'Find out how to apply for postgraduate study in the UK – it’s more than filling in a form!'
If you’ve studied for a full-time, undergraduate level course at a higher education institution in the UK you’ll probably have applied through the centralised UCAS process.
When applying for a postgraduate course, you can apply directly to the institution where you wish to study (though you may also choose to apply through UCAS). In many cases, a properly filled-out application form, references and deposit will be enough to be considered for a course. You may also be asked to attend an interview in the UK, or take part in one over the phone.
In some cases, UKPASS handles applications for you – see the UKPASS website for details of the universities and colleges that UKPASS deals with.
Some social work courses let students apply through UCAS. You should check with the institution and UCAS if you are unsure about how to apply for a particular course.
For postgraduate teaching courses, you’ll need to apply through the Graduate Teacher Training Registry. Its website has information about the institutions you can apply to. You can also use it to submit and track your application.
Submitting your application
The procedures for applying vary from one institution to another. While some have dedicated postgraduate admission offices, others will expect you to apply to the department that teaches your course.
In general, you’ll need to complete a detailed form setting out your academic qualifications, work experience and reasons for wanting to do the course (a personal statement). If you’re applying for a research place, you may be asked to outline a proposal or research plan.
Good academic references to support your application are vital to the selection process. Choose your referees with care, discuss your plans with them and ensure they will be able to write a reference promptly.
Although you can apply to as many courses as you want in any one year, it’s recommended that you make a shortlist of about six to eight courses. Some courses fill up very quickly, particularly law and medicine, so you should apply well in advance of the advertised deadline.
Departments generally start receiving applications from the beginning of the academic year before the year you wish to study. They will often allocate places on a first-come, first-served basis, so try to get your application in by the end of April if your course starts in the autumn. This is particularly important if you are applying for funding.
Details of courses, including master’s degrees, PhDs and MBAs – along with profiles of the institutions that offer them – can be found using the Education UK course finder, at the top-right of this page.