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Further Study and Training
Postgraduate study is a complex and often confusing issue. It is usually more intensive and often harder than undergraduate work; it may require considerable motivation and self-discipline, both academically and in practical terms, grants are often hard to come by and many students are self-funding.
With no clear system to follow, you need to do some research to find out which is the best course for you, where you can study and how you might fund it.
Despite all the difficulties, for many people postgraduate study can be a very rewarding and valuable experience. For some, further study may be an essential step to enable them to pursue a particular career, others may find their employment prospects considerably enhanced and there are those who continue to study simply because of a love for their subject. All of these are good reasons for doing a postgraduate course.
There are many different types of course available. You can do research for a Master's degree or a Doctorate (PhD) - 1 and 3 years of full-time study respectively. You can follow a taught Master's course lasting 1 year - some of these are more advanced than a first degree; others are conversion courses into new areas (converting from History to Information Technology for instance). Then there are various types of Certificate and Diploma - some are academic and others vocational.
It is not true that completing a first degree course in 3 years entitles you to another year of support. Postgraduate funding is not automatic (except for teacher training) and there is no simple system for making awards. Local Education Authorities (LEAs) may allow discretionary awards for vocational courses leading to diplomas, but they are not allowed to fund higher degrees - Master's and PhDs.
Instead, there are various bodies which arrange funding for certain subject groups. These are the Research Councils and a few vocational subjects like librarianship and Art & Design have separate funding schemes . The funding bodies split up the academic spectrum between them, each having defined areas of responsibility. But they do not support all courses, nor do they award grants to all students accepted onto approved courses.
Each of the funding bodies has its own regulations - you can't assume that what applies to one will be true of another. And if you come from a part of the UK other than England or Wales then you should seek advice from your LEA as much of the foregoing will not apply to you!
It is usually best to start making applications to academic departments in the latter part of the Autumn Term and beginning of the Spring Term of your final year. Departments will be able to tell you which, if any, is the appropriate funding body. But you can only apply for funding once you have a provisional offer of a place on the course.
It is often easier to get an offer of a place on a course than it is to get funding, for this reason, many postgraduate students support themselves - perhaps by taking out a loan, using savings, working part-time, or possibly through a small grant from an educational charity.
There is lots of information about Postgraduate Study in the Careers Service. Some of the key sources are listed below:
Introduction and General Information
AGCAS booklet ‘Postgraduate Study and Research’
[http://prospects.ac.uk] - provides a searchable course database
Prospects Postgraduate Funding Guide – also available online at the above prospects web site
Undertaking postgraduate study can be a big commitment, so it's worth finding out all you can about it. Talk to your academic tutors - they will have to give you a reference anyway, but it's also worth chatting about your ideas with your tutor, especially if you want to do a research degree or study abroad. If possible, visit the department to which you will be applying. Talk to academic staff and to current postgraduate students. You'll get a picture of what the course and department are really like. For more information on courses, especially those that have just been set up, don't forget to look at posters on notice-boards in CEEC and in your department.
If you want to study abroad you need to start your planning very early - preferably about 18 months before the course is due to start. It is possible to receive funding for studying in some countries, but there is very fierce competition.
Detailed information about postgraduate study abroad can be found in the following reference books in the CEEC Information Resource Room:
International Study Guide
There are many other useful web sites including www.prospects.ac.uk for details of overseas courses and funding opportunities:
For study the USA in particular, try http://www.petersons.com
For courses available at Management Schools, try http://www.wiwi-online.co.uk