A postgraduate course in the UK gives you the ultimate opportunity to pursue your own specialist interests. You'll be expected to initiate and develop original research under the supervision of academics at the top of their fields. You'll need to be hard working and demonstrate intellectual independence but there's no doubt that the qualifications and experience you'll gain will be worth every minute.
Courses last from one year to four years, and you can choose from thousands of opportunities in the arts, sciences, social sciences and humanities. The broad range and flexible approach of the UK higher education system means that you're free to choose exactly what you want to study.
What qualifications will I need?
To begin a postgraduate course in the UK, you'll need to hold an undergraduate degree from the UK or overseas. This is the foundation from which you'll be able to go on to a postgraduate certificate, postgraduate diploma or a master's degree and then, afterwards, to a PhD. You'll be expected to have obtained a first or good 2:1 (or international equivalent) in a directly related subject and you'll also need to speak English to at least IELTS 6.5 level.
Note that the Visa process is becoming more difficult.
What sorts of courses are available?
You may need to take a pre-master's course if your qualifications or English language skills don't quite match the standard required to begin a master's degree. Pre-master's courses can last from one term to a complete academic year and cover academic study, cultural instruction and language training. Many courses will guarantee progression onto a master's course at a particular university.
Postgraduate certificate or diploma (PG Cert/Dip)
Postgraduate certificates and diplomas are one-year taught postgraduate courses that don't usually involve research. They're often accepted as professional qualifications in the relevant field, such as education or management, giving you a fantastic head start in your chosen career.
Taught master's (MA, MSc, LLM, MEd etc)
Taught master's courses generally last for one year and consist of two elements: you'll complete a number of modules (which will include attending lectures and seminars, writing essays and taking examinations) and produce a dissertation from original research.
Research master's (MRes, MPhil)
On a master's degree by research, you won't typically attend lectures - instead you'll devote the entire year to research. Your final mark will be determined by the quality of your dissertation.
Master of Business Administration (MBA)
An MBA is a specialist business taught master's course that will give you a real step up the managerial ladder. It's the best-known and most popular postgraduate qualification.
A PhD, also known as a doctorate, will take you three to four years to complete, during which you'll be working on a single research project. In you final year, you'll be asked to present a dissertation of approximately 100,000 words.
New Route PhDs
New Route PhDs include taught elements as well as a research project and give you the opportunity to undertake interdisciplinary study.
How much will it cost?
Course fees can vary considerably between institutions as well as between the different parts of the country (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) as they all have their own arrangements on higher education. In Scotland for example, undergraduate education is for free for Scottish and EU citizens. The figures below show approximately what you'll need to pay in England. Costs for individual courses are given in the course profiles on this website.
* Arts and humanities courses: £7,000-£9,000 per year
* Science courses: £7,500-£12,000 per year
* Clinical courses: £10,000-£21,000 per year
* MBA: £4,000 to more than £30,000 per year
How will I know if my course is a good one?
Part of the reason that UK postgraduate qualifications are so highly valued across the world is the strict measures of quality imposed on them. Many of the checks and reports are available online, so you'll never be left in any doubt about the validity and quality of the course you choose.
The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) ensures that UK higher education is of a standard that's respected and admired across the world.
Every few years, the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) takes place to judge the quality of research being carried out in UK colleges and universities.
You can also find information on postgraduate courses on the Teaching Quality Information (TQI) website, which provides information on many different areas of postgraduate education, including results of the national student survey and destination information of recent postgraduates.
Coming to study in the UK will be one of the most exciting adventures of your life, so be prepared!
You may find the experience of coming to live in a different country confusing at first. Don't be surprised if, after the initial excitement of arriving in the UK wears off, you find it strange or begin to miss home. You won't be alone other new students will be feeling the same. Such emotions will quickly pass as you begin to get caught up in the bustle of student life, make new friends and find exciting new interests. There are, however, steps you can take before arriving in the UK that will help. The more you know about the city or region you'll be living in, the better prepared you will be.
Pre-departure briefing information
The British Council runs pre-departure briefing programmes in many of the countries where it has a local office. These tell you about immigration and passport control procedures, how to get to schools, colleges and universities, financial matters, budget planning and cultural differences. Your nearest UK Embassy, High Commission or British Council office will be able to advise you on what documentation you will need.
Arranging your arrival
When booking your travel, make sure you know what time it will be in the UK when you arrive as trains, coaches and taxis may not run throughout the night. Aim to arrive on a weekday (Monday Friday), rather than at the weekend (Saturday and Sunday) or on a public holiday, and try to arrive in the morning; this will give you time to reach your final destination and settle in during working hours when transportation links are most frequent and facilities such as banks and shops are open. This may mean that you travel through the night and arrive tired and slightly jet-lagged but it will help to make your onward journey easier.
