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How hard to get a place at top uni as postgraduate?

I received offers from Bath and Exeter universities to study business management. Most likely I will go to Bath. I would like to know how difficult it will be to get into top universities (maybe even Oxford) after I have already completed my undergraduate studies. I just don’t quite understand what criteria top universities look at before accepting a postgraduate program. I read somewhere that you need to have good grades like (2:1 - I have no idea what they mean) and then I can be accepted into top universities, from the top five. Even if I do not study at the most prestigious universities; Bath University, although it is good in business, it does not occupy high positions overall, which top universities could pay attention to.

Can someone please explain to me how this process works, and what needs to be done to go to a top university for postgraduate. What will influence this, etc.
In terms of grade requirements, honours degrees in the UK are classed into 4 categories:

1st class, which equates to usually an average of 70% or more overall (the highest possible classification - this is where people aiming for funded PhDs need to be aiming for. A few very competitive masters courses may also require or prefer a 1st e.g. the BCL at Oxford for law grads)

upper second class/2:1 which is usually an average in the 60%-69% range (this is the most common requirement for e.g. grad schemes, lots of masters degrees as a minimum etc; some may specify a "good 2:1" which is usually anything from around 65% average and above, some specify a "high 2:1" which is usually 67 or 68% or above)

lower second class/2:2 which is an average in the 50-59% range normally (this starts to limit your options a bit, you'd probbaly be looking at relatively noncompetitive masters courses or non-graduate/entry level positions)

3rd class which would usually be the 40-49% range (you would probably not really be in much of a better position than when you entered the degree but it is something. This is the minimum level needed to pass the degree with honours).


You can also be awarded an ordinary degree instead of an honours degree if you fail to meet the requirements for a 3rd class but don't fail outright (various ways this can happen, failing the dissertation for example). This is generally not going to mean much of anything.

As far as "graduate study" goes this depends a bit on which degree you want to do at which uni. Generally speaking masters degrees are often a bit less directly competitive than undergraduate degrees because there is much less funding available for them and many students simply can't afford them so don't apply (or do apply but can't take up an offer if made). PhD applications and funding (the two are separate processes, but generally would be academics want to aim for a funded PhD) are very competitive at pretty much any uni. Getting funding for a PhD more or less anywhere is an achievement!

Generally they aren't going to be overly fussed where you did your undergrad, and certainly Bath or Exeter would not pose any issues provided you get the required results, and otherwise meet the requirements, and can pay for it (or in the case of a PhD, are awarded funding).

Note that business related masters degrees at graduate level tend to be the most expensive possible courses. These are normally cash cows for the unis to bring in students from wealthy backgrounds able to pay £30-50k tuition fees, or to bring in people already having established an early career who can pay it out of pocket themselves or their companies are sponsoring them.

Also note that depending on your longer term goals doing a masters at a more "prestigious" university very well may not make any difference in the grand scheme of things anyway. Unless you're aiming for investment banking or management consulting that kind of thing doesn't really get factored in normally. If you are aiming for those sectors you'd be best of getting into a target uni for undergrad to start with, in any subject - since they don't care what degree you do. Doing something that you're interested in which is also within your grade range is perfectly reasonable (e.g. if you've always been interested in ancient Egypt personally, doing a degree in archaeology at a target uni is just as good as anything else).
Reply 2
Original post by artful_lounger
In terms of grade requirements, honours degrees in the UK are classed into 4 categories:

1st class, which equates to usually an average of 70% or more overall (the highest possible classification - this is where people aiming for funded PhDs need to be aiming for. A few very competitive masters courses may also require or prefer a 1st e.g. the BCL at Oxford for law grads)

upper second class/2:1 which is usually an average in the 60%-69% range (this is the most common requirement for e.g. grad schemes, lots of masters degrees as a minimum etc; some may specify a "good 2:1" which is usually anything from around 65% average and above, some specify a "high 2:1" which is usually 67 or 68% or above)

lower second class/2:2 which is an average in the 50-59% range normally (this starts to limit your options a bit, you'd probbaly be looking at relatively noncompetitive masters courses or non-graduate/entry level positions)

3rd class which would usually be the 40-49% range (you would probably not really be in much of a better position than when you entered the degree but it is something. This is the minimum level needed to pass the degree with honours).


