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can someone explain a few questions about degrees for me?

(29 Posts)
ssd Tue 28-Jul-15 08:15:33

1. if a first degree is funded by a loan, how is a second degree funded?

2. is a second degree called a post graduate degree?

3. when is a PHD done and how is it funded? and when would a PHD be needed?

4. what's the difference between a taught degree and a research degree?

5. what is the grant for the undergraduate degree thats being phased out? is it the same as a bursary?

thanks, I know I'm ignorant but I want to learn these answers!

AliceInSandwichLand Tue 28-Jul-15 08:25:15

1) A second degree is either funded by a scholarship (ie the university), a charitable body (eg the Wellcome Trust), an employer, a private loan, or the student's own savings. Sorry, will have to make these answers separate posts as on phone and can't see your post while I'm replying! Depends on the subject and circumstances.

AliceInSandwichLand Tue 28-Jul-15 08:28:31

2) yes
3) a PhD is a research based postgraduate degree, which takes 3 years full time. You do original research into one very specific subject. Most PhDs are funded by some organisation or university who wants research done into that particular subject, and recruits a PhD student to do it. A PhD is usually needed for someone who wants a career in academia or to display particular expertise in a certain field. Most non academic jobs will not need a PhD.

ssd Tue 28-Jul-15 08:29:39

thanks alice

carebear83 Tue 28-Jul-15 08:29:56

1. Usually self funded (although could be with a CPD loan or similar)
2. Yes, if it is a degree that is higher than the undergrad degree (eg MSc, PhD). Otherwise it's a second undergraduate degree (eg you do an undergrad in English Lit then decide on a change of career and do an undergrad in Psychology, or whatever).
3) Someone would usually do a PhD if they are interested in studying s specific area of their subject to a very high level. It is very academically rigorous and time consuming. It may be for self interest but more often involves a career move - say you want to work in academia or in a very technical job that requires academic expertise. Usually either self funded or with a stipend provided by an organisation like ESRC.
4) a taught degree is based on a syllabus with modules, coursework, exams etc. A research degree is focussed on a research project.
5) not sure about this one. Student loans are means tested, and I believe there are some grants offered by universities or certain organisations but I'm not sure of the grant your referring to.

HTH - and I stand to be corrected on any of that!

ssd Tue 28-Jul-15 08:30:11

also, whats the typical route to a PHD?

carebear83 Tue 28-Jul-15 08:30:41

Sorry X post

ButterDish Tue 28-Jul-15 08:31:13

Most of your questions will be answered differently depending on the academic field.

I can't answer the funding questions, as my experiences are from my own university days, pre-student loans.

A second degree need not be postgraduate - a degree is postgraduate only if you need to have done an undergraduate (first) degree in order to apply. So, say, an MA course will almost always specify that you need to have done an undergraduate degree (say a BA, or BSc) in an appropriate area to be eligible to apply. But it is possible to sit a second undergraduate degree, though it implies someone is changing direction, or doing it for fun. (I have a DPhil in English, but would love to do a degree in art history for fun - this would be a second undergraduate degree for me, as I have a BA in English already.)

A PhD is the ultimate substantial research postgraduate degree degree, where you engage in three or four years of research and write up your results as a book. Not sure what you mean by what it's needed for, but mine was necessary for my job - I'm an academic.

Taught degrees are comprised mostly of classes/lectures/seminars examined by essays and/or exams. Research degrees (PhDs, some other postgrad degrees) are much more about independent, supervised research, with the resulting thesis/dissertation examined, sometimes by a viva vice, or oral exam. When I did an MA (early 90s, not UK), it was two taught terms, then four of writing a 40000 word dissertation - now most MAs are taught courses with shorter dissertations.

ssd Tue 28-Jul-15 08:32:29

thanks carebear83

ssd Tue 28-Jul-15 08:33:21

say a science degree, like physics or chemistry, taking it to phd level

AliceInSandwichLand Tue 28-Jul-15 08:34:09

4) a taught degree, like most Masters degrees, is one where you have to attend taught lectures or seminars and read set readings and submit pieces of work on topics set by the lecturers, like school only harder. A research degree is one like a PhD where the staff are only there to guide you and assess you but you are doing the work in a more self directed way and not following a curriculum or going to any formal lectures (other than eg seminars on study skills).
5) I think someone else could answer this one better than me. Funding depends on the type of degree and on the student's income, or their parents' income if they are a typical school leaver. What sort of situation are you thinking about?

SheGotAllDaMoves Tue 28-Jul-15 08:36:48

With regard to no.5...

until recently all undergraduates could obtain a loan for the fees (not means tested) and a loan for living costs (means tested).

