Postgraduates: Who they are, what they want to hear and how to engage them

Commercial Partnerships

What are the reasons for students to stay in education after their undergraduate degree? What influences their decision to do a postgraduate degree? We’ve pulled key insights from activity on The Student Room to give you a unique window into students’ behaviour and motivations when it comes to postgraduate (PG) study.


The government-backed loan in 2016 made a fundamental difference to opportunities for students looking to do a postgraduate degree. With the worry of increasing debt acting as the number one reason for students not considering a postgraduate degree, the new system significantly supports the consideration of studying further; making it a more enticing proposition that saw the number of those beginning full-time postgraduate courses rise by a massive 22%.

We also found the desire to earn money is a large influential factor for students finishing education as an undergraduate. With this theme of money and debt heavily influencing applicant decisions, it’s vital to address the topic when communicating with this audience. Offering support and advice about funding, salary return-on-investment and career paths is a good starting point to enforce throughout your PG activity. Why not also run an advice campaign sharing how and where applicants can find helplines or support that will alleviate their apprehensions around tuition and income.


According to UCAS, research shows students start exploring their postgraduate options 2 – 5 years before they start the course, and the application 7 – 12 months before. This calls for universities to start early engagement whilst the student is still an undergraduate. Providing the right information that can shape future decisions whilst they’re most interested in all their options is key to buy in later down the cycle.

Students turn to TSR in their thousands to get a clearer picture of life as a postgrad. From advice to ease their concerns to support with decisions, here are some of the common questions from potential applicants we see on our forums:


While the undergraduate application process has a fixed timetable with deadlines, PG applications are open all year round. This means the journey from consideration, decision-making to acting and applying can vary for each student.

To pin down an accurate applicant cycle, we analysed pageviews and activity on our PG application forum and identified when prospective applicants are most likely to discuss and research their options through to when they are ready to apply. The graph below shows a build-up starting in November and a clear spike in activity between February and April, peaking at over 475,000 pageviews in March.


Over the last year, our postgraduate forums generated over 21,900 posts, 3 million pageviews and 1.2 million visitors*. The scale and quality of the conversations happening on TSR give us these useful insights into a group notoriously difficult to pin down. Have a look at our PG offering here to learn more about engaging this diverse audience.

Further, recent findings from our new Options 2018/ 2019 report reveals students’ thoughts about staying at university for further study. We found that whilst 26% are aiming to transition to a postgraduate degree, an astonishing 25% of respondents are still undecided about their plans after university. This gives universities a clear opportunity to capture an undecided, untapped audience of potential applicants to target with the right timing and messaging. Read the full article.

To explore more valuable findings, download the new Options 2018/2019 report here.

Why not use an Official Rep account on The Student Room or one of our other engagement tools to support students researching their pathways and deciding if a postgraduate qualification is the right choice for them?



*Oct 17 to Sept 18