You can also be awarded an ordinary degree instead of an honours degree if you fail to meet the requirements for a 3rd class but don't fail outright (various ways this can happen, failing the dissertation for example). This is generally not going to mean much of anything.
As far as "graduate study" goes this depends a bit on which degree you want to do at which uni. Generally speaking masters degrees are often a bit less directly competitive than undergraduate degrees because there is much less funding available for them and many students simply can't afford them so don't apply (or do apply but can't take up an offer if made). PhD applications and funding (the two are separate processes, but generally would be academics want to aim for a funded PhD) are very competitive at pretty much any uni. Getting funding for a PhD more or less anywhere is an achievement!
Generally they aren't going to be overly fussed where you did your undergrad, and certainly Bath or Exeter would not pose any issues provided you get the required results, and otherwise meet the requirements, and can pay for it (or in the case of a PhD, are awarded funding).
Note that business related masters degrees at graduate level tend to be the most expensive possible courses. These are normally cash cows for the unis to bring in students from wealthy backgrounds able to pay £30-50k tuition fees, or to bring in people already having established an early career who can pay it out of pocket themselves or their companies are sponsoring them.
Also note that depending on your longer term goals doing a masters at a more "prestigious" university very well may not make any difference in the grand scheme of things anyway. Unless you're aiming for investment banking or management consulting that kind of thing doesn't really get factored in normally. If you are aiming for those sectors you'd be best of getting into a target uni for undergrad to start with, in any subject - since they don't care what degree you do. Doing something that you're interested in which is also within your grade range is perfectly reasonable (e.g. if you've always been interested in ancient Egypt personally, doing a degree in archaeology at a target uni is just as good as anything else).

I'm so glad that there are people like you on the forum, knowledgeable and not greedy for information. If you remember, you answered one of my questions about whether to go to the University of Exeter now, or take a year to study sociology and go to KCL. Today I also received an offer from Bath University. I was there at the open day and I really liked it. In addition, it occupies a good position in business management. In addition to what you and a couple of other people wrote to me, I talked to a friend and he told me about the possibility of studying at top universities under the postgraduate program. I am chasing the ranking and honour of the university, not because I am conceited, but because I know what opportunities this will give me when I return home to my country. At my country people know little about universities, and when they see a familiar university like (Oxbridge and others like that) in my portfolio, I am guaranteed to get a place in any position, which is why I fight so hard for a good university.
Instead of wasting the next year studying and having the chance to go to KCL, I found another option. I will now go to Bath, for example, as a bachelor, and then through the postgraduate program I will go to one of the best universities if I study well enough. And I liked the idea, because I won’t waste time; it turns out, having graduated from two universities and not wasting time. What do you say to this?

I know that you are a student at UCL and I would like to know how hard it is to get a 1:1 (that is, according to you, the top class of the degree) or 2:1. I’m actually amazed how often you’re here, because in such a university you must spend 24/7 time in the library, greedily devouring information. Or are these already stereotypes, although I highly doubt it.

You said that the highest degree is 70%, that is, it turns out that I only need to get 70% of 100%. If it works on a 100 point scale. Based on this, I can only assume that if 70% is considered the highest degree, it only means that studying at university is really very difficult. Also, you need to take into account the fact that I have been studying English for only 1.5 years, I cannot say that it is sufficient for university. Even in this regard, I’m a little afraid that I won’t understand the professors, because everything will be at the highest level. Although, I also believe that by studying at university I will improve my English. Yes, it's funny that I'm going to university with poor English skills. However, at school in the sixth form, despite my English (I’m not saying that it is bad, rather average), I passed exams in business and IT better than the English students. Maybe I'm just good at passing exams, or maybe I just spent a lot more time, but the result is the result. Therefore, from this side, I would also like to know your opinion.

Also, regarding postgraduate, I realised that this is not possible for me at all, because fortunately or unfortunately, I am not from those wealthy families. I understood that a business course for postgraduate would be very expensive, but I couldn’t even imagine that as much as 50 thousand pounds was an overwhelming burden for me. And at Oxbridge it can be even more expensive. Since I am going to university with a placement year, I thought that I could earn money (for example, 28 thousand) and for this money study for another year at another university under the postgraduate program. But, in your words, I can’t afford it, I can’t be a cash cow. Although, if I had that kind of money, I would not regret giving it for education in a place that is worth it. Therefore, there is no chance of going to a top university with a postgraduate program, especially in business, as I understand? In this case, I am already beginning to doubt my decision to go to Bath and then to postgraduate... Yeah, life is hard 😆 Especially when you think about the impossible, and then wonder why the impossible didn’t happen.

Thank you again for your answers and advice, having Google at hand, I can’t Google trivial things that I really need to get an answer to. Thank you for spending your time so selflessly on others.
Original post by ppaden
I'm so glad that there are people like you on the forum, knowledgeable and not greedy for information. If you remember, you answered one of my questions about whether to go to the University of Exeter now, or take a year to study sociology and go to KCL. Today I also received an offer from Bath University. I was there at the open day and I really liked it. In addition, it occupies a good position in business management. In addition to what you and a couple of other people wrote to me, I talked to a friend and he told me about the possibility of studying at top universities under the postgraduate program. I am chasing the ranking and honour of the university, not because I am conceited, but because I know what opportunities this will give me when I return home to my country. At my country people know little about universities, and when they see a familiar university like (Oxbridge and others like that) in my portfolio, I am guaranteed to get a place in any position, which is why I fight so hard for a good university.
Instead of wasting the next year studying and having the chance to go to KCL, I found another option. I will now go to Bath, for example, as a bachelor, and then through the postgraduate program I will go to one of the best universities if I study well enough. And I liked the idea, because I won’t waste time; it turns out, having graduated from two universities and not wasting time. What do you say to this?

