Postgraduate (PG) education is more popular than ever, but with open applications all year round, how do we know when applicants make the decision to stay in education?

We’ve pulled key insights from activity on The Student Room and combined it with data from our annual Options report to lift the lid on the PG applicant cycle and give you a unique window into their behaviour.


According to our 2017 Options report of over 11,000 young people, PG study is the most popular pathway choice for students, with 40% saying they would most likely go on to further study.

The increase in available funding is a huge factor for young people wanting to continue in education. The introduction of the PG government loan in 2016 made it an enticing proposition that saw the number of those beginning full-time PG courses jump by a massive 22%.


Prospective PGs are a diverse group. The possibility of improved career opportunities is a key motivator for many, but so is a love of learning and the belief in education as a form of self-enrichment.

Alongside these initial considerations, students turn to TSR in their thousands to get a clearer picture of life as a PG. From advice to ease their concerns to support with decisions, here’s some of the common questions we see on our forums:

  • Am I going to be surrounded by freshers?
  • Choosing between specialisations
  • HELP!! What uni is better????
  • A day in the life of a PhD student?
  • Cannot afford masters application fees, feeling down
  • Do postgraduate students have a social life?

We also found 68% of respondents considering a PG course wanted to change university for their next degree. This indicates how students want to take the opportunity to ‘trade up’ as they carry on studying; either to go to a more prestigious institution or to one that’s better specialised in their chosen field.

By monitoring the behaviour and discussions on our PG Application Forum, we can confirm these behaviours and concerns are shared traits amongst the PG student community.


Prospective PGs have always been an enigma. 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.

By analysing pageviews and activity on our PG application forum, we can identify the consideration stage when PGs are most likely to discuss and research their options through to when they are ready to apply.

The graph below shows a clear spike in activity on our PG applications forum between February and April, peaking at over 300,000 pageviews in March.


It makes sense PG applicants begin researching and acting on their options around this time as PG courses typically start later than undergraduate ones. The time span between the UCAS deadline in January and the start of undergraduate courses in September is roughly the same as the time between the peak of consideration discussions in March and the beginning of most PG courses.

Although PG students are not constrained by UCAS application deadlines, they naturally fall into a similar annual application cycle.

Over the last year our postgraduate forums generated over 4,000,000 pageviews and 1,919,500 visitors. The scale and quality of the conversations happening on TSR gives us these useful insights into a group notoriously difficult to pin down. Find out more about our PG reach and see how you could target this sought-after audience.