Travel from regional airports
There are more than 40 airports in the UK, many of which fly to and from international destinations as well as providing internal flights within the UK. Most UK airports are served by their own rail station and coaches will travel from them to many local towns and other destinations. Speak to the international office at the school or college where you will be studying to find out which is the best one to use. You may be able to fly directly to the nearest airport, or you may find it easier to fly over to one of the larger UK airports and travel on from there.
Airport security and essential documents
Security at international airports is very strict and there will be a number of items that you will not be permitted to carry in your hand luggage, such as scissors and knives. Your airline will be able to provide a list of prohibited items when you book your tickets. When you are leaving home, allow plenty of time to check in for your flight and to pass through security controls there can be long queues at busy times.
Before arriving in the UK, you must ensure you have the right documents and the money you need. Make sure you carry the following items with you in your hand luggage as you may need them before you collect the luggage which you checked in:
* your valid passport, with visa or entry clearance if you need it. (see 'Coming to the UK: Immigration')
* your travel tickets
* money carry cash, travellers' cheques and credit cards preferably in a money belt or a very secure inner pocket
* health documents, if required
* your letter of acceptance from your institution
* documentation to show that you have enough money to pay your fees and meet your living costs for the duration of your course originals (or certified copies) of any degree certificates or technical qualifications you have.
Taxis and minicabs
Taking a taxi from the airport to your destination is by far the most expensive option and may cost as much as 10 times the price of a rail or bus ticket. You may also find there is a long queue at the taxi rank if so, it is considered rude and unfair to 'jump' the queue. If the relative ease of travelling by taxi appeals to you, however, remember to put your safety first. You should never hire a taxi from any individuals who approach you at the airport and should always use the official taxi rank (which will be clearly signposted) or a licensed minicab.
Many schools, colleges and universities run special introduction programmes for international students before term begins. A typical programme would involve a tour of the institution, an overview of the facilities available and help with registering for your course. It may also include a trip to the local supermarket and town centre, and an introduction to public transport links and local facilities such as sports centers and libraries. These programmes are an excellent way to meet other students and staff and to settle in before your studies begin.
Travel within the UK and continental Europe has never been easier. You can make the most of your spare time, and broaden your experience, by visiting some world-renowned destinations.
The UK has an extensive and regular train service which, thanks to the Channel Tunnel, also allows you to reach Paris and Brussels easily. UK cities and towns are linked by a wide-ranging system of motorways and A roads, allowing easy travel by car, motorbike or coach to all parts of the country.
Frequent and efficient air services also connect major UK cities with many European destinations. For instance, you can fly from Manchester to Amsterdam, Cardiff to Paris, Gatwick to Berlin - and all in little over an hour. The peaceful Greek islands, the historic sites of the Middle East or the exciting cities of Eastern Europe are only three or four hours away from the UK by air.
As well as heading off on a train or coach by yourself, you may find that your college or university offers plenty of opportunities for you to see more of the UK. Students' Unions often offer day trips to places of interest, which can be a fun day out and a good way to meet people. This may be especially true of international student societies during induction periods. You will also find that many student societies provide opportunities for travel. Joining a sports team that competes against teams from other institutions can be a good way to see other towns and cities, while outdoor activity societies such as walking or rock-climbing groups will give you a chance to see some beautiful countryside. Choirs may perform in churches and cathedrals around the country, while drama and dance groups may often undertake theatre tours during the holidays.
The UK's excellent communications services make it easy for you to keep in contact with friends and family back at home
You can operate public telephones in the UK by using coins, credit cards or pre-paid phone cards. Phone cards come in a range of values including £5, £10 and £20 and you can buy them from newsagents, post offices and supermarkets.
Your best option may well be your own mobile (or cell) phone - they are widely used in the UK and can be particularly convenient for students. If you are buying a new one or switching to a new network, check details of the competing packages carefully. What appears to be a cheap phone may come with an expensive monthly subscription and high charges for individual calls.
Email and the internet
Internet usage is widespread in the UK and most students will be familiar with its use. The majority of colleges and universities provide free email accounts for their students; check with your Students' Union. At many colleges and universities, rooms in halls of residence will have an internet connection provided at a set fee for the entire term or academic year.
If you have your own computer, you may also choose to sign up directly with one of the UK's internet service providers (ISP). Several now offer free access; all you will pay is the phone company's charges for your connection time.
If you prefer to write letters back home, or want to post presents to your friends and family, post offices are usually open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Monday to Friday, and from 9.00 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. on Saturday. You can also buy any stamps you need at newsagents, supermarkets and some other shops, and from special vending machines which are usually located near a post office.
