You are currently viewing Apply for a UK Master’s Degree (2024)

Apply for a UK Master’s Degree (2024)

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A UK master’s degree will open many doors for you: UK universities are considered among the best in the world and have a great reputation. In addition to a high-quality education, you can expect student-centered service delivery and an extremely international classroom experience. This comes at the expense of very high tuition fees and above-average living costs, but also provides excellent career opportunities through generous graduate work visa routes after the Masters.

step by step guide

Find Masters Courses in the UK

In the United Kingdom, there exists a vast array of master’s degree programs taught in English, surpassing the number found in any other European nation.

Teaching or research?

British universities distinguish between taught master’s degrees and research master’s degrees.

In a taught master’s degree, you will mainly complete predetermined modules such as lectures, seminars and working groups. This is a typical choice for most students. In a research master’s degree, on the other hand, you will study more independently and work on one or more courses of your own – a first step towards a potential PhD later on.

Taught courses are sometimes labeled ‘PGT’ (‘Postgraduate Taught’) and end with the usual degree, such as MA (Master of Arts) or MSc (Master of Science). On the other hand, a Master by Research can be labeled ‘PGR’ (‘Postgraduate Research’) and the degree awarded is usually an MRes (Master by Research).

Learn about tuition fees

Getting a master’s degree in the UK is very expensive: tuition fees are higher than almost anywhere else in Europe. Make sure you know how much you will pay so you are financially prepared.

UK universities distinguish between “domestic” fees and “international” fees, sometimes also called “overseas” fees. The family fee is lower and is only valid for British nationals or those who already have a residence permit. International students typically have to pay significantly higher tuition fees.

Since Brexit, students from the EU have also had to pay international fees and are no longer eligible for family fees (nor, unfortunately, for student support loans linked to that status).

Tuition fees for UK Masters International Masters range from £10,000 to £35,000. The level of fees depends mainly on the reputation and ranking of the university, and the degree subjects you choose. In other words: the higher the university is ranked, the more expensive it is to earn a master’s degree there.

Scottish universities also list “RUK” fees (“Rest of the UK”), which are higher than domestic fees but lower than international fees; this is what students from England, Wales or Northern Ireland must pay, not Applicable to non-UK students.

Learn about admission requirements

Each university and program has specific admissions requirements, and it pays to research these early on.

Generally, you must have a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject. A degree in an unrelated subject is also generally acceptable, especially if you can demonstrate work or other experience in the field. (In this way, UK universities are more flexible than universities in other countries!)

A very common master’s admission requirement is that your undergraduate degree must be at least a certain grade level (or GPA). British universities often communicate this through the way UK undergraduate degrees are graded:

  • First Class Degree (1st): The highest degree. In the UK, approx. 30-35% of students achieve this grade.
  • Upper Second Class (2:1 degree): Still a good score, enough to apply for almost any master’s degree in the UK. On average 45% to 50% of UK students achieve this grade.
  • Lower Second Class (2:2 degree): If your results are considered equivalent to a 2:2 degree, you will have difficulty getting into the more selective top universities. In the UK, only the bottom quarter of students achieve this result.
  • Third Class (3rd): In the UK, this is the worst possible grade. If your undergraduate degree is considered equivalent to a third degree, your university options will be very limited.

College websites often provide conversion tables to help you determine which category your grades fall into. However, these conversions are rarely perfect and can vary from institution to institution! If you feel your grades have been unfairly classified as lower, see if you can get a transcript of your record that also shows your class’s percentile. If you are in the top third of your class, college admissions is likely to be a success. Staff will consider your diploma to be “top-notch.”

If you don’t meet this or other requirements, don’t give up and ask an admissions officer. For example, if your undergraduate degree is below the limit, you can make up for it through other positive factors, such as relevant work experience. It’s difficult, but not impossible!

Prepare your application

You can apply directly to the university through their application system or, in rare cases, through UCAS. The university website will provide detailed instructions on how this works. Typically, you’ll need to upload scans of these documents:

  • Undergraduate Diploma/Bachelor’s Degree
  • …or current transcript (if you have not completed your undergraduate degree)
  • Personal statement (cover letter)
  • Resume
  • school diploma
  • Academic letters of recommendation (be sure to ask your professors months in advance – this is never quick!)
  • Proof of English (e.g. IELTS, PTE, TOEFL)

Please note that some universities – especially the more prestigious ones – charge application fees for certain graduate programs. Application fees can cost up to around £80 and this fee is usually non-refundable whether you are accepted or rejected.

Submit your application early

There is no general deadline for UK Masters applications. Most UK universities decide applications on a rolling basis. This means that if you want to start in September, you may still be lucky enough to submit a late application even during the summer, but it also means that popular master’s programs may be full in the spring.

So, the sooner you apply, the better! If possible, we recommend sending your application between January and March (September entry) just to be on the safe side. For many universities (especially if they are not top ranked), sending in April or May should also be sufficient.

For some masters you may also find other entry dates, most often starting in January.

Learn about scholarships

UK university tuition fees are among the highest in Europe. But you may be lucky enough to qualify for a scholarship to fund your studies.

The British Council lists nearly 2,000 scholarships and bursaries for students who want to study for a master’s degree in the UK.

Additionally, most institutions offer their own financial aid or fee waivers, so it is recommended to consult with an admissions officer to confirm available options.

Apply for UK student visa

Once you have accepted your offer for a master’s degree program, the university will continue to assist you in obtaining the necessary student visa.

The process can be complex, but the good news is that UK universities offer plenty of support and help every step of the way.

What you need to obtain is a Confirmation of Acceptance of Study (CAS). The university carries out what is called a “pre-CAS check” with your help to ensure that all details in the CAS are correct. You can then apply for a student visa using your CAS number.

Depending on where you are from, you will need to show that you have enough money to pay for the master’s tuition and living expenses. If the plan lasts for more than one year, you only need to show funds for the first year’s fees. You will also need to show that you have enough funds to live on for 9 months:

£12,006 if you plan to study in London (based on 9x £1,334 per month)

If you’re going to study elsewhere in the UK, it’s £9,207 (based on 9x £1,023 per month)

This is not necessary if you are a citizen of a country with “differential evidence requirements”; e.g. EU/EEA, US, Australia.

The cost to apply for a student visa from outside the UK is £363.

Find accommodation

When you receive an offer of admission, you will usually also be provided with information about housing. Most UK universities will actively help you with accommodation issues. The sooner you RSVP, the better your chances of getting a dormitory accommodation. Finding student accommodation through a university is much cheaper than looking for an apartment on the free market.

Plan your trip

Once you have everything ready, it’s time to plan your trip! You’ll find plenty of direct flights from around the world, especially London, as well as excellent connections within the country. If your new city doesn’t have an airport, you can easily get there by taking a connecting train or bus. Good luck!