important for one-year Masters students). Research students may have better opportunities to teach undergraduates when they and their work are already known to academic staff. On the other hand, you may find postgraduate study more challenging and rewarding if you move out of your comfort zone and study at a university where you will be exposed to fresh ideas and methods.

Study elsewhere in the UK.

There is a very wide choice of universities and a vast amount of information – see the links below to get started. Making a decision on where to study takes time and research. Don’t just look at the “top” universities. Research and quality assessments can give an indication of a university’s strengths but they will not give the whole picture or show which is the best university for you. Be sure to visit other universities before making your decision and try and talk to current postgraduates as well as staff.

Study abroad.

You will need to start planning early for this, especially if you want to study in the USA. Many graduates will look at this and other English-speaking countries but universities in mainland Europe are increasingly offering postgraduate courses taught through English. The level of information available varies from country to country but our Postgraduate Study Abroad section at the end of this page will help you find some useful resources for individual countries.

Information Sources

General information on postgraduate study in the UK. Start your research into postgraduate study with:


In the Careers Information Room you can pick up a copy of the AGCAS booklet "Postgraduate Study and Research" and the Prospects Postgraduate Funding Guide


Funding and funding bodies .... or, Where will the money come from???

"The types and sources of funding for postgraduate study are many and varied. They are, however, rarely sufficient, either in number or in the level of support awarded"

How much will it cost?

Tuition fees range from around £4,900 a year to over £30,000, with the average around £11,000 per year. For more information

You will also need to budget for living expenses and the costs involved in your study and research itself, such as travel to libraries or to interview people and the cost of having your thesis produced and bound.

Where the money will not come from:

Your local education authority and the Student Loans Company are not allowed to make awards for academic study at postgraduate level except for PGCEs

Funding will not come from anywhere automatically

Where the money might come from:

Research Councils

These are autonomous, non-departmental public bodies which support UK research in the higher education sector through the provision of grants, including postgraduate studentships. They include:


Competition for Research Council funding is intense. In many areas only a small percentage of candidates make a successful application. As a general rule, funding is easier to obtain in science and engineering disciplines than in the arts and social sciences.

Funding is normally only available to students on research-based postgraduate degrees who are resident in England & Wales (the Student Awards Agency for Scotland and DEL for Northern Ireland fund students from these countries). Students resident in other EU countries may receive a fees-only award.

The awards pay fees and maintenance and the closing date for applications normally at the end of April, but apply much earlier if possible. See the above websites for full details.

Individual universities

Many universities offer funding to their postgraduate research students. This may be an outright award or studentship or may involve undertaking paid teaching or research work within the department. includes a guide to university funding and the terms and conditions of postgraduate employment. Deadlines for applications are usually at around the same time as the Research Council deadlines.

Information on postgraduate research scholarships at Kent is at


New postgraduate loans scheme for 2016-17

A new postgraduate loan scheme has been implemented for English-domiciled students and EU students studying in English institutions from 2016-17. The scheme will offer students up to £10,000 to help with the costs of studying a masters degree.

To get a Postgraduate Loan:

If you’re studying part time you can study for two years (for the equivalent one year full-time course) or up to four years (for the equivalent two year fulltime course).
If you’re an EU national, but don’t normally live in England you may be able to get a Postgraduate Loan for a Master’s course in England.

What can I get?

When can I apply?

You can apply for a Postgraduate Loan from summer 2016. You’ll only have to apply once, even if your course is longer than one year.

Will I be charged interest on my loan?

Interest is charged at the Retail Price Index (RPI) plus 3% from the day we make your first payment until your loan is paid in full.

How do I repay my loan?


Following the results of the referendum, the Student Loans Company (SLC) has clarified that EU nationals currently in receipt of loans and EU nationals intending to start in 2016 who have been assessed as eligible to receive loans will receive these loans for the duration of their programme. The university can also confirm that the UK tuition fee rate will continue to apply to these students.  A full statement from the SLC can be found on the SLC site [link to:].

