Full-time or part-time postgraduate courses, and which other study modes are available? Find out the pros and cons of each study mode.

In the UK, the majority of postgraduate students are studying part-time, and the full-time market is predominantly made up of international students:

  • Full-time enrolments: UK students 126,955; international students 169,515.
  • Part-time enrolments: UK students 210,620; international students 29,345.
  • All enrolments: UK students 296,470; international students 239,965.

It seems as if some UK students are spreading the cost of their postgraduate study paying fees for part-time learning over a period of time, and they’re also staying in work and using part-time study as a way of improving their career opportunities.

Many international students who come to the UK want to study here full-time. And, international students studying on a Tier 4 visa can only study full-time courses.

Full-time postgraduate study

You could be working 09:00 to 17:00 every weekday if you are an MBA student. Even if those aren’t your hours the idea is that, as a full-time student, your commitment to study is above six or seven hours per day.

For: you qualify in the shortest possible time.

Against: if you’re in full-time work you need to give it up to study.

Part-time postgraduate study

As a part-time postgraduate student you may well find that teaching hours and study time are very fixed, which can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending upon your circumstances and perspective.

For: suitable if you have to balance study with personal or work life. Also useful if you want to change your career or improve it while still in employment.

Against: will take you longer to finish the course and you may not feel quite so much part of the university.

Blended learning and postgraduate study

Your study will be a mixture of time spent in lectures, seminars and classrooms and then other time spent learning online.

For: suits you if you want to work from home, and can reduce travel costs and sometimes tuition fees.

Against: you may miss some of the company and mental stimulation of academics and fellow students. Like distance learning, it’s not a study mode that’s immediately suitable for group projects and group learning.

With distance learning, all your time is spent learning at home. Resources will be supplied and you’ll be assigned a tutor. The main advantages to this mode of study are costs and flexibility, as the timescales can be longer.

Block mode learning and postgraduate study

You’ll work full-time and then, with your employer's agreement, study full-time for a limited period before returning to work.

For: combines some of the strengths of full-time with part-time study – you keep your job but have complete involvement in learning at other times.

Against: it’s still not as quick to finish as full-time study. Remember too that the allocated blocks of university time are for lectures and classes. You’ll still need to do research and assignments in your own time.