Useful UK numbers and services
155 (for help with placing a call)
International directory enquiries
118 505 (to find out a number)
To phone someone overseas direct,
dial 00, then the country code, followed by the number
Mobiles Online (mobile phone networks)
Health and Safety
As an international student you, and any members of your family who have come to the UK with you, may be entitled to free or subsidised treatment in the UK under the National Health Service (NHS) as long as your course lasts for more than six months. If you are a national or resident of an EEA country, or are studying a full-time course in Scotland, you will receive this benefit regardless of the length of your studies.
Before you travel, you should seek advice from the health authorities in your home country about what treatment will be covered. If you are not entitled to NHS treatment, take out a medical insurance policy before you leave home or as soon as possible after you arrive in the UK.
Registering with a doctor
To receive any kind of treatment through the NHS, you must be registered with a doctor or General Practitioner (GP - a doctor who is trained and experienced in diagnosing a wide range of health problems). Do this as soon as possible after you arrive in the UK and have a permanent address rather than waiting until you are ill.
If your school, college or university has a health centre, you may be able to register with a doctor there or they may be able to recommend a local doctor or GP. You will need to take proof of student status with you when you register. You will then be sent an NHS medical card with an individual identity code; you will also need this to register with a dentist. A consultation with your doctor is free, but you must pay for any medicines prescribed unless you are under 19 years of age and in full-time education (under 25 in Wales). If you have a condition such as asthma that requires frequent repeat prescriptions, you may be able to save money by buying a prepayment certificate. Ask your doctor or student advisers about this.
If you are eligible for NHS treatment, you can receive your dental treatment at a reduced rate. Once you have registered with a doctor, register with a local dentist as soon as possible. First of all, make sure that the dentist accepts NHS patients - some dentists only accept private patients.
Remedies for minor illnesses such as headaches and colds are available in many supermarkets and high street chemists without a prescription from a doctor. If you are not sure what to take, you can get expert advice from a qualified pharmacist in lots of the shops and stores that sell non-prescription medicines. You can also find information online at
Hundreds of thousands of international students have chosen to study in the UK because of the opportunities it offers. The British Government has streamlined the visa process in recent years to make it more user-friendly for international students. Since 2002, it has also been easier for some students to stay on to work at the end of their course.
Immigration procedures before you leave
It is vital that you check the UK visas (and Immigration and Nationality Directorate (websites on regular basis and liaise with the British Mission so that you are aware of how UK immigration procedures will affect you.
If you are a national of the European Economic Area (EEA),* or of Switzerland, this guide does not apply to you. Look at the following for information about your position (contact details are at the end of this guidance note): UKCOSA's Guidance note EEA Students or contact your local British Council office for advice.
Bringing a wife/husband/civil partner and children to the UK
You will usually be allowed to bring your wife/husband/civil partner and any children under 18 years of age to the UK, as long as you can show that you can support and accommodate them without seeking any recourse to public funds. You will also need to show the entry clearance officer (ECO) your marriage certificate and a birth certificate for each child. Your family will normally be given permission to stay in the UK for the same period as you.
Working while studying
Students on courses of more than six months are usually given immigration conditions in their passport that allow them to work part-time up to 20 hours a week during term-time and full-time during vacations. If you have these conditions, you will not need permission from a job centre or individual permission from the Department for Work and Pensions. To meet UK immigration requirements, however, you must show that you can pay your course fees and living expenses without working in the UK (see the Immigration Rules on page 3), so you cannot therefore expect to finance your studies in this way. More information about working while studying in the UK is available at: Students on courses of six months or less are routinely given leave to enter the UK on visitor conditions, which prohibit employment. It is important to make the entry clearance officer (ECO) or immigration officer aware of your intention to undertake part-time employment and ask to be considered for entry as a student. But remember - you must show that you can pay for your course fees and living expenses without needing to work.
The British Council estimates that, not including course fees, the average student needs around £650 a month (£750 a month in London and the south east of England) to cover accommodation, food, clothes and basic needs. How much or how little you spend outside this is entirely up to you, but make sure you have a good understanding of the costs you are likely to incur and always try to live within your means. If you are allowed to work, a part-time job can be a good way to ensure you have extra spending money for leisure activities and socialising.
It is important that you have a realistic idea of what your living expenses will be before you arrive in the UK
When you are planning your budget for living in the UK, it is not just your course fees that you need to take into account. You also need to calculate your everyday living expenses including your food, accommodation (rent and other bills), books and equipment, and clothes - making sure that you have enough left over for leisure activities and socialising. The cost of living varies between different regions of the UK; London, for example, is more expensive than average and costs may also be high in other major UK cities such as Edinburgh and Manchester. A lot is also down to you, of course - the cost of a pair of jeans can vary hugely, depending on how important fashion and designer labels are to you. Just as if you were at home, you need to be sensible about what you really need and what you can actually afford.