For further details, see

and FindAMasters Information on the Postgraduate Loans scheme


WORKING AND STUDYING Many students need to working alongside their studies.
Two articles for postgraduate students looking at some useful things to think about if needing to juggle both:


You may be able to obtain a bank loan to fund your further study, but will need to be able to convince your bank of your ability to pay it back after the end of your study. They will probably ask to see evidence of the salaries you could expect in the areas of work that this study will qualify you for.

Professional and Career Development Loans are operated through banks but have a lower interest rate than normal. You can borrow up to £10,000 to help fund up to two years of learning. Unlike student loans (for which postgraduate students are not eligible) you will need to begin repaying these loans at the end of the loan period regardless of how much or how little you are earning.

StudentFunder help masters students and those on professional courses fund their courses. Offer-holders and enrolled students can apply for loans on clear terms or start a crowdfunding campaign.

GraduRates Peer-to-Peer lending platform that offers loans for postgraduate study that are interest-free over the first two years.

Guardian article on funding postgraduate study via a loan

Savings and earnings

You don’t have to start a postgraduate degree as soon as you have finished your undergraduate study. Many graduates take a year – or more – to earn money, pay off their undergraduate debts and build up some savings before beginning postgraduate study.

Like undergraduate students, many postgraduate students work during term-time to fund their studies. If you are worried about balancing the demands of work and study it is worth remembering that many postgraduate courses are available on a part-time basis.

Charitable trusts

There are a wide range of these but most can only offer small sums and many do not make grants to individual applicants. You usually need to demonstrate that you are in greater-than-average need of funding.

Employer sponsorship

It is quite rare for an employer to sponsor anybody not already working for them for postgraduate study, although many employers will support your study for professional or relevant academic qualifications once you have started working for them.

There are some exceptions to this: for example, law firms will often pay for their future trainee solicitors to complete their conversion course (if needed) and/or Legal Practice Course before they start their training contract and the Bank of England sponsors selected students to complete full-time masters degrees prior to joining the Bank's graduate training programme.

KTP is a government-funded scheme that places graduates in small and medium-sized enterprises to work on knowledge transfer projects in a wide range of employers and locations. As well as salaried employment, graduates receive support to study for a higher degree and to gain a management qualification. Most vacancies are for graduates in engineering, IT and business-related subjects.

The British Association for the Advancement of Science produces a guide: Everything You Wanted to Know about Sponsorship, Placements and Graduate Opportunities

Further useful information on funding:

Directories and books

The following publications can be consulted in the Careers Information Room:

Ask for these at the Reception Desk

Before you apply: questions to ask yourself and things to do

These pages are an introduction and do not aim to give you all the answers to these questions. Even the links and information sources referred to will not be enough in themselves - although they will be a good start. Many of the questions can only be answered by you in relation to your individual aptitudes, interests and personal circumstances.

Talk to academic staff and current postgraduates, both here at Kent and in other universities, for a first-hand view of the realities of postgraduate life and your chances of succeeding at graduate study. Academic staff can advise you on your chances of success in your bid to continue your studies and on the best universities for you to do postgraduate work in your area of choice. They may even know of awards or research posts likely to be available. And, of course, you can discuss your options for postgraduate study with the careers adviser for your subject: see

Choosing your PhD supervisor

Applications for Postgraduate Study

30,000 pupils plagiarised personal statements in UCAS applications last year, despite a new plagiarism detection system. Here are some of the most common plagiarisms in opening sentences:
  • From a young age I have always been interested in ... (309 times)
  • From an early age I have always been interested in … (292 times)
  • Nursing is a very challenging and demanding career … (275)
  • For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with … (196)
  • Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only … (189)
  • For as long as I can remember I have been interested in … (166)
  • Academically, I have always been a very determined and … (138)


Many applicants borrowed from the same website. 234 applications for medicine contained “Ever since I accidentally burnt holes in my pyjamas after experimenting with a chemistry set on my 8th birthday, I have always had a passion for science”

Other common ones were: “From an early age I have been fascinated by the workings of life. The human body is a remarkable machine”

and “Living with my 100-year-old grandfather has allowed me to appreciate the frailties of the human body. When he had prostatitis, I went with him to hospital”

How to Apply

There is no equivalent of UCAS for postgraduate academic study – you need to apply individually to each university in which you are interested. There is no limit on the number of applications that you can make (but don’t get carried away – 3 or 4 applications is usually fine).

