Whilst it isn’t the norm, plenty of people of all ages study for their university degrees part-time. But what is a part-time degree? How different is it? How does it work? We’ve got a breakdown of absolutely everything that you need to know about doing a part-time degree.
What is a part-time degree?
Both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees can be done part-time. This means doing your course for longer, but with less weekly contact time and work. Full-time courses usually involve around 21 hours of studying (either in or out of classroom), and part-time studies involve much less than this. How much study time and contact time your course will require will depend on your course and provider.
What are the benefits of a part-time degree?
Part-time degrees are different, but that doesn’t mean they are worth any less. In fact, they have a few benefits that make them more attractive to a range of people.
1. Ideal for postgraduate study
Part-time degrees are most commonly taken at postgraduate level, and this is because they really suit that level of study and the logistics of living and studying. When you apply for a masters, the student finance works slightly differently, and you only got one loan. The loan can be up to just over 11k, and you can use it how you wish. Most students use this loan to pay their tuition fees (or as much of their fees as possible) and then work to pay for living costs. In expensive parts of the country, students often find they need to work full-time, and that’s where the part-time masters course comes in!
2. Gives you the chance to get experience
With the course only being part-time, students have the opportunity to work in a job more tailored to what they want to do. This gives them the chance to learn key skills that they can use on their portfolio or CV after their masters degrees. This gives students a bit of an edge over other students who perhaps haven’t had the chance to work during their labour intensive full-time degree.
3. Builds up essential skills
As well as work experience, studying part-time also requires students to learn some really key skills, including:
- Time management
- Self control
- Self motivation
- How to prioritise
These skills will not only help students throughout their studies, especially if they continue on to PhDs, but they will be incredibly beneficial in the world of work, and will look incredible on their resumes! Read our guide to the skills that graduates will need entering the workforce, here.
4. More flexibility
Perhaps one of the main reasons people choose to study part-time is the flexibility that it provides. Studying part-time allows parents, carers and people with other responsibilities to still do their studies whilst not having to find childcare or other carers. Part-time courses are also great for students who have an interest in travelling. Whatever else is going on in someone’s life, a part-time degree allows that to continue whilst still getting to do their studies!
What are the downsides of a part-time degree?
All that being said, there are of course downsides to studying part-time. But whether these downsides outweigh the upsides may vary from person to person.
1. Takes longer
Since the course is only studied part of the time, it means less contact hours on a weekly basis, and subsequently the course has to last longer in order to fit in enough teaching and learning time. Typically, an undergraduate part-time course could take 5 years as opposed to 3, and a postgraduate course such as an MA might take 2 to 3 years rather than 1. This means that students have to wait longer before they’re fully qualified, however, they do also get to work alongside their degrees. Additionally, if you are entering into a part-time degree later in life, you might want to read our evaluation on the pros and cons of being a mature student, here.
2. Trying to balance time
Part-time degrees are a great way to learn how to balance your time, but for those who struggle to do so, they can also be an incredibly stressful thing. For anyone who sincerely struggles to prioritise, or is a chronic procrastinator, part-time degrees may prove to be incredibly difficult, as they require a lot of discipline and self-motivation.
Do all universities offer part-time degrees?
No, not every university host part-time courses. However, as part-time degrees gain popularity, more universities are beginning to offer them. More universities offer part-time postgraduate degrees than undergraduate, but there are a good number of part-time undergraduate courses available across the country.
How does student finance work for part-time degrees?
Student finance will indeed give students funding for their part-time degree, but it does work a little bit differently. You can get funding for undergraduate part-time degrees so long as your course has a ‘course intensity’ of 25%. This means that you’re studying at least 25% of the credits that a full-time equivalent would. If you’re unsure about this, speak to your university. For postgraduate part-time courses, you can get funding so long as you are not already getting payments from Student Finance for another course, you’ve not received payment for another masters course, you’ve not already got a masters qualification, and so long as you’re not falling behind in your student finance payments from previous loans.
How does the tuition fee loan work for part-time degrees?
For undergraduate part-time courses, you can get up to £6,935 for tuition, and just like full-time courses, this is paid directly to the university. For postgraduate courses, the loan works a little bit differently. You don’t get two separate loans, simply just one loan of up to just over £11k. This is paid directly to your bank account, and you can decide how to manage it. It is recommended to use it towards your tuition fees, however this is up to you, and how each university charges for their course will vary.
How does a maintenance loan work for part-time degrees?
Undergraduate students applying for student finance for a part-time degree are eligible for a maintenance loan that will depend on their income, course intensity and where they live. Postgraduate part-time students will simply get the one loan, as mentioned. You can read our full guide on Maintenance loans here.
Are all part-time degrees online?
Some part-time undergraduate and postgraduate degrees are largely (or entirely) based online and are studied through distance learning. However, this is not always the case. It depends on the university and the course as to whether you will be taught by blended learning, in person or online.
In fact, many of the individual details will largely depend on the course and the university. Some universities have online courses that are completely online and largely self-taught, whereas others are structured exactly like the usual course, but split over a longer time period.
So, now you know everything you need to know about doing a part-time degree. Do you have any more questions? Share your thoughts in the comments.