Types of postgraduate degrees and entry requirements
UK Postgraduate Degrees can be divided into a few categories:
Taught Master’s Degrees
MA, MSc, MBA, Med, LLM, MMus, MLitt, MArch
In general, a Master’s degree usually means studying a specific subject area and the specialisms offered by each university depend on the expertise of the academic staff.
Most courses offer a choice of modules but you should research carefully to make sure the course contains the subject elements that are important to you.
Assessment is usually a mixture of coursework, examination and project work with a dissertation, but again varies with the subject and the university. The duration of most taught Master’s courses in the UK is usually one year.
While MA and MSc programmes usually require no work experience (there are a few exceptions), most MBA programmes in the UK will usually require the candidate to have a minimum of three years’ work experience (sometimes longer, or even requiring the work experience to be of managerial level).
Integrated Research & Taught
DBA, EdD, EngD, MRes, MSc by Research
These programmes reflect the research interests of the university and usually the working experience of the student.
They contain a substantial proportion of taught modules usually in the latest areas of research.
It varies between universities but the taught element is between 30% and 50% of the programme.
The remainder is your own research leading to a thesis.
Unlike full research degrees, the actual subject of your research is usually decided during the programme.
New Route Doctorates
Initially, about 30 UK universities joined a consortium drawing up programmes called “new route” doctoral programmes. At the time of writing, the number of universities currently offering New Route PhDs, is much smaller.[PLC1]
These programmes are closely linked with the research expertise of the university.
As with all research programmes, there are courses in research methodology but these programmes also include a major taught element directly related to the research, in the first year.
The programmes last a minimum of four years.
MPhil, PhD, DPhil
The usual research degree places the responsibility of learning on the individual, with supervision by a member of the university research staff.
The degree will give you training in basic research methodology, and allow you to attend lectures at the university.
But you will need to send a research proposal with your application because finding a supervisor who is available and right for your research is the key to success.
The research can sometimes be carried out partly in Malaysia if this is agreed upon by the UK university, and if suitable facilities and a local supervisor can be found.
The duration of such research programmes is usually a minimum of three to four years but could take longer, depending on the progress of your research.
Step-by-step overview of your postgraduate degree application
For postgraduate applications, please note the required documents and relevant procedures:
- Completed application form
- Certified true copies of all diploma and degree certificates and transcripts. If documents submitted are not in the English Language, a translation must accompany these documents.
- Please bring all original certificates and transcripts and MABECS will be able to certify these documents.
- Research proposal, if you’re applying for research programmes.
- Evidence of English Language proficiency (e.g. PTE Academic Test/IELTS/TOEFL/other relevant qualifications). If you have not sat for a relevant qualification at the time of submitting your application but are planning to do so, please indicate this clearly in your application form.
- Financial guarantee or sponsorship letter (if available)
- Two original letters of references.
The provision of references is often the greatest cause of delay and universities will be not make a decision until they have seen the references. Therefore, it is important to obtain these as soon as possible and submit these together with the rest of your application.
- Copy of your valid passport (biodata page)
- Other documents you could include with your application:
- Curriculum Vitae or resume
- Personal Statement (i.e. a short essay outlining your reasons for wanting to pursue such a course and relating that to your background, interest and future plans)
- Portfolio (for Architecture/ Art and Design courses)
- A few universities/ courses may require an application fee to be made, when submitting an application. Please follow university instructions with regard to the payment of this fee.
- MABECS counselling forms or university authority forms
When making an online application, please indicate MABECS as your representative/agent in Malaysia.
Applying for a Taught Master’s Degree
How it works
Postgraduate applications are made directly to the universities themselves. The procedure is different from undergraduate applications, which require students to go through a central body called UCAS.
There is no limit on the number of postgraduate applications that you are allowed to make, if you can find suitable courses. However, it is common practice to submit between three to five applications.
For most universities, you are also able to apply online and this is usually the quickest and most efficient way of applying – please speak to your MABECS consultant for guidance on this.
MABECS will be able to guide and assist you with your postgraduate applications. We also have a weekly courier service to the UK, where supporting documents and other documents
can be sent on your behalf, at no cost to you, if requested by the universities.
Whilst most UK universities do not charge an application fee for postgraduate studies, you may find that there will be some universities and specific courses which impose a fee.
In addition, universities may require a deposit fee to be paid upon your acceptance of an offer of a place, which is often offset against tuition fees.
Most applications do not have formal closing dates or deadlines.
However, there are some exceptions to this – particularly if the university or the course you’re applying is very competitive. It’s important that you check this information on the university website.
To be on the safer side, the earlier you apply – the earlier you will start receiving decisions on your applications. This means that you will have more time to satisfy any conditions attached to your offer, apply for a visa, and more.
