The variety and volume of postgraduate study options presents significant choices for individuals. In order to manage this choice effectively it is important to be aware of the type of postgraduate programmes that are available. It is also useful to consider your personal motivation and drivers for further study to ensure that you can make the most appropriate choices. It is also important to consider the mode of study: postgraduate courses are typically available on a part-time and/or distance learning basis in addition to full-time. It is also possible to undertake postgraduate study while in employment, particularly in respect of professionally accredited programmes.
Higher degrees by instruction (i.e. taught courses) include the MSc, MA and MBA. Masters courses usually last 12 months and include a research project or dissertation (and possibly exams). Some courses focus on academic aspects of a particular subject; others are vocational, often requiring some relevant work experience. Courses such as an MA in Librarianship or an MSc in IT are classed as conversion courses and can enable students to change subject and career direction. The majority of postgraduate diplomas and certificates are vocational and may be essential for certain occupations e.g. Law, Teaching. When considering a taught course it is important to ask about course structure, funding availability and the selection process. For vocational courses consider employer involvement and relevance, recognition by the relevant professional body (including exemption from further professional examinations e.g. Accountancy) and whether you need relevant work experience to be accepted.
Higher degrees by research require a period of original research undertaken over 3 years for a doctorate (PhD, DPhil). A shorter period of research (between one and two years) can lead to the award of MPhil. Often seen as useful preparation for a PhD, an MRes takes one year and includes training in research methods. Timescales can be extended if studying part-time. For original research you usually need a minimum of a 2.1. You'll be working very closely with an academic supervisor so find out about their expertise and track record. (Your department can be a great source of advice). It is also wise to check out institutional facilities for postgraduates and the research strengths of the institutions/departments you are considering applying to.
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) are government funded collaborations that enable UK businesses to benefit from the expertise of the UK's knowledge base (higher education institutions and research organisations). Opportunities exist for graduates, who are recruited as KTP Associates, to manage a project (Knowledge Transfer Project) that has been negotiated between the host institution (e.g. Durham University) and a partner employer. KTP Associates are employed by the host institution but can expect to spend the majority of their time with the employer around whom the project is centred. The benefits for the graduate are broad but include a salaried post, invaluable project-led employer experience and the opportunity to study for a Masters or PhD by research.