How to apply for a master's degree in the UK | Top Universities

How to apply for a master's degree in the UK

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Ben Clayton

Updated Oct 19, 2023



How to apply for a master's in the UK

Studying a master’s degree at a UK university is a fantastic opportunity, both for your academic and personal life. Not only will you have a huge choice of world-renowned institutions at which to study, but you’ll be able to immerse yourself in Britain’s rich culture while doing so. Unfortunately, applying to any master’s degree takes time and effort, and it’s all too easy to procrastinate until it’s too late. To help take away some of the stress and confusion, we’ve written a guide on how to apply to your chosen course while making sure you meet key university application dates and deadlines.

1.  Check that places are available and applications being accepted

So, you’ve done your research and found the course of your dreams at a UK university.  Great job! First, make sure you check that spaces are still available on the course, and that applications are still open. If you’re an international student, bear in mind that deadlines for application are typically earlier than for UK/EU/EEA (European Economic Area) students. Most courses start in September, though some UK universities offer multiple start dates.

2.  Start your university application as soon as possible

If your chosen course is still accepting applications, then great! It’s tempting to wait before making your university application; even if the entry requirements are not high, there’s normally a lot of dull-as-dishwater paperwork to do... However, the sooner you begin working on your application the better. Not only does it give you more time to write an application that will impress, but you’ll be more likely to be ready to send in your university application before spaces run out! While many courses don’t ‘fill up’ before the deadline, some do consider each application as soon as it arrives.  The sooner yours joins the pile, the better.

Remember: postgraduate study in the UK is very different to undergraduate study in the UK. Whereas undergraduate applications are all processed together through UCAS, there is no centralized university application system for master’s degrees. This means you’ll have to apply to each university separately.

3.  Include all the supporting documents requested

You’ll almost certainly need to include a cover letter and CV/résumé. In addition, evidence of personal, professional and educational experience may be taken into account. At master’s degree level, each UK university application differs, but the requirements should be clearly stated on the department website.

4.  Check deadlines for funding and scholarship applications

Each university will also have its own funding deadlines, and this is where you may need to plan furthest ahead. You may be required to secure a form of funding before you can be offered a place at university.

5.  Write key deadlines in your calendar

Here’s a handy crib-sheet for the key dates and deadlines you need to make sure you’ve written in your calendar. Missing one of these can turn a promising university application into a whole mess of trouble, so keep a close eye on these!

  • Deadline for submitting application form and supporting documents – make sure you have the paperwork you need well in advance.
  • Deadline for responding to your offer – what could be worse than getting an offer, then missing out due to getting back to the university too late?
  • Deadline for paying your deposit – make sure you’re able to put through this initial payment.
  • Deadline for paying for your accommodation – starting a master’s degree is a lot more fun if you’re not homeless!
  • The start of Freshers’ Week! – OK, maybe master’s students can’t really call themselves “freshers”, but a party is a party, right?

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best universities in the UK?

Consistently, the top two universities in the UK are The University of Oxford and The University of Cambridge who, year by year, jostle for the top place on UK rankings list. However, the UK contains many top-scoring universities. To find out more, click here.

Is IELTS required to study a master's in the UK?

If English is not your first language, yes. It is important that all students are able to communicate effectively, verbally and in writing, as well as read and understand the advanced academic reading material. It is therefore important that international students from non-English-speaking countries complete an IELTS test before applying for their course so that the admissions team can establish their language proficiency.

Why should I study a master's in the UK?

A master's degree allows a student to broaden their knowledge, improve their research skills and improve their employability and earning potential when embarking on a career.

The UK contains many high-ranking universities which offer a wide variety of high-quality master's programmes.

Furthermore, many international students choose to study in the UK because they admire the landscape and culture. London has been named the best student city of 2024, ranking highly for its student voice as well as its employer activity. 

What is the cost of studying a master's degree in the UK?

The cost of studying a master's degree in the UK varies depending on the type of course, the length of the course, institution you are studying at and whether you are a British or international student. A university's website will be able to supply information on the cost of the course that you are interested in and so it is important to research thoroughly before applying.

Are there any scholarships available to study a master's degree in the UK?

Yes. Many companies and universities offer scholarships to study in the UK, including QS.

Want to smoothen the path?

Choose and apply to a highly ranked university with just one simple application, with QS. Get help choosing from over 500 institutions across the world, get admissions advice on writing your application and manage your offers in one place. We'll help you with everything you need to find the right university for you. Get in touch!

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