What’s The Difference Between Undergraduate & Postgraduate Study?

The undergraduate days are regrettably coming to an end and next up in the wonderful journey of life is postgraduate study. Whether you’re pursuing a Master’s degree for employability reasons or you just absolutely adore learning and want to go further in-depth with your chosen subject, postgraduate study is remarkably different to your run of the mill bachelor’s degree.


No, we don’t mean that there’s some new super-cosmic advanced measurement of time that only postgraduates can understand. We simply mean that the amount of time it will take to complete your postgraduate master’s degree will only take a year, compared to the three years it takes to wrap up your undergraduate studies.

What does this mean for the postgraduate student? We’re not going to lie, it means that postgraduate study is a lot more intense than an undergraduate degree. Your fresher year eased you in to the workload and learning required from an undergraduate student but a postgraduate course is more of a sprint than a marathon. You’ll be in at the deep end immediately. Other than that lovely pair of sporting metaphors, there’s not any more to say about the time differences.

Fees & Funding

Whereas most undergraduate degrees carry a price tag of £9000 a year in the UK, postgraduate courses have no standardised fee but average out at £6000 for a year of full-time study. So whilst a postgraduate course is cheaper, you aren’t eligible for a student or maintenance loan (sad face).

This means that in order to undertake a postgraduate course, you will need to either fund yourself or get outside funding to cover fees and living expenses. Alternatively, you could study part-time and get yourself a job on the side.

Funding is a big obstacle to overcome when it comes to securing a postgraduate course, especially if you’re still lugging around your undergraduate debts. Check out our advice on postgraduate funding to find out more. However, where there’s a will there’s a way and the if the enhanced employability prospects outweighs the financial costs of a year’s student, it will pay off eventually.

Teaching & Learning

Throughout your education, you’ve gradually been given more independence with your learning, but even at undergraduate level there are set structures and regular time set aside so your tutors can give you a gentle kick up the backside. Postgraduate courses will not leave you completely along, but the idea is that you motivate yourself and learn independently.

Therefore, the teaching and learning experience is a lot different at postgraduate level – you’re expected to come up with your own original ideas rather than just learning about what other people think.

Social Life

There’s no denying that the undergraduate life was a social one. The postgraduate experience is a vastly different one. We’re not saying you won’t be able to go out or be part of any university societies, but postgraduate courses are more intense and challenging, meaning your mind will be focussed on your work.

Additionally, it’s unfortunately the case that postgraduate students can feel slightly isolated. Universities and student unions’ provide fewer facilities for postgraduate students and the postgraduate schedule falls outside of the undergraduate semesters, meaning university campuses are emptier. If you’re living at home too (or distance learning), you are more likely to feel isolated.

Hopefully that clarifies the differences between undergraduate and postgraduate courses. If you enjoyed it, there’s a lot more where it came from, in our advice on postgraduate study!

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