I know that you are a student at UCL and I would like to know how hard it is to get a 1:1 (that is, according to you, the top class of the degree) or 2:1. I’m actually amazed how often you’re here, because in such a university you must spend 24/7 time in the library, greedily devouring information. Or are these already stereotypes, although I highly doubt it.

You said that the highest degree is 70%, that is, it turns out that I only need to get 70% of 100%. If it works on a 100 point scale. Based on this, I can only assume that if 70% is considered the highest degree, it only means that studying at university is really very difficult. Also, you need to take into account the fact that I have been studying English for only 1.5 years, I cannot say that it is sufficient for university. Even in this regard, I’m a little afraid that I won’t understand the professors, because everything will be at the highest level. Although, I also believe that by studying at university I will improve my English. Yes, it's funny that I'm going to university with poor English skills. However, at school in the sixth form, despite my English (I’m not saying that it is bad, rather average), I passed exams in business and IT better than the English students. Maybe I'm just good at passing exams, or maybe I just spent a lot more time, but the result is the result. Therefore, from this side, I would also like to know your opinion.

Also, regarding postgraduate, I realised that this is not possible for me at all, because fortunately or unfortunately, I am not from those wealthy families. I understood that a business course for postgraduate would be very expensive, but I couldn’t even imagine that as much as 50 thousand pounds was an overwhelming burden for me. And at Oxbridge it can be even more expensive. Since I am going to university with a placement year, I thought that I could earn money (for example, 28 thousand) and for this money study for another year at another university under the postgraduate program. But, in your words, I can’t afford it, I can’t be a cash cow. Although, if I had that kind of money, I would not regret giving it for education in a place that is worth it. Therefore, there is no chance of going to a top university with a postgraduate program, especially in business, as I understand? In this case, I am already beginning to doubt my decision to go to Bath and then to postgraduate... Yeah, life is hard 😆 Especially when you think about the impossible, and then wonder why the impossible didn’t happen.

Thank you again for your answers and advice, having Google at hand, I can’t Google trivial things that I really need to get an answer to. Thank you for spending your time so selflessly on others.


My above post was a little less specific, but yes 70% is just the minimum threshold for a 1st. The scale goes up to 100% so there is in theory "a lot of room at the top" to distinguish yourself, but it's still the same classification/grade outcome. That said, in practice it's pretty rare for undergraduate students to get significantly above 80% outside of analytical subjects or e.g. language translations, where there is a theoretically "perfect correct answer". Getting above 80% on any kind of essay based material usually indicate extremely high levels of work, and above 85% or 90% would probably indicate the piece is well beyond the standard expected or required for undergraduate study and may be at postgraduate level or e.g. publishable original research with some polishing or similar. My department actually marks out of a maximum of 80% because in practice nobody got above 80% in non-language modules anyway for example!

I think the idea of "wasting time" is maybe missing the point, at least from a UK perspective. While I'm aware in some cultures/countries there is a strong emphasis on doing things within a certain timescale/by a certain age, this is not the case in the UK (legally employers can't discriminate on the basis of age anyway). Ultimately from a UK perspective taking a year out now is really nothing in the face of a potentially 40+ year career - especially if it avoids further challenges later. While I certainly can understand the anxiety around it (having been there myself), having made the mistake of rushing into things when I should've taken a gap year (or several) and now having to do things in a much more difficult and challenging way, I wish I'd taken the time when I was younger rather than just trying to rush through everything.

In terms of UCL and my studies there, I'd note I'm a part-time undergraduate (in relation to the above challenges - due to rushing into a degree when younger then not leaving when I knew it wasn't right for me at the start, I can only be funded for part-time study), so I have other time to spend on here. Also TSR is an age old procrastination tool :tongue: In terms of getting a 1st or 2:1, at UCL or elsewhere this can vary from student to student, module to module. You don't need to be a supergenius to get a 1st in individual assignments or overall. Generally the people who are most consistent in getting 1sts are those who are very organised and just approach uni like a full time job - make a point of getting to campus at 9, then work steadily until 5 on campus, going to lectures etc as and when they come up. For essay based stuff I find getting a 1st has more been about just getting a good "hook" into an essay title or similar and writing something very focused and deliberate around that line of argument, rather than just a more general exposition of factual material from texts/papers and stuff.

