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Getting onto a master's course

Getting onto a master's courseInterested in taking a master's degree? Find out how to get started with this guide.

Picking your courses

Choosing the right course is even more important for a master's course: there's much more variety and specialization on offer. You'll also have to choose between a teaching-based course and a research-based course. Teaching-based courses are similar to undergraduate study, but at a more advanced level. Research-based courses are different: instead of exams, you're assessed based on a single piece of research, and most teaching will be based around research skills.

As with an undergraduate course, it's best to apply to more than one institution. There's no limit to the number of master's courses you can apply for, but there may be a fee for each application.

How to apply

UCAS doesn't normally handle master's applications, so you'll need to apply directly to the universities you are interested in. The exception is for courses using UKPASS, a master's application service run by UCAS which is available at a few colleges and universities.

For most courses, you will be able to apply online.

Deadlines will vary, so check with the university and note down all the deadlines in a diary or calendar to make sure you don't miss one. Remember that deadlines might be different for different courses at the same university. The deadlines will often be flexible, so don't despair if you miss one: contact the university and ask if you can still apply.

Taught courses and research

Your application will be different depending on whether you are applying for a taught course or a research-based one. For both, you'll need academic references from your current university, a statement supporting your application and any other documents the university asks you to provide.

On a research course, you’ll also need to put together a research proposal - a document which sets out the research you want to do - and find a suitable academic working in the same area to act as your supervisor.

It's also likely that you'll be asked to an interview before you're offered a place. This will test your knowledge of the subject and your interest in the course. For a research course, you'll also discuss your research proposal in depth.


The other important step is securing funding to cover your course fees and your living costs. You may need to prove you have access to a certain amount of funding before you can take up a place on your course.

The student loans system doesn't cover master's courses, so you'll need to find funding elsewhere. Read our guide to master's funding for more advice.

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