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Postgraduate Jargon Explained

While looking through the many postgraduate options available to you, it’s likely that you’ll come across acronyms and terms that sound unfamiliar, odd and just downright made up.

We’ve rounded up some of the most common ones so you’ll hopefully be a little less stumped when you’re confronted with them.


Taught vs. Research Degrees

Researching PG
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Your postgraduate course will likely fall into one of two camps, and you’ll often see them referred to as "taught" or "research".

Which one to choose will likely come down to your learning style. If you like to be left to it and work with little assistance, then a research one could be ideal, whereas if you work better with structure, exams and a similar learning style to how your undergraduate was, then a Taught option could be better suited for you.


MA vs. MSc

MA and MSC
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The two most common types of masters’ degrees are the MA and the MSc.

The MA means Master of Arts, and tends to be for arts, humanities and social science degrees, while the MSc, (Master of Science), is for science based subjects.

There are also some other abbreviations which you may not so commonly come across, such as MPhil (Master of Philosophy), MRes (Master of Research), LLM (Master of Laws) and MEd (Master of Education).


Postgraduate Diploma or Certificate (PGDip, PGCert)

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If a masters degree doesn’t sound right for you, you may find postgraduate diplomas and certificates may be more suited. These are generally shorter than masters degrees, and don’t include a dissertation. They also tend to be more vocational, giving you some training towards your chosen career.

Some  popular ones you may have heard of include the LPC (Legal Practice Course), for legal training, and the PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate of Education) for teacher training.


QS World University Rankings

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A good way to discover whether the institution you’re applying to is particularly renowned in your chosen field is to check their standing on their QS World University Rankings.

You may see this being referred to in prospectuses and university websites to entice you in. First published in 2004, the QS World University Rankings is generally regarded as well trusted and widely read, and it ranks more than 800 of the top universities in the world, based on six key performance indicators.


NQF (National Qualifications Framework)

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You may see the degree or qualification you’re applying for referred to as being "NQF Level 7", which is where postgraduate diplomas, certificates and masters degrees stand - they’re above bachelor’s degrees, but below doctoral level.

It has since been replaced by the QCF (Qualifications and Credits Framework) but you may see either referred to in listings and prospectuses



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