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Postgraduate Diploma: THE Guide to Understanding PG Studies like an Expert

Postgraduate Diploma: THE Guide to Understanding PG Studies like an Expert

Since 1946 Roffey Park Institute has been at the forefront of training provision for the workplace, offering a raft of programmes to develop individuals, teams and organisations.

Learning has changed considerably in recent years, with students seeking more flexible methods of teaching and input. This has been compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, and at Roffey Park, we have constantly adapted to include many different types of study, from in-person lessons to distance learning and online classes, and even a mix of the three.

Roffey Park Institute delivers powerful and immersive education to people and businesses around the globe, from our locations covering the UK, Europe and Asia Pacific regions.

Our four new Professional Postgraduate Diploma courses (including online postgraduate diplomas) will continue our journey to make workplaces the best they can be and will equip you with all the techniques and tools you will require to flourish in your career or academic studies.

To find out all you need to know about Postgraduate Diplomas, click on any of the headings:

What is a Postgraduate Diploma in the UK?

In simple terms, a Postgraduate Diploma UK (often abbreviated to PGDip or PgD) is the next academic step you can take after completion of your university degree. It is not an undergraduate degree. It supplements the original degree and enhances your knowledge of the subject you are studying.

More advanced than a Bachelor’s degree, a Postgraduate Diploma is equivalent to a Master’s degree. Where a full Master’s can take an average of two years full-time to complete, as well as a requirement to craft a dissertation at the end of the course, a Postgraduate Diploma takes around half the time – frequently two terms or semesters – and there is no final written thesis.

In the UK, a PGDip sits at Level 7 on the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) and is ideal if you are seeking to improve your academic credentials or career prospects in your chosen field, without having to undertake lengthy research.

The course provides more comprehensive study than a Bachelor’s or Baccalaureate degree, meaning you will have to possess a far deeper understanding of your chosen subject. While on the Postgraduate Diploma course you may also have the option of converting to a full Master’s degree if you commit to completing a dissertation.

At Roffey Park Institute we now offer three new, comprehensive Postgraduate Diplomas designed to deliver high-impact learning to our students:

What is a Postgraduate Diploma equivalent to?

As mentioned above, your Postgraduate Diploma studies will be equivalent to a Master’s degree in terms of depth of input and level of learning.

The crucial difference is that a PGDip is notably shorter in length and there is no requirement to submit a dissertation at the end of the course. However, while taking less time to complete, the qualification can be as challenging as a Master’s and frequently entails considerable academic study, vocational training, or a mix of both depending on your chosen subject.

In short, the diploma is more advanced than a Bachelor’s degree and can serve to further increase your knowledge of your selected topic or improve your career prospects. A PGDip usually takes two terms to complete and is worth 120 credits on the UK’s Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS). While not a full Master’s degree, a Postgraduate Diploma is a valid, recognised qualification in its own right.

It should be noted that for non-UK residents that credit frameworks such as CATS exist outside the United Kingdom – for example in Europe it is the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) – and to convert CATS to ECTS credit, you must divide any CATS credits you have by two. As an example, if you were in possession of 100 CATS points in the UK scheme they would be worth 50 ECTS credits in Europe.

How many years is a Postgraduate Diploma?

Many of us now lead increasingly busy lives, and the Postgraduate Diploma is the perfect solution if you are seeking to carry on your academic studies, or looking to upskill to improve your prospects at work while maintaining a full-time career.

A typical full-time postgraduate programme normally lasts for two semesters (or terms, roughly 30 weeks), but can occasionally run for a year. Part-time courses can last for up to two years. Timeframes can vary, however, and often depend on your choice of university or place of learning.

A PGDip is a flexible means of study, and at Roffey Park Institute we can provide yet more flexibility with our choice of learning schemes, from classroom-based to online or a hybrid of both. If you have an undergraduate degree or are a professional seeking to change careers or gain a more in-depth and comprehensive understanding of your vocation, a Postgraduate Diploma at Roffey Park might be the ideal choice for you.

Postgraduate Diploma Funding and Loans

How are postgraduate diplomas paid for? There are myriad sources of funding for Postgraduate Diplomas if you decide to take the plunge and enrol on a course including:

  • Loan for postgraduate diploma
  • Bursaries
  • Grants
  • Studentship
  • Charities and trusts
  • Employer sponsorship
  • Crowdfunding

What you have to remember is that course fees can vary wildly and quickly mount up, and obtaining funding for your studies isn’t always a simple process. There can also be differences if you are a UK citizen studying in the United Kingdom, or a student from the EU or further afield. As a rule, the fees you pay will depend on your choice of university or place of learning and are also higher for international students.

Another important point to note is that you will not be eligible for any loan to pay PGDip fees if you have obtained funding via UK or EU public funds to gain a postgraduate qualification – this includes a Postgraduate Diploma, and Postgraduate Certificate and a full Master’s degree. There are also regional variations – for example, authorities in England will not provide loans for postgraduate diplomas (PGDip) or postgraduate certificates (PGCert), while in Scotland PGDip students are eligible for funding via the government.

