Study Modes: Full-time, Part-time

As well as the type of qualification you will need to decide the mode of study that suits you and your circumstances best. However, the more flexible you are able to be about this, the greater the choice of course or programme you will have, as some courses may be available in only one study mode.

Full time and part time study is common for both taught and research postgraduate degrees, but, as with so many other aspects of postgraduate study, what these terms mean can vary from University to University, and from course to course. A full time course or programme, for example, could mean that you are required to be present from 9am to 5pm or equivalent every week-day. This is possible for some PhDs, particularly in the sciences. Other full time courses could provide a set number of hours teaching or contact time per week, and expect a substantial amount of self-directed study in addition: this is more common for masters programmes. Typically, postgraduate courses are studied full time by students who are continuing with study following a first degree, or who have decided to make a specific investment by giving up work or taking a career break and studying full time in order to complete the course as quickly as possible via a concentrated period of study.

Part-time study can be ideal if you want to continue working, but you should be aware that not all part-time courses are timetabled to be taken in the evenings or on specific, regular days each week. Increasingly, Universities are recognising that they need to cater for their students' specific career or family related needs. For some courses, however, for example those offering a wide range of optional modules, it may not be possible to timetable courses in this way.

If you are an international student, unless you are already living in the UK and are not dependent on your study to continue doing so, you may find you cannot get a visa to attend a part-time programme where study takes place for less than a specific number of hours each week.

One solution to this, which is sometimes offered by Universities offering professionally-related part-time courses, is to provide tuition in teaching 'blocks'. This usually means that teaching is provided in a set number of short periods of time, for example on set weekends, or over a number of five-day periods. International students are then more likely to be able to undertake the course, and this method can also be used for students in the UK who want to continue working, as these periods of time are known in advance, can be planned for and may be easier to negotiate support for with employers.

Part-time postgraduate students often find that they are less integrated into the life of the institution than full-time students, but if you are combining study with work, and don't expect the full student experience, this may not be such an important factor for you. If it is important, it could be helpful to ask the Department you plan to join, and/or the Graduate School office, how part-time students are integrated and what is on offer for them. Listen carefully to the answer!

Some part-time doctoral students are offered the opportunity of part-time employment at the University whilst studying for a part-time PhD. This can appear very attractive for many obvious reasons, but you should be careful to ensure that the hours you work on a part-time job are clearly agreed in advance and adhered to, both by yourself and by the department, to leave you enough time for your PhD. This is particularly important if your paid work takes place in the same department or lab where you are studying, where the boundaries need to be clearly and carefully drawn.

Both part time and full time study in a Department can also offer opportunities for work, including as a teaching or laboratory assistant for undergraduate courses and students. It is important that you are not required by the Department to take this kind of work if you do not wish to, and that it does not encroach to much on your studies.