Questions to consider when looking for a course

Questions about course teaching and content

University and college websites or teaching staff at the university should be able to answer the questions below about individual courses.

  • How is the course taught?
  • What course start date options are available?
  • How long is the course?
  • What are the differences between full-time or part-time study of this course?
  • Over what period, and when, is the part-time course delivered?
  • If I need to change from full-time to part-time study, or vice versa, is that possible?
  • What is the overall purpose of the course and why is it different from other courses in the same subject area offered by this institution?
  • How much choice is there for modules or other areas of the course?
  • Could I sit in on other modules of interest, even if I don’t do the exam or an assignment for them?
  • How much of the course is a research project (or something similar)?
  • How is the course assessed? Are all modules assessed by exams, or is there assessed coursework?
  • What is the mix of contact time in classes, seminars or labs, compared to private study?
  • What are the specific modules or elements that make up this course?
  • Where can I find descriptions of each module or part of the course?
  • When will you know which modules are definitely available for the year I want to study?
  • Which days each week will I need to attend the institution and for how many hours?
  • What general academic support is offered for this course?

Questions about distance, online or blended learning courses

  • Can I study entirely in my own time or do I have to follow certain course elements at specific times?
  • How is the teaching provided for this course – does it include online lectures where you can see or listen to the lecturer, or is it all documentary?
  • What type of contact and support is available on this course? Is it provided by course tutors or administrators?
  • Is the support on offer all day and all week, or only at set times, and if so, when?
  • Are there are any student forums or other ways of communicating with other students doing the course at the same time?
  • What kind of equipment, or internet connection, will I need to follow the course successfully?
  • Will I need to come to the institution in person, and if so how often and for how long?

Questions about career impact

Universities and college websites may provide information about this for individual courses or you may need to speak to them directly. Talking to previous students could also be helpful.

  • What is the typical career benefit from taking this course, for somebody like me (explain your circumstances in terms of career direction, position and age)?
  • Is it possible to directly contact some graduates like me who previously took the course, to find out about the career benefit for them and their experiences?
  • Are there opportunities to contact current students or recent graduates from the course using social media, to ask them questions and share experiences?
  • Do you have employment destination information for graduates from this course for the last few years?
  • Is this course accredited by any professional bodies? Would it give me any additional professional qualifications or status, or exempt me from any professional body exams?
  • Does the course have a related work experience element such as an internship or placement?
    • What proportion of students on the course do an internship or placement?
    • Of those, what proportion are offered a job at the end of the course by the placement company?
    • Would I need to organise the placement myself, or does the course provider do it for me, or at least help me?
    • If there is no placement scheme, would it be important to try to get some work experience before, during or after, the course, in order to increase its career benefit?
  • To what extent is there interaction with industry or employers during the course, such as guest speakers?

Questions about funding and finance

University and college websites should provide information about funding and finance with its course information or in a ‘fees and funding’ section. Or you can ask the institution directly.

  • What are the course fees? (or) When will you publish the course fees for the coming academic year?
  • Is there a fee to make an application?
  • Is it necessary to pay a deposit in advance?
  • When and how do I pay the fees? Can I pay fees by instalments?
  • Is there a discount for alumni (graduates) of this institution on postgraduate course fees?
  • Are there any additional fees or charges related to the course, such as for equipment or field trips or similar?
  • Does the department, institution or region offer bursaries, scholarships or studentships? Is there a website or directory with these details?
  • Are there any bursaries, scholarships or studentships specifically for international students or those from my country?
  • If I want to apply for a bursary, scholarship or studentship, how do I do this?
  • How have other recent students managed to fund their course?
  • Do I need to apply separately for the course and for the funding?
  • Does the course application form require me to have funding or to confirm that I will be funding the course myself?
  • Is hardship funding offered for postgraduates, and can I use it to pay my fees?
  • What are living expenses like for postgraduates at this institution?
  • Where can I find information about living expenses in this area?
  • Do I have to prove I have funds for the course either for fees or living expenses or both?
  • Is there support if I need to find part-time work to help fund my study? Will the hours of the course allow for this?

Questions about course applications

University and college websites should answer the following questions, or you can ask the institution directly.

  • How do I apply for a particular course?
  • I'm applying for more than one course at this institution. Do I have to make separate applications?
  • When is the application deadline?
  • I want to do this course but I don’t have the correct entry requirements – can I still apply, or what alternative qualifications do I need?
  • How soon will I hear whether I am accepted onto the course or not?
  • How long does the application process take and how does it work?
  • How can I check on the progress of my application?
  • Do I have to pay a deposit and if so, how much is it? Do I get it back?
  • Do I have to pay an application fee, and if so, how much is it? Do I get it back?
  • If I want to apply for a bursary, scholarship or studentship, how do I do this?
  • Do I need to apply separately for the course and for the funding?

Other practical questions

University websites should answer the following questions, or you can ask the institution directly.

  • Is parking available at the institution for postgraduate students?
  • I need to organise childcare in order to study – can the institution help?
  • How much accommodation is provided for postgraduate students and how does the course provider decide who will get it?
  • Is there designated family accommodation if I want to bring my family with me?
  • What is the process for applying for accommodation as a postgraduate at this institution and how much does it cost?
  • How far away from the institution is other accommodation usually located?
  • Where is the institution located, and what is the best way to travel there?
  • Where can I find out more about the area around the institution and the facilities it has to offer?
  • What social facilities and societies are run by the institution specifically for postgraduates and where can I find out about them?