Study Modes: Full-time and Part-time

As well as the type of qualification you will need to decide the mode of study that suits you best. The more flexible you are able to be, the greater the choice of course you will have. Some courses may be available in only one study mode. So what are the differences between full-time and part-time study modes?

Full-time and part-time study modes apply in taught and research postgraduate degrees. What these terms mean can vary between universities, and even between courses and departments in a single university.

Full-time study

A full-time course requires attendance every week-day. This is possible for some PhDs, particularly in the sciences. Other full-time courses provide a set number of hours teaching or contact time per week. 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. Some give up work to study full time to complete as quickly as possible.

Part-time study

Part-time study can be ideal if you want to continue working. Timetabling part-time courses includes the evenings or on specific, regular days each week. Some courses offering a wide range of optional modules means it may be possible to timetable courses in this way.

Visa admission to the UK if you are an international student requires full-time attendance. However at masters level you can apply for a visa to study a a part time course. If 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.

Block teaching

Universities provide tuition in teaching 'blocks' to solve the full time part time issue. Teaching is provided in a set number of short periods of time, for example on set days or weekends. International students are then more likely to be able to undertake the course. Block teaching patterns mean students know what they are committing to. Teaching dates published in advance allow employees to negotiate support with employers.

What universities offer part-time postgraduate students

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. The Department and/or the Graduate School office explain how part-time students are integrated.

Opportunities for work

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.

Next steps