Students who had parents on a very low income/on a low income themselves were entitled to a bursary (means tested) ie a grant that did not have to be re-paid.

It is these bursaries that are being phased out. Low income students will now have to get loans.

AliceInSandwichLand Tue 28-Jul-15 08:37:07

My bad re question 2, the other posters are right!

AliceInSandwichLand Tue 28-Jul-15 08:41:20

You can do a postgraduate degree in a totally different subject from your first degree, if they'll accept you, in which case the previous degree was necessary to be eligible and prove academic ability but you are just expected to pick up the skills in the new subject at postgraduate level on the fly. Obviously this is more likely for postgraduate degrees in humanities subjects rather than sciences. So if someone wants to change direction they could go back and do another undergraduate degree, but they might just do a master's in the new field and take it from there.

AliceInSandwichLand Tue 28-Jul-15 08:45:22

To do sciences to PhD level you would first do an undergraduate degree and then look for a PhD as you approached graduation or afterwards. You would need a good result at undergraduate level, I think probably a first or high 2.1, but am not sure and I expect it would vary. You might get approached to apply for one if you were very good and the supervisor knew you, or you would find one through networking and adverts. Certainly in my current field you might go via a Master's first to top up relevant skills if needs be, but I'm not sure if that holds true for sciences.

Boosiehs Tue 28-Jul-15 08:46:05

You can get funded science PhD depending on what the research is on. You have to apply though and it is v competitive.

Only needed if you want to work in research/academia though.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jul-15 08:46:16

A much better system than government backed bursaries and loans for students whose parents are unable to contribute is for universities themselves to offer scholarships and bursaries. Much less open to abuse.

Boosiehs Tue 28-Jul-15 08:46:42

Agreed Alice you need a v high degree to get ont a PhD course.

Poledra Tue 28-Jul-15 09:18:20

You can move onto a science PhD with a BSc as your first degree. You would usually look for adverts for research studentships - this is where a professor/lecturer has already applied for (and received) funding to pursue a particular research project (generally described in detail for the grant application) and is now looking for the right candidate to perform the research. While the lecturer has already outlined the research project, you would be expected to pursue the work yourself, and direct the research to follow your data. You then complete a thesis on your work (mine is a fairly hefty book of which I am still inordinately proud grin) and defend it at an oral exam, where an examiner who researchs in your field but is independent of your university/research group reads your work and then comes in to quiz you on it. I thoroughly enjoyed my oral exam, despite bricking it in the days beforehand. Some of the purpose is to check that you are indeed the author of the work, as you couldn't talk fluently for 3-4 hours about a piece of work you had not had significant input to!

Alternatively, you can be part of the grant application process yourself - when I did my PhD many moons ago, I had approached the lecturer about working in his lab after graduation, as I was very interested in what he worked on. I was therefore the named candidate in his grant application, contingent upon my achieving a 2:1 or higher in my finals (I scraped that 2:1...). I was funded by the Wellcome Trust.

titchy Tue 28-Jul-15 09:24:38



PhDs - only worth doing if you can get funding for them, more common in science. Usually come with stipend for living costs.

loveareadingthanks Mon 10-Aug-15 17:31:51

The free masters this year isn't for anyone who graduated this year.

You have to be under 30 and you have to have completed your degree in 3 years.

Lots of us older and part time students very pissed off about this.

NapoleonsNose Mon 10-Aug-15 17:41:34

De-railing the thread slightly but I am also pissed off with being denied funding for a masters because of my age!

titchy Mon 10-Aug-15 17:57:28

The age thing should only apply to PG loans which aren't available till September 2016. Anyone who has just graduated having been a full time undergraduate paying the higher fees since 2012/3 should be eligible for the Postgrad student support fund. Details here:


titchy Mon 10-Aug-15 17:58:13

Wholeheartedly agree the age limit for PG loans is awful though confused

StAlphonsosPancakeBreakfast Mon 10-Aug-15 18:04:12

Just to clarify, you do not always need a highly-graded undergraduate degree to qualify for a PhD; I did very badly at UG level in the 1990s, but ten years ago (as a mature student, obviously) I interviewed for a MA place which I was offered regardless of my UG results, due to my being a bit more of a fucking adult interest in and aptitude for the subject, and my commitment to pursuing a career in it.

Having finished top of my MA class, I was then asked to teach, and offered a PhD bursary to pursue further research based on my MA dissertation. I am now a full-time academic. Soooo, it's not always the case that a 'bad' degree will doom you forever (as I had thought for the decade after I left university).

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