Postgraduate Diploma vs Master’s: Difference between Postgraduate Diploma and Master’s

If you are undertaking a Postgraduate Diploma in an academic subject, you will find little difference between a postgraduate diploma and a Master’s degree – other than the length of time you spend studying and the fact that you don’t need to submit a dissertation or final project.

So, is a Postgraduate Diploma a degree? In short: no. However, a Postgraduate Diploma involves the same level of input, content and learning as a Master’s, where you will be continually assessed and rigorously tested via a combination of coursework, lectures, and assignments. It can be as challenging as a full Master’s, and you will need to commit fully to the course in order to achieve your goal of attaining a PGDip. However, it is a shorter course, and there is typically no requirement to submit a thesis or research paper.

The main difference between a postgraduate diploma and a Master’s, as mentioned above, is that you will normally spend two terms (or semesters) studying full-time for your Postgraduate Diploma, receiving 120 credits for your efforts. Meanwhile, a full-time Master’s can take a year, or three terms, and will give you 180 CATS credits.

If you decide that you wish to switch to a Master’s degree while studying for your PGDip, many universities and institutions offer you the opportunity to upgrade a Postgraduate Diploma to a Master’s. Conversely, if you are a Master’s student and decide that the Postgraduate Diploma is more convenient for you due to, for example, work commitments, you may be able to change the type, of course, you are studying and the length of time it takes to complete it.

Postgraduate Diploma vs Certificate: Difference between Postgraduate Diploma and Certificate

As with a Master’s degree, there is very little difference between a Postgraduate Diploma and Certificate. Study and input can be intensive and at the same level as a Master’s. With a Postgraduate Certificate (usually shortened to PGCert or PGC), however, requires even less of your time to complete and, like the PGDip, there is no requirement to complete a dissertation.

A full-time Postgraduate Certificate typically lasts for 15 weeks, or one term (semester), with the modules you study earning you 60 credits via the UK’s Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS). In short, a PGCert is equivalent to one-third of a Master’s degree.

Depending on your chosen subject and place of learning, you may be able to change courses. If, for example, you are studying for a Master’s degree and the university offers the same subject at the PGCert level, and if you have gained enough credits, you can switch to the PGCert in order to complete the course earlier than planned. Likewise, if you are on a Postgraduate Certificate course and feel you have the time to expand your studies to include a full Master’s degree – dissertation included – you may be allowed to change.

Advanced Diploma vs Postgraduate Diploma

In the UK and around the world, diplomas are nationally recognised qualifications. There is a huge choice of subjects and topics, and most universities, colleges and institutions offer them as modes of study. They can last from one to two years but are only equivalent to the first year of a full undergraduate degree, and are often used as a springboard to further academic studies or to enhance your career prospects if you are already in employment or working towards a particular vocation.

An Advanced Postgraduate Diploma, however, takes things a little further. With the Advanced Diploma, you will receive more in-depth and intensive input, and the course is on par with the first two years of an undergraduate degree.

In some respects, an Advanced Diploma is similar to that of a Postgraduate Diploma when compared to a Master’s degree, in that you will gain around two-thirds of the credits and level of understanding of the higher qualification. However, Advanced Diploma courses are taken before or in place of undergraduate Bachelor’s degrees, while Postgraduate Diplomas – as the name suggests – are taken after a Bachelor’s degree is completed; essentially post-graduation.

Taking an Advanced Diploma is a fantastic way for you to improve your understanding of a chosen subject, or to lay the groundwork for a path into a specific vocation or Bachelor’s degree. It is shorter and less in-depth than a full undergraduate degree, and far less intensive than a PGDip, but a valuable qualification nonetheless.

Difference between Postgraduate Diploma and MBA

Prestigious, highly valued and one of the most sought-after graduate business degrees around the world, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can drastically improve your career. But what is the difference between a Postgraduate Diploma and an MBA?

While both qualifications are deemed to be a Master’s level, the main difference between the two is that a Master of Business Administration is a degree course, while an equivalent PGDip in business will award you a diploma at the end of the programme.

Both programmes are obviously business-orientated and will equip you with vital skills to advance in your employment, but the MBA is an elite professional qualification. While you may be capable of undertaking a PGDip straight from graduation, a Master of Business Administration is far removed from entry-level and is often taken by knowledgeable or already highly-qualified professionals with several years’ experience in this field.

A Master of Business Administration is often a final step taken towards senior managerial positions, or to completely change careers. And crucially, many business leaders prefer potential staff to hold an MBA rather than a PGDip – a Master of Business Administration will open doors for you the world over.

