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Guide to Studying for a Master's Degree in the UK

A Master’s degree from a British university is a respected and recognised qualification throughout the world. As well as studying, students can enjoy the British culture in all its splendour and gain an in-depth understanding of the way of life.

What are the entry requirements?

Entry requirements for overseas students who want to study for a Master’s in the UK vary from university to university. Most require a good undergraduate degree, preferably first class. Students also need to demonstrate proficiency in the English language, with most universities requiring a qualification that shows you have a good grasp of it.

If you cannot speak English to a high level, you can take an English language preparation program that specifically teaches the language for people who want to study in the UK.

Some universities provide a pre-Master’s program, which prepares students for a postgraduate course if they do not quite have the necessary entry qualifications.

Most overseas students apply directly to their chosen universities for a place to study Master’s degrees in the UK. This can often be done online, where you can also track the progress of your application. As well as qualifications, the application will usually require a personal statement and references. Though courses generally start in September, you can apply several months before the course begins.

How can I prepare?

The QS World Grad Tour is great starting point. It’s a series of events held around the world where you can meet admissions officers and past Master’s degree students from Britain’s top universities. They will explain the admissions process for you and what to expect on a Master’s course. At these events, you will find out about any scholarships you can apply for as well.

What can I study?

There is a wide range of subjects you can study at Master’s level. Popular subjects for overseas students include:

  • Computer Science
  • International Relations
  • Psychology
  • Business Administration
  • Journalism

Where should I study?

Numerous universities in the UK have excellent Master’s courses. The top ranked ones are:

  1. Oxford
  2. Cambridge
  3. Imperial College London
  4. University College London
  5. London School of Economics
  6. Edinburgh
  7. King’s College London
  8. Manchester
  9. Bristol
  10. Durham

What about the course structure and length?

There are two main types of Master’s courses: taught-based and research-based.

Taught-based courses last about a year and consist of lectures, seminars, assignments, dissertations and exams. They are a chance to really explore the subject you studied at undergraduate level. Many courses also require students to undertake independent research.

Research-based Master’s courses are generally two or three years long and require students to research into a specified area of their chosen subject. Students will be required to work independently and be self-motivated. A research-based Master’s course is a good preparation for a PhD, which requires original research and the writing of a long thesis based on it. A PhD can be taken after a Master’s degree course.

All types of Master’s courses expect students to conduct a certain amount of self-directed study, so be prepared to work off your own bat from time to time. You may not find study time to be as fixed and regimented as you did at undergraduate level.

Master’s degrees go under a few different names depending on the subject areas. You might see abbreviations like MA (Master of Arts) or MSc (Master of Science). Some vocational master’s degrees have names that denote professions, such as LLM (Law), MArch (architecture) and MEd (education). Business Master’s degree courses award the MBA (Master of Business Administration).

A Master’s degree can be hard work and take up a lot of your time, but there will also be the opportunity for fun and leisure. Universities in the UK have a rich and varied social life with many student societies dedicated to particular areas of interest. Students studying in Britain get the chance to experience the unique national way of life first-hand.

What are the costs?

Master’s courses cost around £11,000 a year for overseas students, but some specialised courses cost more. You will also need living expenses - budget between £800 and £1,200 a month for this. Due to the high cost of living in London, it will likely cost you more to live if you take a course at a university in the capital.

Some universities provide scholarships that fund part or all of the course fees, while other organisations and government agencies provide financial support for non-European Economic Area (EEA) students on Master's degree courses.

Visas

Students from outside of the EEA or Switzerland will need to apply for a Tier 4 or short-term study, which requires a sponsor. Most universities that run Master’s degree courses are licenced to act as visa sponsors.

You will need financial documentation that proves you can afford the course fees and living expenses while you are studying. You can apply for a Tier 4 or short-term visa as much as three months before your course starts, but the application is processed in a few weeks. Some universities will help and advise you on the visa application process.

If you have children, your visa may allow them to live in the UK with you, but you will have to provide evidence that you can support them financially. You will normally be expected to return to your home country after your course finishes.

It is strongly advisable to take out health insurance and G8way membership. You will invest a lot of money in your Master’s degree courses and this needs protecting. G8way membership will be able to assist you if you have to return home unexpectedly. For example, if a member of your immediate family becomes ill, you may need to leave Britain for a while to deal with the family emergency.

What comes next?

There are many career paths available to Master’s degree students, whether in business, education, health or government. Your British Master’s degree will be recognised and valued in most countries in the world.

A Master's degree shows that you have various skills, such as problem solving, creative thinking, management and the ability to work in teams. These are all qualities that are valued in various professions.

A Master’s degree is the prerequisite for most PhD courses at British universities, where you undertake original research work and write a long dissertation based on your research.

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