There are significant differences between postgraduate and undergraduate courses. We highlight a number of a-n resources that cover topics such choosing a postgraduate course, what to look for in a course, how to apply, and what funding opportunities are available.

In the a-n resource ‘Postgraduate study: an introduction to MFA and MA courses’, Dr Edwina fitzPatrick offers advice and explores the key issues to consider when selecting and applying to a postgraduate course.

She says: “Postgraduate courses are rooted in self-directed learning. This means that even on design courses you will have much more autonomy about the direction of your work, including setting your own projects in the final stages. With fine art ones, it is rare that any brief is set at all.”

Theory and practice
fitzPatrick explains that an MA interweaves theory and art practice, and involves writing an essay weighted at 20-30% of the final degree. Graduates might progress to a practice-based PhD after graduation.

An MFA is normally a making-orientated ‘final degree’, focusing on professional skills and studio practice. It uses alternative ways to contextualise the art/design practice, eg a website, short essay, or research folio. It is more internationally recognised than an MA.

An MRes is writing and research-based course, designed to prepare students for a (practice-based) PhD.

Commenting on the application process, fitzPatrick says that unlike the UCAS system for BA courses, you apply directly to the course through the college or university. This means that you can apply to many courses simultaneously, although this needs to be balanced with the fact that some charge an application fee and many interview around the same time, so your might need to duplicate your interview portfolio.

“Make sure that the images of your work look professional and give information about the work’s date, size, media and title. Privilege your most recent work – the selection team is most interested in what you are doing now.”

Sources of funding
In terms of funding, various sources are available. These include: College-funded bursaries (see individual college websites); course specific awards (see college website); postgraduate loans from Student Finance; Charities and trusts: try or

For England:
For Wales:
For Northern Ireland:
For Scotland:

Many colleges allow you to pay your fees in installments.

To read the full a-n resource on postgraduate study, available to a-n members, click here.

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