Master's study experience
Learn more about what's involved in studying a Master's at Imperial
Master’s level study at Imperial is designed to be challenging. It represents a step change from undergraduate study, and a readjustment back to education for those coming from the world of work.
Study at Master’s level often involves learning new technical skills, and requires you to think about concepts and methods more critically and more deeply. You will still attend lectures, seminars and labs (if appropriate to your subject). However, you will be expected to spend much of your time working independently or in groups, and group work may form part of your assessment.
Your lecturers will:
- teach on the programme
- give you reading lists
- make support materials available
- set practicals, formal and less formal assessments
- offer research projects (although for some courses you may be expected to develop ideas about these yourself)
- give you feedback on your progress in various ways
You need to take these opportunities and shape them to your own needs and interests.
We place great emphasis on the integration of our Master’s level courses with our world class research portfolio.
Your degree will normally include a significant piece of research that will be submitted as a report or dissertation. You may also undergo a viva (oral examination) on your work. MRes students may undertake more than one project, with this component accounting for more than 50 per cent of the final degree award.
The quality of your own understanding, thinking and initiative are very important in the research project, demonstrated by posing questions and seeking answers, using and applying techniques and research skills, analysing data, and reviewing literature.
On most programmes there is a period of several months with little scheduled teaching when the bulk of the research project is carried out, requiring you to plan your time effectively. Your project will normally be supervised by an academic member of staff. However, they may delegate some of the day-to-day supervision to a member of their team, such as a PhD student, who can give you more practical advice.
Master’s level study is a progression from undergraduate work and is usually more specialised, interdisciplinary, or orientated to a specific profession.
It is more intellectually demanding and challenging than undergraduate study. Students sometimes fail to appreciate the intense and demanding nature of Master's level programmes. There is no gradual introduction – the pace is fierce from the outset and it does not subside until the end. This requires a commitment to a sustained period of intensive work right from the start. In addition:
- the pace of lecturing is likely to be significantly faster
- you will be expected to undertake more directed background reading during the course
- you will be expected to arrive at solutions for yourself
For this reason the College requires a high academic standard of those seeking admission. International students, in particular, should also recognise the need to be proficient in English at the start of the course, hence the College's English language requirement.
Most of our Master’s degrees are available on a full-time basis and normally last 12 months with little break. There are also some two- and three-year part-time programmes.
Most postgraduate students feel under time pressure at some point. This is normal, and is a reflection of the intensity and amount of work to undertake. The Graduate Students’ Union and the Graduate School organise lots of events throughout the year to help you maintain a good work–life balance.
Start dates and applying
Master’s programmes at Imperial normally start on the Saturday closest to the start of October. Most courses don’t have a formal closing date, but popular courses close when they are full so you should apply as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
You should also be aware of funding deadlines, particularly if you are planning to apply for any College awards.
You can usually apply for up to two programmes on the application form. Your first choice will be processed first. Your second choice will only be considered if your application for your first choice is unsuccessful.
Most Master’s courses have a core of compulsory subjects plus a range of optional modules.
You should make sure that the curriculum matches what you’re looking for and what you hope to get out of the course, particularly if you’re looking to increase your professional expertise in a particular area.
You can usually find this detail online or by contacting the Course Director.
Potential changes to our courses
Imperial is currently in the process of revising its taught course and assessment structures with the aim of introducing a standardised modular structure and enhanced degree provision across the College for the 2018–19 academic year. This will include changes to academic and examination regulations for all taught Master's level courses.
As a result, we will be making changes to some of the course content and assessment information set out on our course pages prior to entry in 2018. We believe these changes will either benefit you or have no impact on you; they are very unlikely to impact you negatively.
We recommend that you check our course pages before finalising your application and after submitting it, as we will publish updated course information on our during the year as and when the new course structures are ratified by College decision-making bodies.
Find out more about the limited circumstances in which we may need to make changes to or in relation to our courses, the type of changes we may make and how we will tell you about changes we have made.
Training and support
We encourage you to take advantage of any training opportunities, such as the Graduate School’s MasterClass programme. These courses are specifically designed to develop the personal and professional skills of Master’s level students.
The College also has a dedicated network of people and resources in place to support your academic development, as well as look after your general wellbeing.
Doing paid work while you are studying
Our degrees are very demanding, so we recommend that full-time students do not take up part-time work during term-time.
If this is unavoidable (and your visa permits it), we advise you to work no more than 10–15 hours per week, which should be principally at weekends.
Find out more about funding your studies.