Applications for further study

At Masters and PhD level application methods vary from institution to institution. You may be asked to complete any or all of the following depending on the course: CV, cover letter or personal statement, application form and or research proposal (usually for a PhD or MPhil).

For most courses you apply directly to the institution, however some courses such as postgraduate teaching and medicine are via UCAS.

Commonly applications for further study cover:

  • Why you want to study at this institution (there are usually several offering the course so why have you chosen this one)
  • Why have you chosen this course?
  • How does it fit into your career plan?
  • How do you meet the needs of the course? Academic performance, required knowledge or skills.

Application forms and personal statements

  • This is evidence of your written communication skills and must be of a high standard.
  • Answer all parts of the question.
  • Ensure your examples are appropriate to the question.
  • Answers should have a logical structure eg Context-Action-Result (CAR)
  • The same example should not be used for multiple questions.
  • Don't repeat content from course websites or brochures.

UCAS applications

CVs for applying for further study

  • Academic admissions tutors will be most interested in your academic experience, so provide a CV organised in reverse chronological format (details of your education is listed straight after the contact details).
  • Tailor the CV towards the programme you are applying for. Aim to demonstrate that you have some subject knowledge and relevant skills/abilities such as technical skills, collecting data, critical analysis, research, project management, teamwork, communication, making presentations.
  • List modules starting with the most relevant subject or highest mark.
  • Give prominence to unique selling points such as attending conferences, published papers/articles, prizes for academic achievement or scholarships.

Writing a research proposal

Most doctoral candidates in Arts and Humanities will be required to supply a research proposal. This enables you to demonstrate your knowledge of your chosen field and provide specific details about your research interests. It also enables you to provide an explanation of what you want to achieve and methods that will be used to carry out the research.

Read the guidelines provided by the university you are applying to, different schools or departments may have different requirements.

Many academics suggest that candidates ask for their input into writing the proposal as they are more familiar with established conventions required by research councils and committees. They can also offer advice on the appropriate sources and methodology for your PhD proposal. Make contact with your potential supervisor as soon as possible. Remember that they cannot help you devise ideas, only focus them - you must think about your interests, do some research and come to any meetings well prepared.

Writing a research proposal guides from:

Applying to study overseas

The application process to overseas universities is usually the same as the UK i.e. submission of an application form and/or CV and covering letter along with support documents (eg degree transcript), but always check the instructions.

You should aim to cover the following:

  • Motivation: Explain why you have chosen to study abroad. Is the institution offering a unique opportunity? What can you offer them?
  • Your university ranking: The admissions staff may not have detailed knowledge of your university. Emphasis any selling points eg you have studied at a highly-rated university/school/department.
  • Strong knowledge base: The university may be unfamiliar with the UK educational system so go into detail about the content of your degree. This is especially important for applications to institutions in the USA, where Bachelor’s degrees are much less specialised than in the UK. Explaining that you have studied a particular subject for three years and then completed a relevant dissertation will show you have strong knowledge of your chosen field and can contribute to research at graduate level.
  • Fitting in: The working culture in overseas institutions can differ from the UK. For example, you may be expected to immerse yourself into the life of the school, help out at events and attend social gatherings.
  • The future: How does the course fit in with your career plans? You may not be eligible to work in the country you are studying in, they will want to know that you plan to return home and not overstay your visa.