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Part-time Study

Part-time study becomes ever more popular as people try to juggle earning with learning. Whether you’re picking up a professional qualification, or progressing with your academic study, part-time study offers a viable alternative for those who can’t commit to full-time postgraduate courses.

What is part-time study & what does it involve?

Essentially, part-time study involves spreading a full-time postgraduate course over a longer period of time. It’s usually tailored for those who want to continue working while studying, and usually involves committing an afternoon or an evening each week to attend classes or lectures.

Some universities have taken it a step further and are offering some postgraduate courses through distance learning and e-learning, where the student rarely has to attend the university; receiving tuition, teaching and learning resources via the internet instead.

As a result, yearlong or shorter courses, such as master’s degrees, PGCerts and PGDips, are extended over two or three years. You can also do part-time PhDs, which might take up to six years to complete, or part-time MPhils (basically similar to a PhD but lower in the academic pecking order), which tend to take around four or five years.

Students doing part-time PhDs might juggle their research with a teaching fellowship. Alternatively, you might take a professional doctorate, which is for people pursuing professional rather than academic careers.

The majority of students on a professional doctoral course will be studying part-time, as they’ll already be well on their way in their career. Of course though, there are exceptions, with some professional doctorates only being offered on a full-time basis.

Why study part-time?

Part-time courses are there for people who can’t commit the time and resources to studying full-time at postgraduate level. You might take up a part-time postgraduate course for personal development, for the purposes of career progression, or simply because you’re really interested in the subject.

If anything, part-time study can be a bit of an indulgence, a way to continue learning whilst embarking on a career.

Advantages of studying part-time…

- You can study whilst earning a wage. If your qualification is taken for career development reasons, then your employer might agree to pay your tuition fees.

- Studying part-time means you won’t be taking a break from your career and you won’t need to relocate for your studies, particularly if you’re studying through distance learning. You can avoid being sucked into the university bubble and keep your foot firmly in the professional world.

- It can help you to spread the cost of tuition fees, as they’re usually calculated on a pro-rata or credit equivalence basis.

- Some part-time courses don’t require you to have any prior higher education qualifications.

- It can give you more time to spread out your studies and get that qualification.

Disadvantages of studying part-time…

- One of the main problems of studying part-time is that it’s harder to immerse yourself in the studies.

- You won’t get the same experience as full-time students and you probably won’t get to know your fellow students in the same way.

- You’ll have reduced access to university staff, and thus you may be more easily distracted from your university work.

- Part-time postgraduate courses take far longer to complete and can add extra pressure on top of your current workload. It can be stressful juggling a career and a postgraduate degree.

- The success rate for part-time students is lower than it is for full-time students. Very few part-time PhD students make it to the finish line and complete their course.

- Part-time students will find it harder to find studentships and scholarships.

A shorter alternative…

Sometime people simply miss the academic atmosphere of university and the joy of learning. Instead of committing yourself to the cost and time involved with a postgraduate qualification, you might want to look into other more casual ways of learning part-time. For instance, many universities run events for the public.

Most universities hold open lecture series. These are usually free, open to all and are a great way of maintaining a casual interest in a particular subject area.

If you want something a bit more hands-on, some universities run ‘day schools’, which devote a day to particular studies. You’ll learn in a group under the supervision of an academic. Prices for the day are usually relatively low and they often take place on a Saturday.

Universities and institutions also offer short courses. These are great ways of testing the water and seeing whether you want to commit to a longer course or qualification. Short courses usually last a few days or a couple of weeks.