Budgeting for the year
At boarding schools and some international study centers, accommodation and meals are included in your fees, but if you are on a course at a further education college, higher education college or university, you will probably need to budget for rent and also for buying and cooking your own food. Even if your institution has a canteen, you will usually need to pay for the meals you eat there separately from your rent. You should always plan your living expenses over 12 months, even if the academic year is shorter, as you may have to pay accommodation and other costs over the holidays. It's also worth checking what bills you are expected to pay and which are included in your rent, as this can have a big effect on your budget. Student accommodation in halls of residence can often look more expensive than a room in a shared house, but all bills and internet access are usually included in the cost of your room, whereas in private accommodation you will be expected to pay these separately. Before you arrive, your institution should be able to give you clear guidance on exact prices of its accommodation, meals in its canteen, bills you will be expected to pay and the cost of living in the local region.
Leisure and socializing
How much you spend on your leisure time and social activities can also vary hugely depending on what you choose to do. If you go to the cinema once or twice a week, dine in expensive restaurants every evening and make regular trips to the theatre or the ballet, you will spend much more than if you take advantage only of the entertainment arranged by student societies. Most on-campus activities with friends will cost you next to nothing. Of course, the actual amount you spend is likely to be somewhere between the two. Most universities have a student cinema, nightclub, theatre and other entertainment available that you can enjoy for much less than similar entertainment will cost you off-campus.
If you're going to be living on a budget, there are several tips for value buying. Outdoor markets are good for fresh food and cheap clothing and you will often find these close to areas where there are large numbers of students. Larger supermarkets where you can buy in bulk are generally cheaper than smaller local shops and stores and many sell good quality clothing, household goods and electrical equipment as well as food and other provisions. Some supermarket chains will deliver, and while there is likely to be a small charge for this it may be no more than the bus or taxi fare and much easier than struggling home with bags of heavy shopping.
Many shops, theatres, cinemas, museums and galleries offer special reductions for students and special student fares are often available on buses and trains. To take advantage of these, you will usually need to prove membership of the National Union of Students (NUS), an organisation that represents the interests of all students in the UK. Recent discounts listed on the NUS website include 10 per cent off purchases of selected items at HMV (a music and DVD retail chain), Topshop/Topman (a chain of fashionable clothing shops), ShoeZone (shoe shops), Peacocks (a chain of family clothing stores) and Argos (homeware and hardware). Ask at your Students' Union for details of the latest student discounts or check online at Student discounts are also available on most UK travel.
You should try to arrange your long-term accommodation in the UK before you leave home. Ultimately, you are responsible for arranging your own accommodation but your school, college or university should be able to help you: English language schools and further education (FE) colleges have student advisers who can give you information on how to find accommodation, and universities have accommodation officers.
Your options will depend on the institution you apply to and could include accommodation owned by the university or college, flat or houseshare arrangements, a bedsit or lodgings, or 'homestay' (living with a UK family). If you are bringing a lot of personal belongings with you, it is advisable to arrange room or contents insurance.
Further education colleges
Accommodation options for students studying at further education colleges can include halls of residence, lodgings or home stay, hostels, and private flats and houses; around 30 per cent of international students live in accommodation owned by the college. Your college will try to match your needs with the options available. The most common form of accommodation is lodgings or home stay, which involves renting a room in a private house. The rent normally includes the cost of cleaning, laundry, breakfast and evening meals.
The most common form of accommodation for higher education students is in halls of residence, located on campus or a short distance away, which are usually owned by the institution. You will live in a study/bedroom either by yourself or with another student, on a corridor of around eight to 10 rooms. You may have to share a bathroom, though many institutions do have en-suite rooms, particularly for postgraduate and mature students. Halls of residence are often the cheapest available option.
Not all halls provide accommodation for the whole year. You may have to clear your room during the holidays if the building is rented out for conferences or summer schools. Check with your international officer whether this is the case. Most universities will make exceptions for international students and allow you to stay during vacations or at least to store belongings in secure space if you are going home. International students are often guaranteed accommodation at least for their first year. It is best to accept any offers as early as possible. Few institutions have enough rooms to accommodate every single student so they need to know as early as possible if rooms are going to be free.
Accommodation in the private sector
If you choose to rent accommodation in the private sector, the options are shared flats/houses, lodgings, bedsits (a single rented room with living, sleeping and sometimes cooking facilities) or private hostels. Prices can vary considerably and the university housing office may be unable to help you if you run into problems with the landlord.
English Language Courses
Nearly all English language centers can help you arrange suitable accommodation. The type of accommodation available will depend on where you study: it may be halls of residence or a hostel, or lodging with a UK family. Living with a UK family is the most common option and will give you the opportunity to practise English in a supportive environment.
EU member since 1-1-1973
The UK has probably one of the most cosmopolitan societies within Europe and you will study with people from all over the world in this truly multicultural society. The variety of universities and degrees is broad and degrees will be accepted worldwide. Some of the world's best universities like Oxford or Cambridge are located in the United Kingdom as well.