Application may be by application form (paper or online), CV or both. Application forms are usually similar to UCAS forms, asking for personal background details (but not usually requiring information on your pre-university education), one or two academic references and a personal statement.

Similarly, there is no general opening or closing date. Some of the most popular universities and courses may fill up soon after Christmas; others may still be making offers during the summer vacation. Check the advice and application procedures for individual universities using the links from the Information Sources above.

Personal Statements

Personal statements are frequently required in applications for postgraduate study, in particular business courses, such as MBAs, but are also required for areas such as postgraduate teacher training. You are typically allowed about 1 page of A4 (250-500 words) to "sell yourself". Sometimes you will simply be asked to "provide evidence in support of your application" whereas sometimes the question will be much more prescriptive:

" Describe briefly your reasons for wanting to teach giving the relevance of your previous education and experience, including teaching, visits to schools and work with other young people" PGCE - (teacher training) application form.

Sometimes (as in the example given above), you will be given a very clear indication of what you should write, but in the absence of this, here are some guidelines. Don't use the same statement for all applications. Each statement will need a slightly different emphasis, depending on the university you are applying to. Make sure that you answer the questions asked in each statement. Research the university and course/research area. Find out what sets your choice apart from other universities.

Use good English. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the crowd. Read your statement very carefully. Do your draft on a word-processor and spell and grammar check it, but also give it to a friend to read. Be clear and concise. Don't woffle! Show the ability to put the salient points across in a few words. Stay within prescribed word limits. Pay attention to presentation - type the statement if your handwriting is at all poor. Be positive and enthusiastic – selectors will read many personal statements and you want yours to stand out.

Give your statement a structure with an introduction, a main body and a conclusion. The opening paragraph is important as it is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement. The middle section might detail your interest and experience in your particular field, as well as your knowledge of the field. Be as specific as you can in relating what you know about the field and use the language professionals use in conveying this information.

Get your final draft checked by friends, academics or the duty careers adviser. A Careers or Employability Adviser is available to help with CV checks and/or other quick queries between 10.30 am - 12.30 p.m. and 2.00 - 4.00 p.m. every day*.

*except on public holidays and when the whole University shuts down over the Christmas period. Some drop-in sessions are for CV checks only: ask in the CES building for details of what the adviser on duty at particular times can offer. During vacations, the Careers Information Room will still be open all day, but will be unstaffed between 12.30 - 1.30 pm

Possible content for your statement


Admissions advisers at the University of Hertfordshire drew up a list of the 10 top words to make a good impression in applications. See our Action Words page for more about this

The top ten words to make a good impression

  • Achievement
  • Active
  • Developed
  • Evidence
  • Experience
  • Impact
  • Individual
  • Involved
  • Planning
  • Transferable skills

Ten words to make a poor impression

  • Always,
  • Awful
  • Bad
  • Fault
  • Hate
  • Mistake
  • Never
  • Nothing
  • Panic
  • Problems


What do admissions officers look for?

In a survey by ACS 80 UK university admissions officers were asked to rate the qualities they felt are key to landing a place. The most important factor was of course ability criteria such as strong grades but below are the other factors which should influence your personal statement. Note that this information refers to applications for undergraduate courses but much of this would also apply to postgraduate study.

Top 10 attributes university admission officers look for in addition to academic qualifications and grades
Good written English 97%
Evidence of a passion for their chosen course subject 88%
Evidence of a positive attitude towards study 83%
Evidence of an ability to think and work independently 72%
A reasonable grasp of maths 44%
Evidence of success through a difficult start or background 35%
Having held any positions of responsibility or leadership 32%
Work experience 30%
Excellence in a performing arts activity 21%
An awareness of global or cultural differences 18%


Only 20% of admissions tutors looked at whether applicants had taken part in university outreach days or summer schools before they made a decision and 73% did not look at this at all. Only 12% considered participation in community or voluntary services important and sport and voluntary work were rated as relatively unimportant.

67% of admissions officers felt that the International Baccalaureate Diploma helped students to best thrive at university, compared with 25% for A-levels and 7% Scottish Highers. A-levels were rated best for subject expertise but the IB was better for encouraging independent inquiry and training students to cope with pressure.