Most taught courses begin in September/October and the duration of the programme is usually one year.
Popular courses may become ‘full up’ quite early in the year, so applying at least six to nine months before the start of the course will give you a better chance of finding vacancies. The earlier you apply, the better your chances are of being considered by the university of your choice.
Required academic qualifications
UK universities need to be confident that the applicant has the background knowledge as well as the ability and determination to complete the course. In most subjects, a Bachelor’s (Honours) degree is cited as the minimum entry requirement.
Equivalent professional qualifications, particularly if supported by relevant work experience, are sometimes accepted instead of a first degree.
Required English language qualifications
All universities will need to be assured of your English language proficiency. A range of English language qualifications are accepted by universities, such as IELTS, PTE Academic, or TOEFL. Please check with your MABECS consultant as to the scores required by different universities and courses.
MABECS is a test centre for PTE Academic. MABECS will also be able to assist you with IELTS registration with the British Council.
For more information on these English proficiency tests, please visit:
Your references (or “confidential academic reports”)
All universities will usually require at least two confidential academic reports – called ‘references’.
The provision of references is often the greatest cause of delay in the application process. In some cases the application will not be processed at all until the references are received. Therefore, you should take every step you can to make sure that the process goes smoothly.
To speed up the process and to avoid delays, ensure that your referees supply you with confidential reports to accompany your application. It is very useful for at least one of those references to be an academic reference. For applicants still undertaking full-time study, it is advisable for both referees to be academic. Applicants who are working could have one reference from their employer and one academic reference, if possible. If an applicant has been working for a long period of time and is unable to provide an academic reference, then both references can be work-based ones, although it is then up to the university to decide if these are sufficient, having seen these.
Once your applications are submitted you can expect to wait at least a month before receiving any responses, though this timeframe varies. At some universities the decision process is quite quick, whilst at other universities that process could take longer. The decision time for PhD applications will be longer because of the need to identify a suitable supervisor.
In most cases, decisions are made on the basis of the documents submitted and there is no interview involved. However, in a few cases, the university may wish to conduct a telephone/Skype interview with the applicant.
MABECS will monitor your applications throughout the process and act as your intermediary with the universities to help you sort out any issues that may arise.
The entry requirements for MBA courses are slightly different than for other Master’s programmes. However, the following points may be helpful:
- Most MBA programmes would ask for a good first degree (preferably 2:1 or above) and at least three years of relevant work experience. The work experience requirement is essential for most MBA programmes in the UK and some universities may specify that this work experience needs to be at a managerial level.
- If you do not have sufficient work experience but still wish to undertake a postgraduate course in business at this stage, then you may wish to consider MA or MSc courses in the area of Management or related areas (which cater to fresh graduates or students with limited work experience), rather than an MBA.
- Higher level professional qualifications are often acceptable in place of a first degree.
- If you do not have the stated academic requirements but have considerable relevant work experience, it is worthwhile applying. If your employment record is such that the MBA course leaders are confident of your ability to tackle the course, then they may offer you a place; but ultimately, the final decision still rests with the university.
- Some MBAs ask for a GMAT score (for more information on the GMAT, read further down).
- A good GMAT score allows universities to be far more flexible in their attitude to formal entry requirements.
- All universities will require proof of proficiency in the English language.
Association of MBAs (AMBA)
When researching different MBA programmes in the UK, you will come across reference on whether the MBA programme in question is AMBA accredited.
AMBA was set up in 1967 to promote the MBA to institutions, prospective students and employers; and to ensure that the quality of the MBA programme produces professional managers. The accreditation process was established to secure these objectives. The process is market-driven and international in focus, and each business school offering an MBA are assessed against a set of criteria established by AMBA’s Independent Accreditation Advisory Board.
Further information on AMBA may be obtained from: www.mbaworld.com
Other relevant accreditations to look for are:
The Graduate Management Admission Test is designed to help graduate schools of business assess the qualifications of applicants for advanced study in business management.
Some MBA and Master’s programmes require applicants to take GMAT. However, even institutions that do not require GMAT look upon the test score as useful, supporting information.
For those who have significant work experience but do not have the formal academic qualifications, a good GMAT score gives access to a whole range of MBA courses.
The current test consists of four main sections:
- Analytical Writing Assessment
- Integrated Reasoning Section
- Quantitative Section
- Verbal Section
The GMAT exam measures verbal, mathematical, integrated reasoning and analytical skills that you have developed over a long period of time in your education and work.
The test does not assess specific knowledge obtained in college course work, nor does it measure achievement in any particular subject area.
For more information, visit http://www.mba.com/global
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