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Postgraduate Full-Time Study

Postgraduate full time study generally take one year to complete for a taught masters degree, although some are two-year full-time courses, such as the London Business School's MBA, which is based on the American model. Research-based programs can take longer; for instance, up to four years for some masters programs and three to six years for a PhD.


There are several advantages of studying for a qualification full time. It allows you to focus entirely on the program without distractions, and you can also take full advantage of non-course offerings, such as student organisations, lectures, lunches with academics and so on. Studying full time for a PhD could involve you being present at your institution from 9am to 5pm every weekday during term time. Other full time postgraduate courses, such as master's courses, will involve a fixed number of seminars and tutorials per week along with private study.

Students coming to the UK from outside of the EU or EEA tend to study full time, as there are restrictions on the number of hours they can work while they are studying and they may not be able to get a visa for a part-time course that involves less than a specified number of hours' study each week. Full-time study also tends to be a popular choice among students taking a postgraduate qualification straight after completing a first degree and those who have taken a career break and wish to gain a qualification in as short a period of time as possible.

Postgraduate course duration

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 course work. There are three levels of taught program: Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert), Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip), and Masters. Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas are short (under a year) and can be part of continuing professional development (CPD). In some cases, diplomas can be awarded to students who follow a taught masters programme, but who do not complete the final (up to) 20,000-word dissertation .

The learning on a research program will take place through the pursuit of a self-directed project, which aims to make a new contribution to human knowledge, although it will also usually be part of a broader research program at an institutional level. Research programs at masters level might be called a Masters in Research (MRes) or, regardless of the actual subject studied, a Masters in Philosophy (MPhil), which usually take two years. The highest research degree is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which takes a minimum of three years to complete. Apart from some training in research skills, there will be very little taught content on research programs. The dissertation will be longer, 70,000 to 100,000 words for a PhD. It should also be original and, in theory, publishable. Essentially, possessing a PhD should mean that you are one of the leading experts in your specialism in the world. There are also integrated and funded four-year programs, which are much coveted. These are known as one-plus-three programs, because they are made up of a one-year masters degree followed by a three-year PhD.


Certificates and Diplomas 

PG Certificate (PGCert) or Diploma (PGDip) Nine months full time
Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) One year full time
CPE/PGDip in Law One year full time


Masters Degrees and Doctorates

MA One year full time
MSc One year full time
MBA Usually one year full time, although some courses take 18 months or two years full time
LLM One year full time
MRes Two years full time
MPhil Two to three years full time
MEng Four years full time (students can sometimes transfer from a BEng or BSc degree)
PhD/DPhil Three to four years full time




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