I'd note also that lectures are usually not the be all and end all of material for your course. In fact normally lectures are just an introduction to a topic or illustrating a specific case study, and the actual learning comes from you going out and reading more widely around the topic in various academic texts/papers/monographs etc. I don't really look at the lecture notes much when writing essays for example, I just use the knowledge I picked up from them to guide what kind of resources I look for and which approach I take with them. For exam based modules the lectures can be more closely related to the examinable material but invariably lectures are still just a small part of your studies. The UK credit hours system generally assumes that for full time study, you would spend around 30-40 hours a week on your studies on average (i.e. equivalent to a full time job), and lectures may only account for 10-25% of that time for a lot of courses. The rest is expected to be your independent study time. Also sometimes lecturers are just...not good at explaining things anyway (regardless of whether your first language is English or not)!

English language skills are something that are required at a certain level by unis (usually evidenced by GCSE English language grades or TOEFL/IELTS/similar scores), but in practice I think a lot of international students have more mixed skills when starting anyway. They may then need to spend extra time reading up between/before lectures to prepare, or make use of office hours to check things they may not understand, and to engage with the other students on the course. I think often international students have very strong written English skills but spoken skills are still developing a bit. However that's not uncommon and in general as far as languages go, immersion is how people develop language skills quickest so I imagine they'd develop quite quickly. I've not personally had that experience of learning a second language for fluency purposes though so can't really comment on personal experience, just what I've heard and seen from others.

As for the cost of masters courses, it is unfortunately a barrier for many. That said I'd note a number of those kinds of courses (e.g. MBAs particularly) expect students to have a few years of work experience after graduating anyway, which may give you more time to save up for it. Also your employer may sponsor you to do it as some kind of executive MBA scheme or something. I can't really advise on the situation in your home country though and so you really will need to evaluate this yourself to determine how best to navigate that. In the UK at least though generally going to Bath isn't going to present any barriers for getting a good job on graduating.
Reply 4
Original post by artful_lounger
In terms of grade requirements, honours degrees in the UK are classed into 4 categories:

1st class, which equates to usually an average of 70% or more overall (the highest possible classification - this is where people aiming for funded PhDs need to be aiming for. A few very competitive masters courses may also require or prefer a 1st e.g. the BCL at Oxford for law grads)

upper second class/2:1 which is usually an average in the 60%-69% range (this is the most common requirement for e.g. grad schemes, lots of masters degrees as a minimum etc; some may specify a "good 2:1" which is usually anything from around 65% average and above, some specify a "high 2:1" which is usually 67 or 68% or above)

lower second class/2:2 which is an average in the 50-59% range normally (this starts to limit your options a bit, you'd probbaly be looking at relatively noncompetitive masters courses or non-graduate/entry level positions)

3rd class which would usually be the 40-49% range (you would probably not really be in much of a better position than when you entered the degree but it is something. This is the minimum level needed to pass the degree with honours).


You can also be awarded an ordinary degree instead of an honours degree if you fail to meet the requirements for a 3rd class but don't fail outright (various ways this can happen, failing the dissertation for example). This is generally not going to mean much of anything.
As far as "graduate study" goes this depends a bit on which degree you want to do at which uni. Generally speaking masters degrees are often a bit less directly competitive than undergraduate degrees because there is much less funding available for them and many students simply can't afford them so don't apply (or do apply but can't take up an offer if made). PhD applications and funding (the two are separate processes, but generally would be academics want to aim for a funded PhD) are very competitive at pretty much any uni. Getting funding for a PhD more or less anywhere is an achievement!
Generally they aren't going to be overly fussed where you did your undergrad, and certainly Bath or Exeter would not pose any issues provided you get the required results, and otherwise meet the requirements, and can pay for it (or in the case of a PhD, are awarded funding).
Note that business related masters degrees at graduate level tend to be the most expensive possible courses. These are normally cash cows for the unis to bring in students from wealthy backgrounds able to pay £30-50k tuition fees, or to bring in people already having established an early career who can pay it out of pocket themselves or their companies are sponsoring them.
Also note that depending on your longer term goals doing a masters at a more "prestigious" university very well may not make any difference in the grand scheme of things anyway. Unless you're aiming for investment banking or management consulting that kind of thing doesn't really get factored in normally. If you are aiming for those sectors you'd be best of getting into a target uni for undergrad to start with, in any subject - since they don't care what degree you do. Doing something that you're interested in which is also within your grade range is perfectly reasonable (e.g. if you've always been interested in ancient Egypt personally, doing a degree in archaeology at a target uni is just as good as anything else).

This is incredibly helpful, thank you! 🙏🏼

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