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Postgraduate Programs: Teaching and Education

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Language, values, qualifications and reputation – these are the reasons many students come to the UK to study education and teaching.

Postgraduate Programs in Teaching will either focus on primary school teaching, secondary school teaching or teaching at a further education institution, whereas Postgraduate Programs in Education will develop the student's knowledge and understanding of education as a profession.

The UK and Ireland have always been a magnet for students of education and teaching. Obviously, the language helps, but they do not only draw people looking for qualifications in the teaching of English or who wish to teach in UK schools. There are also a large number of options for early- to mid-career professionals who are looking to deepen their understanding of education, and who are attracted by the broad reputation and specific expertise available here.

Professor Rosamund Sutherland, Head of the Graduate School of Education at the University of Bristol, explains, "On the broadest level, I think what also attracts people to come and study here at postgraduate level is that they feel sympathetic to the values of UK education as they are perceived from their home countries." 

Postgraduate programs in Teaching & Education

UK postgraduate qualifications are divided into two main types: taught courses and research degrees. There are various study options and qualifications available, depending on the career you are aiming for.

Beyond the very specific qualifications that prepare people to teach, broader education programs that are classified as ‘taught’ courses will tend to be modular, and will be facilitated in the main through seminar work and self-study. They will be at least partly assessed through coursework. In contrast, the learning on a research program will take place through the pursuit of a self-directed project that aims to make a new contribution to human knowledge (although it will also often be part of a broader research program at an institutional level).

Taught postgraduate programs

There are three levels of taught qualification: postgraduate certificate (PGCert), postgraduate diploma (PGDip) or masters (those in education are usually designated as an MEd, MA(Ed) or, occasionally, MSc). Postgraduate certificates and diplomas can be short courses leading to specific teaching qualifications, such as those awarded in TEFL and TESOL or to people specialising in in-service training.


Student teacher The PGCE is a program of initial teacher training for graduates that leads to Qualified Teacher Status in the UK. The program usually takes a year and includes long placements in at least two schools supported by university-based work. As a trainee, you will be expected to have a knowledge and understanding of the subject that you want to teach before starting training, and your first degree should be related to it in some way.

PGCEs are a special case and there is more funding available than there is for other postgraduate programs. PGCE trainees who are classified as home or European Union (EU) students may be eligible to receive a tax-free training bursary of between £4,000 and £9,000, the value depending on where the training takes place, the subject the students train to teach and when they start their course. 

Alongside this, there are other incentives available to trainees and newly qualified teachers in certain subjects, although the arrangements are different, depending on where you are studying in the UK. For example, in England, newly qualified secondary teachers with a PGCE in Information and Communications Technology, Design and Technology, Modern Languages, Religious Education or Music can receive a ‘golden hello’ of £2,500 when they start their second year of work (£5,000 for mathematicians and scientists).

Read our articles on 5 Great Reasons to do a PGCE and PGCE Case Studies .

Master in Education

The more general taught postgraduate Masters in Education programs will usually be modular and have a number of different routes through them. For example, the University of Bristol’s Master of Education (MEd) includes the following pathways: Counselling in Education; Educational Leadership, Policy and Development; Mathematics Education; Psychology of Education; Special and Inclusive Education; and an individually constructed program. Some modules in one of the pathways will be offered as options in other pathways and, in this way, each student can build a program that most suits them.  Many postgraduate programs are offered both part time and full time , although, because these programs are attractive to established professionals travelling from overseas, they can often be available in various formats. For example, the MA in International Education and Development from the Institute of Education, University of London is available one year full time or two to four years part time.

As with most educational programs, the preferred teaching methodology is through small seminar groups in which there is considerable interaction between the facilitator and the students. A report by the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education stated that: "Education programs are notable for successfully integrating theory and practice and encouraging practitioners to reflect on their own practice. Teaching and learning are generally interactive, involving a range of learning styles."

A one-year taught MEd will usually cost the standard postgraduate program fee and there are different rates, depending on whether you are an EU or non-EU student. Applications for funding or scholarships must be made well over a year in advance and funding should always be arranged before you leave your home country. Information on the various institutional scholarships is available from the British Council website, while funding for some postgraduate courses may be available from the various UK government research councils.

Furthermore, some home-country funding is only directed towards students who are enrolled on programs that are rated 5* (the highest rating) by the most recent Research Assessment Exercise (RAE – a UK governmental exercise that rates the research carried out by UK institutions in specific subjects). The RAE’s aim is to help the UK’s higher education funding bodies effectively target public funds on high-quality UK research. 

Research student Research programs

Research programs at masters level could also be called a Master of Research (MRes) or, regardless of the actual subject studied, Master of Philosophy (MPhil), which usually takes two years full time. 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, and it should be original and, in theory, publishable. Essentially, possessing a PhD should mean that you are one of a very few experts in your specialism in the world.  One important option is the Doctor of Education (EdD) qualification. This qualification combines both taught elements with a rigorous research project that is similar in depth (and length) to the PhD. It is aimed at established teaching professionals or, for example, civil servants and policy makers in education, and is usually offered part time.

English language requirements

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.

Find out more about English Language requirements for International Students

How much will it cost?

A one-year taught masters program 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.

Graduate destinations

Information on graduate destinations for non-UK students will be held at the program level and will often be quite anecdotal. Anyone wanting to know exactly where the graduates of a course end up needs to talk to the academics in charge, who will always be aware of the sort of thing people have gone on to do.

"A masters is the key career-building qualification for many of our students," says Professor Rosamund Sutherland. "We are very strong on TESOL qualifications and attract students, particularly from the Chinese-speaking areas of the world, who wish to return to begin a career teaching English. However, programmes, such as our MSc in Education, Technology and Society, also attract mid-career professionals who want to return to their home countries to further establish themselves."

Find postgraduate programs in EDUCATION

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