Further Study


Once you have completed a qualification at the university, you may choose to undertake further study.  One of the main reasons people undertake further study is that gaining qualifications at higher levels typically opens further career options.

The main options are summarised below, but the university also produces a sheet on progression routes that demonstrates the typical pathways students might follow between courses.

Further study options after an HNC or HND

Broadly an HNC gives you a qualification at the same sort of level as the first year of a degree, and an HND gives you a qualification at the same sort of level as the second year of a degree. HNC and HND students commonly progress onto degree level study, 'counting' some of their HNC or HND studies towards their degree level studies. How easy it is to progress to a degree depends on whether you continue to study the same subject and you continue to study at the same place. So, for example if you study for an HNC and HND at the University of the Highlands and Islands it is usually fairly straightforward to continue to a degree programme (as long as one exists in your subject) without having to repeat any years. However, if you switch subject or switch university you may have to repeat a year or years.

Undertaking degree level study can be beneficial as it tends to open more opportunities for employment - such as graduate training schemes and graduate placements. Some careers also require specific degrees - such as teaching, nursing and social work. You can check what qualifications are needed for different careers by using a careers database such as the one offered by prospects, or myworldofwork. Discussing your further study options and your career ideas with your Personal Academic Tutor or a careers advisercan be helpful if you are trying to decide whether or not to continue with your studies.

Further study options after a Degree

Many students decide after their first degree to go onto further study of some kind. Motivations for further study include:

  • Extending your knowledge: an MSc or PhD will commonly allow you to take a subject that you were interested in during your undergraduate degree and study it in more depth.
  • Vocational relevance: some careers may require further study if you don't have an undergraduate degree in the right subject, for example, nursing, teaching, and social work. Graduates with a first degree can often take shortened postgraduate courses in order to qualify in these professions. If you have a particular career in mind you may want to check what the qualification requirements are by looking up details of the career on a careers database, such as the one offered by prospects.
  • To put off entry into the working world: this is perhaps not the best reason for undertaking further study, so be sure to ask yourself if this is your motivation. In some cases where employment opportunities are negatively affected by recession it may be that further study is a way to fill a hole in a CV but it can be a very expensive option and you may like to ask yourself if you would be better off doing something else.


After a Degree: Kinds of course

You can study part time or full time, and there is a range of opportunities with the University of the Highlands and Islands as well as with other institutions. A database of post-graduate courses is available to search online.

Post-graduate courses may be offered at certificate, diploma, masters or doctoral level and they may be designated by a range of letters including PGCert (Postgraduate Certificate) MSc (Master of Sciences) MA (Master of Arts) MEng (Master of Engineering) MPhil (Master of Philosophy), MLitt (Master of Literature), PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). There is more information about postgraduate study on the prospects website.

Funding for further study

Funding for undergraduate courses including HNC, HND and degree courses is primarily handled by the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS). Funding is normally available to Scottish students for the minimum number of years needed to complete a full time programme of study - this covers four years for an undergraduate degree. However, if you have to repeat a year because of moving from an HNC to an HND or from an HNC or an HND to a degree you may be offered an extra year of funding. What this means is that there is not a limitless supply of funding and it is important wherever possible to choose the right course first time round, as doing second or third HNCs, degrees or HNDs may be more challenging to fund. The rules around funding are complex, and part time study is funded differently to full time study so if you have questions speak to SAAS or send a request to speak to a Careers Adviser.

Funding for post-graduate courses is a great deal more complicated than for undergraduate courses, and different courses may offer different  funding routes, so it is important to familiarise yourself with your options. Key points to note are:

  • Some courses have specialist funding routes available - such as PGDEs where support is available through SAAS
  • In addition every year support is offered for a select list of postgraduate courses through SAAS.
  • Most courses have no specific funding routes available and although there is some grant funding available through research boards this nowhere near covers the number of places on courses.

If the course you want to do has no funding routes attached then you will want to research your options. You may consider searching for studentships or consider studying part-time while working. More information about funding for postgraduate courses is available from the prospects website. You can search for studentships on the jobs.ac.uk website.

Further information

Students and recent graduates (within two years) can contact the Career Centre to discuss options for further study or for information about funding. We can also help with filling in course application forms.