Types of courses

Research postgraduate degrees

PhDs involve a period of supervised research resulting in a thesis that makes a new contribution to knowledge. PhDs take 3-4 years (full-time) or 6-8 years (part-time). You may initially be registered on an MPhil and then transferred onto a PhD after successful completion of the first year. The structure of PhD programmes and how they are funded is increasingly varied, so you should research the opportunities available within your discipline and departments you are considering applying to. For more information on funding and application processes for PhDs, see the pages on Applying and Funding.

Masters by research (usually called MRes) degrees take one or two years, and usually combine training in research methodologies and sometimes other taught componments with the production of an in-depth dissertation. In some cases, an MRes can form the first year of a four-year 'Integrated PhD' which exists in some departments and disciplines.

A few research programmes include other training, such as the EngD. Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a scheme where universities and employers offer a paid job in industry combined with a research degree.

Taught postgraduate degrees

Taught Masters courses last one or two years and follow a similar structure to undergraduate degrees. During the course you will follow a programme combining a variety of lectures, seminars, tutorials, coursework, and exams, depending on the programme, and you will complete a dissertation over the summer. See for a database of courses and research opportunities available in the UK.

Diplomas and certificates

These are usually vocational, often involve the obtainment of a professional qualification, such as the PGCE to qualify as a teacher, and usually last a year, occasionally two.