So, what’s impacting the decision-making of prospective postgraduates?

Published 30 November 2023

Many university students and recent graduates will be thinking about their next steps as we approach the new year. Some will look to go into work, while others will aim to continue their education. 

Over the next few months, we will see a lot of people researching their options on The Student Room. Our postgraduate applications forum is approaching its peak period for traffic – it had 111k pageviews in January and 156k in March this year, rising from our monthly average of 98k. 

In recent TSR Insight research, 86% of respondents said they were open to postgraduate study. And one-third of those (32%) said they were definitely considering it as an option.

But there were also doubts about committing to this route. Based on our recent research, we’ll discuss the key advantages of postgraduate study as well as what could hold someone back from applying.

What are the benefits of postgraduate study? 

“People who have studied a postgrad course, has it made a huge impact or difference on your life (career related, etc) or do you think your life would still be the same without the degree?” – post on The Student Room

We asked participants what they thought the advantages of postgraduate study would be. Respondents identified multiple benefits, on average, each respondent selected around five benefits.

The most popular options were gaining skills and knowledge (59%) and increasing earning potential (54%). Over half of respondents also chose broadening career options (52%) and enabling career progression (52%) as positive outcomes. 

The possible advantages weren’t just career-based though. Respondents also acknowledged the personal benefits of studying a subject they enjoy – around half mentioned specialising in an area of interest (52%) and being able to continue their learning (46%). 

Prospective postgraduates see the value they could get from potential career and personal development, but there are some concerns that could cool their interest.

What are the concerns about postgraduate study?

“I’m not sure how passionate I am, I am definitely passionate enough for the field but for a Masters, I guess we will see as I gain more experience in marketing alongside my degree.” – post on The Student Room

Even though 86% were open to postgraduate study almost all respondents (94%) had their concerns about taking this route.

The biggest concerns related to money. The cost of tuition fees could be a problem (67%), while others want to start earning after finishing their degree (51%).

There was also a potential gap in knowledge surrounding their options. One in five (20%) didn’t know enough about postgraduate study and around one in six (16%) weren’t sure what courses were available. Some (16%) weren’t sure if they’d be able to do the work. 

It needs to be easy for prospective postgraduates to find information about their options – and what would be expected of them. 

Prospective postgraduates were worried about the rising costs of living

I have major financial difficulties now and am looking to see if there is a way student finance can assist or support me in any way as a postgraduate. – post on The Student Room

We have shown the role that money can play in dissuading prospective postgraduates, with worries about tuition fees or the desire to start earning. On top of this, 84% of respondents had concerns about rising living costs.

This financial pressure is a perceived barrier to entry for many. There were worries about being able to afford postgraduate study (43%) and getting value for money (39%).

Almost two-fifths 38% said they would look for universities offering scholarships and bursaries, however the same proportion didn’t expect to be eligible for any. And 31% were worried about finding financial support.

A positive way to connect with prospective postgraduates could be by informing them about money help that they might be able to access. Plus, of course, how to apply for it.

Finally, respondents also took their parents into account. There were concerns (38%) about how their study may impact their parents’ finances and 19% said their parents were worried about the costs. 

Universities might provide a breakdown of the finances involved for prospective postgraduates (and their parents) to analyse. This could help them weigh up the immediate costs of study with the long-term impact the course could have on their earning potential, skills and career.

The full TSR Insight research summary can be found here


Get in touch:

If you are looking to connect with a student and graduate audience exploring postgraduate study options, contact your account manager at The Student Room. They can advise on how we can help support your recruitment campaigns, talk you through our postgrad recruitment packages as well as research options through TSR Insight (e.g. focus groups, depth interviews and bulletin boards).