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Posted July 15, 2020

Are there PG programs that can’t be studied online?

Online PG CoursesTo put it simply, pretty much every kind of postgraduate course can be studied in an online version.

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In some cases it’s true to say that on-campus courses do have advantages over their online equivalents and some courses are better to study in person. Sometimes this might be because of the importance of networking or it is a hands-on course that benefits from in-person teaching. Alternatively, it might be because the program is taught in English in a university in a non-English speaking country or the equipment students need to research and learn is not available to online students. Let’s take a deeper look into the effectiveness of studying PG programs online.

Masters programs

Although you can find a version of most masters programs in an online format, many universities only offer some of their postgraduate courses in on-campus formats, for example, the University of Oxford only teaches Law at any level on campus. Globally you may find that there are limited options to study many design-based courses – such as those at ETH Zurich – online. This is because of the substantial group work and technology or IT facilities that students need access to. Science-based courses that need specialist equipment are often quite unsuitable for online learning such as their Master in Atmospheric and Climate Science, which requires a great deal of computer modelling that isn’t available in most people’s homes. If the university’s local language is not English, then if they offer English language masters level course these tend to be on-campus as part of the course is to perfect the student’s English language skills which are easier in person.

Masters of Architecture & Engineering

Although there are some online courses that allow those who are working in the industry already to qualify as architects or engineers and to specialise further, the vast majority of postgraduate architecture and engineering students study on-campus. This is because the courses are highly technical and the collaborative nature of the industries which is a way of working that starts at university. However online MArch courses area available at US universities and are a great option for those already working in the industry.


In the UK, most teacher training is done on-campus, but there are some good online options available but you will almost certainly need to complete some of the work on site or at a school placement to gain QTS status. Online PGCE programs tend to be a better option for students who are already working in the sector, and for most students wishing to become teachers, on-campus learning is best. Most universities do not offer online PGCEs as the interactive element of learning how to teach others is not easily transferred to the online format, and an on-campus course does make finding placements easier as students can take advantage of the relationships that the university has to gain local placements and even a job afterwards.

Masters by Research & PhDs

It is possible to conduct research degrees online, however, in many cases research-intensive universities don’t offer this option. If you are considering an academic career, then the networking opportunities offered by an on-campus PhD are an important consideration, however this is still possible with online PhD study as there will be virtual networking events and event onsite meet-ups that you can choose to attend. As a PhD student you may want to collaborate with other PhD students and researchers to work on new projects or publish papers, as being published in academic journals is the first hurdle to having a successful academic career, but this is still possible if you are an online PhD student.

Online Vs On Campus

There are pros and cons to both online postgraduate study and on campus postgraduate study – so when you are choosing what mode of study you want to opt for it’s important to really think about what suits you personally. On the whole, PG students tend to feel equally happy with both options, as this survey of how US postgraduate students felt about online learning compared to on-campus learning shows.

Online v On campus study


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