Postgraduate education, or graduate education in North America, involves learning and studying for academic or professional degrees, academic or professional certificates, academic or professional diplomas, or other qualifications for which a first or bachelor’s degree generally is required, and it is normally considered to be part of higher education. In North America, this level is generally referred to as graduate school (or sometimes colloquially as grad school).
The organization and structure of postgraduate education varies in different countries, as well as in different institutions within countries. This article outlines the basic types of courses and of teaching and examination methods, with some explanation of their history.
Admission to undertake a research degree in the UK typically requires a good bachelor’s degree, or Scottish M.A., (at least lower second, but usually an upper second or first class). In some institutions Doctoral candidates are initially admitted to a Masters in Research Philosophy (M.Phil. or M.Res.), then later transfer to a Ph.D./D.Phil. if they can show satisfactory progress in their first 8–12 months of study. Candidates for the degree of Doctor of Education (Ed.D) are typically required to hold a good bachelor’s degree as well as an appropriate master’s degree before being admitted.
Funding for postgraduate study in the UK is awarded competitively, and usually is disseminated by institution (in the form of a certain allocation of studentships for a given year) rather than directly to individuals. There are a number of scholarships for master’s courses, but these are relatively rare and dependent on the course and class of undergraduate degree obtained (usually requiring at least a lower second). Most master’s students are self-funded.
Funding is available for some Ph.D./D.Phil. courses. As at the master’s level, there is more funding available to those in the sciences than in other disciplines. Such funding generally comes from Research Councils such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Medical Research Council (MRC) and others. Masters students may also have the option of a Postgraduate loan introduced by the UK Government in 2016.
For overseas students, most major funding applications are due as early as twelve months or more before the intended graduate course will begin. This funding is also often highly competitive. The most widely available, and thus important, award for overseas students is the Overseas Research Student (ORS) Award, which pays the difference in university fees between an overseas student and a British or EU resident. However, a student can only for one university apply for the ORS Award, often before he or she knows whether they have been accepted. As of the 2009/2010 academic year, the HEFCE has cancelled the Overseas Research Student Award scheme for English and Welsh universities. The state of the scheme for Scottish and Northern Irish universities is currently unclear.
Students studying part-time for a master’s degree can apply for income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance provided their timetabled hours are fewer than 16 hours per week. This also entitles the student to housing benefit provided by their local council. Full-time students (of any type) are not normally eligible for state benefits, including during vacation time.