Oxbridge Postgraduate Study

We've found that the Postgraduate process is a recurring subject among our students and getting into Postgrad study at Oxford and Cambridge can be a minefield when you embark on making an application.

Different application processes take place at different universities and we can help you to identify those.

Now that you have a good Bachelors degree, and have achieved at least a lower second class (2:2), it’s vital to get your postgraduate course application simply perfect.

Entry requirements

When you are looking into applying to Oxbridge, it is important to know that both Oxford and Cambridge have differing application processes.

You can always view acceptance rates that may help you decide which one to apply to, but do remember that just because a college is undersubscribed does not mean that your chances of being accepted are increased.

Before you complete an application you have to be sure that you have already, or are likely to, achieve the correct grades at the correct level.

However, grades are not the vital part of the application process; also important is that you have, or will, reach excellent grades in the most relevant subjects.

That said, there are no specific grade requirements and your interview is an essential element of the entry process.

Sometimes students that have achieved, or expect to achieve, a third are sometimes considered but you must have enough professional experience and there is no guarantee that you will be accepted.

For Doctoral courses, you are expected to have at least an upper second class (2:1.)

Will my GCSE or A Level results be considered?

Usually there is no place to record your GCSE or A Level results on the application form though occasionally we recommend listing grades if you have achieved excellent results so that they offer supporting information to decision makers.

Whether you will be asked for your GCSE or A Level grades upon application will also depend on the course you wish to apply for.

As you will be making an application for a specific course that is relevant to the career path you wish to take, it’s vital to get the answers that you need at this stage so that the application form is complete and correct.

You will also need to ensure that your postgraduate personal statement is well written - this is an essential section on the application form.

How will my degree module results be assessed?

Both Cambridge and Oxford will take into consideration the results that you predict.

There is no solid way of assessing modules and each university will measure applications slightly differently.

However, your results may be considered if you have higher pass rates in modules that are more relevant to the course you are applying for.

Does it matter if I’m taking or have taken a joint honours degree?

This is dependent on the courses you have taken or are taking. Joint honours in subjects such as Mathematics and Economics shouldn’t affect your application to Oxbridge.

As long as you are covering relevant topical areas within your degree then a Masters programme should not be any more difficult to get into than, say, those studying single honours.

That said however, the only reason it may be harder to get accepted is because both departments must give you their approval.

Does the ranking of my undergraduate university matter?

If you studied your undergrad at a university lower down the league tables, it is rather easy to think that you instantly will not be accepted as a postgrad at Oxbridge.

However, your grades, your skills, experience and personal statement are all taken into consideration and not usually where you studied.

If you achieved an upper second class (2:1) or a first, and your interview and application form are completed to a high standard, you will be considered.

A lower second class (2:2) is usually negotiable.

One element that will be taken into consideration is whether the departments think that you can handle the work, not where you previously studied.

How do I apply for a postgraduate course at Oxford or Cambridge?

Preparation is the first most essential part of the application process.

Make sure you research fully the course you wish to apply for and ensure that your chosen course is right for you.

Note the course code or codes if you are applying for joint honours, and obtain an online application form – paper forms are only accepted in exceptional circumstances.

Make sure you put together a good personal statement and that you have a good level of referees to add to your application.

When should I apply?

Each programme will have a slightly varying deadline to others and each university works slightly differently when it comes to application form acceptance.

With admissions occurring throughout the year, deadlines can vary but here is an overview:

At Oxford, there are usually three dates set:

  • For applications for admissions for the 2019/20 year the first is in November 2019 (for a small number of courses). 
  • A second deadline is in January 2020 (many courses have a January deadline).  You'll also find that most Oxford scholarship applications are due by this date too. 
  • The third deadline is in March 2020 (for a small number of courses).  It may be possible to apply after 11 March where places are still available.  For more information about deadlines, see the university's application guide.

At Cambridge, deadlines differ depending on the time of admission. 

For example, if you are looking for entry in October the deadline is 30 June, for entry in January the deadline is 30 September, and those looking for entry in April need to get the application in before 31 December.

However, some courses consider applications as they arrive so a course may be full before the stated deadline.  

Find out more information about Cambridge's graduate admissions.

How do I write a personal statement for postgraduate study at Oxbridge?

Fortunately, writing a personal statement for a postgraduate application is not too disimilar from writing an undergraduate one.

Unfortunately, this means it requires some careful thought and at least several redrafts before sending it off.

A well-constructed beginning, middle and end are needed to ensure your application is successful.

As personal statement experts, we've created a postgraduate personal statement area to help you craft the perfect statement.

Here you'll find information on how to set about the task, as well as some example postgraduate statements to see how others have tackled it.

You can also find lots of other general tips and advice in our UCAS personal statements section.

And if you feel you need more of helping hand, take a look at our range of professional personal statement editing and critique packages.

Will I be invited to an interview?

Once you have completed an application form and submitted it before the deadline, the department responsible will review it and may offer you an interview if you have the academic results and if they believe you are suitable for admission into your chosen course.

Both universities do not always hold interviews and sometimes and interview will be held over the telephone.

When will I expect to hear the decision?

Oxford will usually notify you of any conditional offer within 10 weeks if you have been accepted. Cambridge may take a couple of months.

In summary, if you are seeking to apply for admission into a single or joint honours degree at Oxbridge, it’s essential to complete the form correctly, offer supporting information where you need to, and ensure that you have at least a lower second from your undergraduate course.

If you need help with any area of your application, or need to find out more advice on postgraduate courses at Oxbridge, we can help.

As experts in our field we offer assistance in writing your personal statement with our editing and review services.

You can also browse our dedicated postgraduate study section for more general advice about postgraduate applications.

Further information

For more advice on applying to Oxbridge, please see: