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COVID-19: Impacts on Postgraduate Applications 2021

From working at home full-time, to queuing to get into the supermarket, to celebrating birthdays via Skype parties, COVID-19 has caused unprecedented changes to our everyday lives. And there’s no telling when things will truly go back to the way they were before.

But what does it all mean for your postgraduate study? Here’s our complete guide to how COVID-19 could impact postgraduate applications in 2021…

(The Coronavirus situation is changing rapidly. This article will be updated as and when new information is released.)

Finishing Your Undergraduate Degree

Will I Be Able to Complete My Undergraduate Degree Course?

The disruption caused by COVID-19 has been felt most keenly by those in their final year of undergraduate study. Their biggest concern is that they’ll be able to finish their degree and get accepted on to their chosen postgraduate course for the following academic year.

Universities across the UK have been swift to assure final year students that they will be given the full support they need to graduate and be able to continue their education with a postgraduate degree at the end of the summer.

How Will My Degree Be Graded?

Many universities have made the welcome decision to implement a ‘no detriment’ policy. This is a policy that recognises the unique set of circumstances currently being faced by students and will provide them with a grade as close as possible to the grade they would have received, had they been able to complete the year as normal.

Implementation of the policy will vary from university to university, but most will award you two grades:

  • A grade based on your average grades achieved so far in your final year
  • A grade based on the average across the whole year, including your performance in any final assessments you complete this summer.

The university will then award you the higher mark. So essentially, your grade cannot go down, no matter how poorly you perform in your final summer assessments. It could, however, go up, if you perform well in your final assessments.

Universities who have announced they will implement the ‘No Detriment’ policy include: Durham University; University of Southampton; University of Bath; University of Exeter; and Nottingham Trent University.

If your university is implementing the policy, they should have informed you of how they will do it. If not, you can check with your tutors or your university’s website.

What Will Happen to Final Year Exams or Assessments?

Each university will have its own plans laid out for final year exams and assessments. Again, your university should have informed you of their plans by now. If not, you can check with your tutors or your university’s website.

Can I Appeal My Final Award?

If you are unhappy with the grade you’ve been awarded for your degree, you should be allowed to appeal by following the normal academic appeals process laid out by your university.

Remember that in awarding your grades this year, most universities (or at least those implementing their ‘No Detriment’ policy) would have already considered any mitigating factors you’d normally bring up during an appeals process.

Will There Be A Graduation Ceremony?

Please check with your university for details of yours. Remember, you are awarded the qualification regardless of whether there is a graduation ceremony or not.

COVID-19 and Your Postgraduate Options

Are Universities Still Processing Postgraduate Applications in 2021?

The good news is that, despite having to close their campuses temporarily, UK universities are still accepting applications for postgraduate study starting in 2021. So, it’s worth continuing with your application or beginning an application if your wish is to study a postgraduate degree course this year. 

Will Postgraduate Interviews Still Take Place?

Due to social distancing rules, physical interviews will likely all be cancelled this year. Either the university will accept you without an interview, or they will conduct an interview over the phone or via a virtual meeting app. You should prepare for this interview in the same way as a physical interview, by looking smart, researching the course thoroughly and knowing exactly why you are applying and why you’d be a good fit for it.

What Postgraduate Courses Could Be Impacted By COVID-19?

Taught postgraduate courses, such as PG Certificates, PG Diplomas and Master’s courses are going to be more affected by the closure of universities than research-based courses like MPhil, MRes and PhD courses, as they rely more on face-to-face teaching in lectures and tutorials.

Practical courses – such as science-based courses that require lab access – and postgraduate courses that involve fieldwork and travel - such as Geography – may also be impacted in the short term if social distancing measures and travel restrictions remain in place longer-term. 

Where Can I Find Information About My Preferred Course and If It’s Affected?

If you have any concerns about the course you wish to apply for, you can contact the university directly. You can do that via Postgraduate Search, by clicking the green “Request Info” button on any course you search for:

postgraduate search request info button

What Are Universities Doing to Ensure Courses Can Still Be Delivered?

It was announced that providers can resume in-person teaching and learning for "postgraduate students who are studying practical or practice-based (including creative arts) subjects and require specialist equipment and facilities from 8 March," according to a report released by the Department of Education.

Universities have already made great efforts for current students to study online, including generating online lectures and online assessments, and having tutor-student communication via apps such as Microsoft Teams and Skype.

How Can I Research Postgraduate Courses and Universities During Lockdown?

You can conduct your course research right here on Postgraduate Search, by entering the subject into our search bar and filtering the results using the available filters.  Each course page comes complete with all the information you need about the course, including modules, entry requirements, tuition fees and course delivery options.

Not only that, you can read thousands of real student reviews for over 170 UK universities, to help you decide which one is right for you.

Are Postgraduate Open Days Still Going Ahead?

Open days are a great research tool, especially if you are considering doing your postgraduate degree at a different university to where you studied your undergraduate degree.

But due to COVID-19, universities are being forced to cancel physical open days. Many universities are replacing these with virtual open days, where you can explore the campus from the comfort of your sofa.

Some are offering things like department-specific webinars, where prospective students can talk to tutors and get advice on applications.

We are working with universities to bring you the latest information about virtual open days and any online events that are taking place.

What Options are Available if I Don’t Want to Apply to an On-Campus Course?

If applying to a physically delivered course isn’t appealing, with all that is happening with COVID-19, studying an online degree course is a very viable (and increasingly popular) alternative.

Many UK universities already excel at providing postgraduate courses via online/distance learning methods, so you can be assured your education will still be of a high standard. The only downside is that your online degree might take more years to complete compared to on-campus options.

You can filter any course search you do right here on Postgraduate Search by distance learning and online courses, using the options in the side of the search results:

postgraduate search filter

If you would still like to apply for a physical course, but are contemplating pushing back your entry, then short online courses such as MOOCs can be a great way to keep you learning until the time is right for you to start your physical course. MOOCs can be found in almost any subject and lots of them are free to study too.

Should I Still Apply for Postgraduate Accommodation?

If you have already applied for and been accepted on to a postgraduate degree, and your university offers places for postgraduate students in university halls then you should still apply.

If you’ve already been offered a place in halls, then you will be contacted by the university with information about moving-in dates once the COVID-19 situation becomes clearer.

Will COVID-19 Affect Postgraduate Student Finance?

There have been no impacts of COVID-19 on postgraduate student finance. The government are still supporting students looking to study a postgraduate degree this year.

For Master’s degrees, online applications for government loans of up to £11,222 from Student Finance England will open as usual in 2021, for courses starting in September 2021. Students applying for a PhD this year can still apply for Doctoral loans of up to £26,455 from student finance England.

(Note: Loan amounts and application dates might vary if you are applying for finance in ScotlandWales or Northern Ireland).   

There are many other sources of postgraduate finance available from the government that you can apply for too, to help with tuition fee and living costs.

And universities themselves also offer a number scholarships and bursaries to students to help with the cost of fees and living expenses. You can search through hundreds of scholarships right here on Postgraduate Search.

Where Can I Get More Information on Covid-19?

You should always follow official government guidelines about COVID-19. You can read the latest guidance about the pandemic and what you need to do day-to-day via the following sources:

UK Government



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