Further advice and example personal statements:


Brilliant statement by Hugh Gallagher: won the humour category of the Scholastic Writing Awards.

"I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets. I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear. I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat .400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy. I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me.

I balance, I weave, I dodge, I frolic, and my bills are all paid. On weekends, to let off steam, I participate in full-contact origami. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down. I have made extraordinary four-course meals using only a Mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college."



The academic reference is a vital part of your application. Choose your referees carefully – they should know you and your work well. Somebody who has taught you for a module relevant to the postgraduate study you are applying for (or, better still, supervised you for an undergraduate dissertation) is ideal. You do not have to give your personal tutor as a referee if you don’t feel that you have had sufficient contact with them for them to be able to give a thorough reference.

It’s a good idea to discuss your plans with your referee, as they may be able to offer further advice and suggest suitable universities. Give them a copy of your application when you send it off and, if you are applying for funding, make sure that their reference is submitted to the relevant awards body before the closing date.

Some thoughts on academic references from the referee’s point of view

Postgraduate CVs and covering letters

An academic CV might sometimes be required if you are applying for a Master's degree or PhD – either instead of, or in addition to, an application form. Your academic achievements will be the most important section, but your work experience and extra-curricular activities should also be mentioned.

Normally these CVs will be chronological, starting with your current degree course and working backwards. Detail all the courses you have studied during your degree by year and give grades (if they are good!). Projects, extended essays and dissertations are particularly important in applications for postgraduate study and should be noted individually.

If you have any relevant interests, put them in. For example, if you are applying for a PhD in Space Science, you could mention that you are a member of the Astronomy Society and that you have your own telescope.

Universities like to see students who have got involved in university life outside their studies, so other activities and interests are worth mentioning, especially if you have taken on any posts of responsibility.

Use headings to emphasise technical content e.g. "relevant work experience", "areas of scientific interest", "laboratory skills and techniques".

Your covering letter should be constructed along the same lines as a personal statement. Say why you want to go to the particular university (for example - excellent reputation in that field of research) and try to show real enthusiasm for the subject you will be studying ( for example - evidence that you have read around the subject and know about recent developments).

Example CV for a recent graduate applying for postgraduate study


You will not always be interviewed for a taught Masters but PhD candidates will usually be interviewed. Academic interviews are usually less formal than job interviews. They may be casual and more like a relaxed chat, but occasionally you might get a grilling on your subject knowledge.

Interviews for vocational courses are likely to be more formal than interviews for research. There are many similarities to job interviews such as the need to prepare well, to show enthusiasm and to ask appropriate questions. You may just be asked questions as you are shown round the department. Remember that academics may not be trained interviewers, so be aware that you may occasionally have to take the initiative.

If you are not interviewed, but just given an offer on the basis of your application and references, do make sure that you visit the department to make certain that you would be happy there.


Smart casual dress is usually acceptable for academic interviews, but business studies departments might expect more formality than art and design departments. For vocational courses such as teaching, you will probably be expected to dress in exactly the same way as for a job interview. Interviews for research are likely to require less formal dress, but dress smartly if in doubt - you will never prejudice your chances by doing this.

Before you go to interview:

Questions you might be asked at interview.

Avoid simple "yes" or "no" answers - if you are asked a closed question, such as "Have you enjoyed your course?", open it up. Don't confine yourself to very brief answers - the interviewer will expect you to be able to talk fluently, but watch for signs of encouragement or impatience.

Questions asked at a 15 minute interview for a Masters degree place

  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • How did you learn about our institution?
  • Looking through your life what has been your greatest challenge?
  • What extracurricular activities do you do?
  • How do you intend to fund your studies?
  • What do your parents do?
  • Any questions you want to ask us?

"Candidates should research the course they want to study thoroughly and how their objectives in lives fit the program they've chosen to study. Answer questions with confidence and try not to panic!" 

Be polite, but don't be afraid to enter into discussion and to stand your ground. Some interviewers will deliberately challenge your replies to see if you can stand up for yourself and argue your point effectively.

