Postgraduate Programmes: Science
Science refers to a way of pursuing knowledge that is scientific method, ie a way to study the natural world, including physics, chemistry and biology. Postgraduate Programmes in Science can focus on one of the many different aspects of science, from Astronomy or Biotechnology to the more traditional Physics, Biology or Chemistry.
The UK is well known for its excellent scientific research and as such is a great place to study subjects within this field, and there is a fantastic choice of science programmes on offer. To many, science, together with engineering, is regarded as the cream of UK higher education, and, whether you want to place yourself near to the research-driven edge of development in your subject, learn about a subject specialism that is unavailable in your home country or even take your career in a whole new direction, you are sure to find a course that will suit, from Earth Sciences or Fuel Science to Industrial Science and Marine Science.
Everything and anything is on offer, from the purest science qualifications in subjects like Astrophysics (run, for example, by the University of Manchester, University of Sussex and Queen Mary University of London) through to interesting hybrids like an MSc in Science Communication, which prepares journalists and public relations communicators to work in the gap between the scientific experts and a non-technical audience (variants of which are available at the University of the West of England, Imperial College London, and Bath, Glamorgan, Cardiff and Dublin City Universities).
It should also be realised that even very similarly titled programmes can be very different, offering different modules, different types of academic expertise, different outcomes and different costs, both in terms of living expenses and fees. Yet all partake of the overall reputation of higher education.
What Postgraduate Programmes in Science are on offer?
Fundamentally, there are two types of postgraduate programme in the UK: taught and research. Taught programmes are those in which a large proportion of the learning is facilitated through classroom, seminar, tutorial and supervised laboratory work, and which are at least partially assessed by examination or coursework. The learning on a research programme, on the other hand, will take place through the pursuit of a self-directed project that aims to make a new contribution to human knowledge (although it will almost always be part of a broader research programme at an institutional level). But despite this fundamental division, all master’s programmes will contain some self-directed research. There are also integrated and funded four-year programmes that are much coveted. These are known as ‘1+3’ programmes because they are made up of a one-year master’s followed by a three-year PhD.
Another variation of taught programmes is the conversion course. Instead of just being a means to continue your understanding of a subject you already know well, some taught programmes are aimed at students from outside the discipline who wish to change the direction of their career. These conversion programmes will be characterised by an intense and in-depth introduction to the subject. Conversion courses can be very attractive to students who do not have the opportunity to study a subject at undergraduate level, either because it isn’t taught in their home country or because it is not usually covered at undergraduate level. For example, some Master’s in Neuroscience programmes offer graduates with related or cognate degrees an opportunity to specialise; in this case, these might be biologists, medics or computer scientists, among others. The entry criteria and programme description will always make it very clear what type of programme is being offered.
There are three levels of taught programme to look out for: postgraduate certificate (PGCert), postgraduate diploma (PGDip) or master’s (those in science are usually designated an MSc). Postgraduate certificates and diplomas are short (under a year) and can be part of continuing professional development (CPD) or preparation for entry on to a master’s programme. In some cases, diplomas can be awarded to students who follow a taught master’s programme (one year full time, two years part time), but who do not complete the final (up to) 20,000-word dissertation. These programmes will usually be designated an MSc/Diploma.
Find out more about studying Science and Engineering.
Research-based postgraduate programmes
The majority of research programmes are MPhils and PhDs. These are normally for graduates who already have a master’s and/or work experience. It is comparatively rare to go straight into these courses with just a first degree. An MPhil might take two to four years to complete, and a PhD three to six years. It is essential to be motivated and to have your own ideas for original research topics. Some programmes now include initial lectures, tutorials, and an introduction to research and statistical techniques and resources. But, for the majority of the time, students are expected to manage their own work, to generate individual or collaborative research papers and to discuss progress with their supervisor every few months. At the end of their research, students have to produce an extended report or thesis (about 40,000–70,000 words for an MPhil and 80,000–100,000 words for a PhD) on their findings and discuss them in a final oral exam (the ‘viva’) with a panel of academics.
A few master’s degrees in law are available by research, and are particularly useful to students intending to take a PhD later. Those without formal research skills are taught these at the beginning of the programme.
Entry to Postgraduate Programmes in Science
Successful applicants will generally be expected to hold a good bachelor degree (second-class Honours or above) from a recognised institution. Check with your preferred institution to see exactly what qualifications are required.
IELTS scores of 6.5–7.0 or TOEFL scores of 100-107 are usually needed. Because of ongoing changes in the law we advise international students to regularly check the UKBA website to make sure they can fulfil the necessary requirements. Most individual institutions also have useful information on the Tier 4 requirements for international students, and can offer assistance in terms of student queries about their specific English language requirements.
Click here to find out more about English Language requirements for International Students.
How much will it cost?
A one-year taught master’s programme can cost anything between a few thousand pounds to well over £10,000, although there are different rates according to whether you are a European Union (EU) or non-EU student. Applications for funding or scholarships must be made well over a year in advance (information on the various institutional scholarships is available from the British Council website) and funding should always be arranged before you leave your home country.
Looking for funding for postgraduate studies? Check out the exclusive bursaries on offer from Postgrad Solutions.