There is also the intensity of the programme and associated costs with an MBA course. While frequently shorter than a Postgraduate Diploma, such a globally well-respected qualification as an MBA can prove expensive, with fees in the UK alone ranging from £9,000 at York St. John University to London Business School’s near £100,000 for the entire course. Compare this with a PGDip in the University of Birmingham which costs £8,580. And for overseas residents coming to study in the UK, course fees are frequently higher again.

The benefits of a Master in Business Administration can often outweigh the costs, however. Obtaining this qualification may improve your career beyond recognition, with a higher salary, a huge bump in your number of business contacts, and a sky-high reputation.

Yet a Postgraduate Diploma is still an excellent option. Less costly, less challenging, a PGDip is Master’s level and perfect for upwardly-mobile professionals who are seeking to open new doors in their chosen career.

Difference between Undergraduate and Postgraduate Diploma

‘Undergraduate’ is another term for a Bachelor’s level degree qualification. It is typically the type, of course, you will undertake when first entering university in the UK, and can either be a straightforward Bachelor’s degree or a – sometimes – lengthier and more intensive honours degree (which we touch upon further below).

There are a number of variations at Undergraduate level, including a Bachelor of Science (BSc) and Bachelor of Arts (BA), and degree programmes usually take two to three years to complete (albeit longer for part-time or distance learning). It is a standalone course and normally does not require any previous diploma or degree to enrol.

A Postgraduate Diploma, meanwhile, is taken after you have completed an Undergraduate course. It always requires a previous qualification and acts as supplementary – and often specialised and intensive – input on your academic topic.

In short, it’s a second qualification, designed to expand and improve upon your understanding of a chosen subject. You can take a PGDip or PGCert post-graduation from your Bachelor’s programme. Both are usually shorter yet far more complex than an Undergraduate degree and are professionally recognised and respected qualifications. Both postgraduate programmes are also a stepping stone to a full Master’s degree if you choose to change your mode of study.

MSC vs Postgraduate Diploma

As with the Master of Business Administration (MBA), a Master of Science (MSc) is, of course, a Master’s degree: a postgraduate qualification that normally requires you to complete a written dissertation in the final year of the programme.

You will not notice much difference between a Master’s vs Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) bar the length of time spent studying and the lack of a thesis. A PGDip is generally shorter and there is no final written paper or project.

A Master of Science, like the aforementioned Master’s degrees such as the MBA, will provide you with vastly more depth and complexity than a Bachelor’s degree, supplementing your undergraduate studies with greater expertise and understanding. MSc programmes generally comprise of tutorials, group work, lectures and essays, either in person or online or both. The main difference is that to enrol on a Master of Science programme you usually have to graduate as a Bachelor of Science beforehand.

Once again, a Postgraduate Diploma involves the same level of input, content and learning as a Master’s, and the work can be just as challenging to students, but the course length is far shorter – typically two-thirds the length of a full-time Master’s degree – and often less expensive. And, of course, there is no stressful final thesis to deliver.

As well as our new Postgraduate Diplomas, at Roffey Park Institute we offer both a Master of Science degree in People and Organisational Development.

Is Postgraduate Diploma equivalent to honours?

While both honours degrees and Postgraduate Diplomas indicate that you have gone the extra distance with your studies, there are slight differences between the two.

An honours degree in the United Kingdom is essentially a more intensive version of a Bachelor’s degree. It demonstrates that you have achieved a higher level of understanding in your chosen subject than an ordinary undergraduate degree. During your studies you will need to accumulate more credits than a normal degree – the input is more intensive and immersive as a result.

A Bachelor’s degree with Honours is a much-admired qualification and employers will see that you have the necessary determination, commitment and skills that could prove useful to their organisation. You will be able to use the suffix ‘Hons’ after your degree title, for example, BSc (Hons) for a Bachelor of Science with Honours.

A Postgraduate Diploma is also more in-depth but it is taken after an undergraduate degree. Before studying for any type of Postgraduate Diploma you will always need to have achieved a Bachelor’s (or undergraduate) degree – be it a normal qualification or one with honours.

Is a Postgraduate Diploma worth it?

Absolutely! Do you want to improve your career potential? Your earnings? Your reputation? Do you want to demonstrate to your employer that you are driven and incredibly knowledgeable about your role within the organisation? A Postgraduate Diploma can open many doors for you.

So, is a Postgraduate Diploma better than a degree? A PGDip will give you the same level of input as a Master’s but in less time and at less cost. It can help towards a career change, promotion, increased remuneration for your services and more. And it can act as a springboard towards yet higher qualifications, including a full Master’s degree or even a PhD.

Ultimately it is up to you to decide if a Postgraduate Diploma is right for you. There will still be associated costs for any programme you undertake, and in the eyes of some employers, the diploma does not have quite the same value as a full Master’s qualification. You have to be sure that whatever course you embark upon is suitable for your desired career or required by your current employer. Funding, too, can be onerous as your options are more limited.

At Roffey Park Institute we can help you make the right choice and guide you towards the Postgraduate Diploma that is perfect for your personal circumstances.

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