Work out in advance rough answers to the following questions:

Questions you can ask at interview.

Try to ask at least one and preferably more than one question in the interview as this will indicate enthusiasm and interest. Prospectuses are frequently lacking in detail and there may be questions that you must ask in order to have the information necessary to reach a decision.


Practice Interview for Postgraduate Study

Postgraduate Study Abroad

Why study abroad?

There are many reasons why students and graduates of British universities look overseas for their postgraduate study. They may wish to study with a world-class academic in their subject; they may plan research that will be more easily carried out in the country to which it relates; fees may be lower or funding more readily available; they may already have friends or family there or they may just wish to live as a student in a different country and culture.

Whatever your reasons, postgraduate study outside the UK is a very real possibility and many overseas universities actively encourage applications from international students. However, begin planning earlier than you would for study in the UK: during your second year is the best time to begin investigating the opportunities.

Be aware that in the US and Europe, PhD's take much longer (typically 5 or more years) than the typical 3 to 4 years in the UK: in the United States you usually spend the first part of your PhD doing a lot of taught study. Also funding would be much harder to obtain abroad

The Explore Studying Abroad section of the Prospects website has information on study in over 50 countries and is a good place to start.

Below is a selection of links to a range of information resources on postgraduate study abroad, both generally and by country.

General indexes and databases

Study in European Countries

Many postgraduate courses are now taught in English, especially in the Netherlands and Scandinavia, see Italian university switches to English. If this is not the case, you may need to take a language proficiency test. Some universities in countries such as Germany may require a Masters degree to enter postgraduate study as their first degrees are longer than in the UK. There are over 400 Master's degrees in English in France and more than 500 in Germany (2013). See Graduates take another degree abroad

Postgraduate study and work country profiles for:


Study in Holland

In the last three years, the number of British students at Dutch universities has grown considerably. While this has largely been a result of the introduction of higher tuition fees at undergraduate level, we are also seeing growth in the number of British students choosing to take postgraduate qualifications in the Netherlands. offers advice and support to British students who might be considering Dutch universities for postgraduate education. Around 800 Masters degrees are fully taught in English and the site contains a directory of these plus a full explanation of the admissions process, financial reality and student experience of studying in the Netherlands.


Types of university

Types of study

Tuition fees

Student life

Admissions process


Universities compete by teaching in English



Study in the USA

Begin your planning well in advance as the application process is quite complex and expensive: you should normally aim to apply at least 18 months before you would want to begin your studies.

The Fulbright Commission suggests leaving the the GPA (grade point average) section of the application form blank and not attempting to convert a UK grade into a US GPA as US college admissions tutors will be fully aware of the differences between the UK and systems.


There is a variety of funding opportunities for international students in the USA, either as outright grants or in return for employment on campus (this is permitted for students on F-1 visas). You should always contact the international offices of the universities that you plan to apply to and find out what that individual university offers: the sites listed below will only cover a limited number of the scholarships available.

Some PhD students obtain teaching assistantships: in return for teaching undergraduates you get your fees waived and a bursary. These assistantships normally go to second or final year PhD students rather than first years.

Study in Australia, Canada and other Commonwealth Countries

Remember that the academic year starts February in Australia and New Zealand, so you may have to wait a few months to begin your course. Universities in these countries are quite similar to those in the UK and normally have good academic standards. Overseas PhD students in New Zealand only pay domestic fees. Australia has 39 Universities (37 public, 2 private) and 600,000 students from 200 countries.

12% of Australian universities are in the World University rankings compared with 8.6% of UK universities. A Masters in Australia lasts 1 or 2 years: most NZ Masters are 2 years comprising a year of coursework and a year of research. THe academic year is from February to November. Fees range from $17-55000 in Australia and $17-45000 in New Zealand (ie start at around £12000). Students can work 20 hours a week in term-time and full-time in vacation. The Australian government is introducing a post-study work visa that will allow international students to work for up to 2 years after completing their degree. There are scholarships available but these are highly competitive – students need a First and even this is no guarantee. Loans are difficult as neither the UK nor Australian/New Zealand government will support these. Financial support is based on academic criteria and not on need.

Study in Japan

Last fully updated 2014