First, decide on:
- subject matter
- if it’s taught or research-based
- if it’s full-time or part-time
If you’re clear about those decisions, and you’ve checked the entry requirements, the differences between similar courses may be in the four areas below.
Which course is most helpful to your career aspirations?
- What are the employment levels of previous postgraduates and what types of jobs are they doing?
- Which course has the strongest connections to employers?
- What is the reputation of the course among employers? Recruiters are often not willing to comment, but you can get some idea of how they rate particular courses from their willingness to take on work experience students or hire from it. The biographies and trainee profiles on company websites are a good source of information here. Also, you might want to search for 'name of employer postgraduate' to see which courses an employer sponsors.
How is the course structured and assessed?
- How is the course divided? Do you need to pass all parts of it equally?
- Is the course exam-based, continually assessed, or both?
- How much practical work is involved?
- Is there a work placement?
- What is the course duration and when are the start and end dates?
Who are the tutors and are they experts in areas you want to learn about?
- How well recognised are the academic staff in their fields? How much research have they published? Are their theories influential? Are they prominent within public life and in professional bodies?
- What else have your tutors done? Do they have industry experience?
- Use open days to research your postgraduate options. They’re a great opportunity to meet and question academic staff directly.
How is the course ranked in league tables?
- In terms of comparisons, league tables rate courses mostly within broad subject bands that include undergraduate degrees as well as postgraduate qualifications – for example, you can search to see who is best for architecture.
- Make sure you check the sources of league tables as they can be biased. The Guardian, The Times and The Complete University Guide are some of the more impartial places to look.