Admissions principles and procedures for postgraduate taught programmes

  1. Aims
  2. Monitoring of admissions
  3. Consistency
  4. Responsibilities
  5. Application process
  6. Selection and admission
  7. Offers
  8. Acceptance and confirmation
  9. Applicants to whom an offer is not made

1. Aims

1.1. The University’s postgraduate students have lively, enquiring minds and a fascination for their subject. The University’s postgraduate admissions processes are intended to identify the most talented and able students worldwide.

1.2. The University of Bristol aims to:

1.3. The University will achieve these aims by:

1.4. The Admissions Principles and Procedures through which the University assesses applications and offers places are designed to be:

1.5. The University will review its admissions principles and procedures annually in the light of experience, research and best practice.

2. Monitoring of Admissions

2.1. Under Statute 21 of the University, Senate regulates the admission of students, subject to the Charter, Statutes, Ordinances and Regulations.

2.2. The Student Recruitment Committee (SRC) is tasked with ensuring that key policies and procedures relating to the recruitment and admission of all students are consistent with each other. The Group is chaired by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) and includes a representative member of academic staff from two different faculties, the Director of Student Recruitment, Access and Admissions, and the Vice-President (Education) of the Students’ Union.

2.3. In relation to postgraduate study the Student Recruitment Committee (SRC) is responsible for:

2.4. SRC reports to the Education Committee and makes an annual report to Senate. In order to respond to rapidly changing circumstances, the Chair is empowered to act on behalf of the Committee between meetings.

2.5. The University Graduate Studies Committee (UGSC) is a subcommittee of the Education Committee chaired by the Academic Director of Graduate Studies. Membership includes the Graduate Education Director from each Faculty. The role of the UGSC is:

3. Consistency

3.1. All Faculties and Schools must act in a way consistent with the University’s Admissions Aims (see section 1.2) and must follow the principles and procedures set out in this document.

3.2. The Student Recruitment Committee (SRC) will require an Admissions Statement for each programme or group of programmes admitting postgraduate taught students, providing details of the entry requirements and local procedures which will be followed for all programmes of study, in line with the University’s Admissions Principles and Procedures.

3.3. Each Faculty or School (as appropriate) will use its statement(s) to seek approval from the Group for the proposed method by which they will admit students. The Postgraduate Recruitment and Admissions Office will approve individual Admissions Statements. For monitoring purposes, the Student Recruitment Committee (SRC) will consider a sample of approved statements on an annual basis.

3.4. Admissions Statements will include:

3.5. Admissions Statements will be accessible on the University’s website.

3.6. The Postgraduate Recruitment and Admissions Office will develop web-based support materials for those engaged in admission to postgraduate taught programmes. The office will also keep an up to date list of postgraduate admissions tutors for communications purposes, and provide training and access to up-to-date information on changes in legislation, qualifications and other contextual information as well as University policy and practice by means of regular meetings of a Postgraduate Admissions Forum. The aim will be to ensure that any training is relevant to the needs of those admitting to postgraduate taught programmes and focused on helping them to do their job effectively. Training providers will include staff with professional expertise in the relevant areas of legislation and policy as well as experienced postgraduate admissions tutors.

4. Responsibilities

4.1. Faculties, and in particular the Graduate Education Directors, are ultimately responsible to the University for the admission of their postgraduate students, and must ensure that processes are in place to handle enquiries and applications and to admit students, in accordance with the University’s Admissions Principles and Procedures.

4.2. Control over entry to any programme remains with faculties, acting on the advice of schools/departments in the evaluation and acceptance of student transfers and accreditation of prior learning. Control over entry to a particular unit and programme transfers within a school or department remains with the relevant school/department.

4.3. The University deadline for postgraduate applications is 1 August preceding the commencement of the programme. Schools/departments may, subject to Faculty approval, specify a programme-specific closing date for applications but may only do so if this is published in their Admissions Statement, in the prospectus and on the University website.

4.4. Key staff who are responsible for admissions are listed below:

5. Application Process

5.1. With the exception of PGCE applications (which are made through the Graduate Teacher Training Registry) and applications for the MSc in Social Work (which can be made through UCAS), applications for all programmes should be made using the University’s standard form (either online or paper) in accordance with the procedure described in the prospectus and on the website. The University reserves the right not to consider incomplete applications. Submission of incomplete applications can lead to delays in processing.

5.2. While there is no university-wide charge to applicants for consideration of their applications, individual departments may, if they wish, introduce their own charge. In such cases, departments are expected to ensure that details of the amount payable and mechanism for payment are published in their Admissions Statement, in the prospectus and on the university website.

5.3. Self-funded international students applying for taught programmes are required to pay a minimum compulsory deposit of £1,000 but may optionally pay up to the full cost of the tuition fee for the first year. The payment of a deposit is likely to ease their application for a visa. Students whose fees are being paid by an external organisation or sponsor (e.g., a government department or recognised charity) are not required to pay a deposit. The deposit can be paid online on the deposits payment page. The deposit is non-transferable and non-refundable except under the circumstances outlined in the International deposits refund policy.

5.4 Where an additional programme-specific deposit is required by way of acceptance of an offer, departments must make this, and the mechanism for making payments, clear in their Admissions Statement, in the prospectus and on the university website.

5.5 Competition for funding for postgraduate study is fierce, and funding is often tied to a sponsor’s conditions. In some cases, this may impact on the decision to accept an application. Where there is a possibility of this occurring, this must also be explained in the Admissions Statement.

6. Selection and Admission

Entry requirements

6.1. Applicants to postgraduate programmes are normally expected to have good higher education qualifications, and entry requirements are specified at programme level.

6.2. The University’s minimum requirements for entry to taught postgraduate programmes are a first degree, normally at UK Honours Upper Second (2:1) level or equivalent, OR evidence of prior learning, relevant professional work experience, or academic achievement that enables the University to assess the candidate’s potential to succeed in the programme applied for. Applicants with a lower Second level (2:2) Honours degree may only be admitted to specific programmes (detailed in the Prospectus) where there is clear evidence of academic potential at taught postgraduate level. Applicants whose first language is not English are also required to satisfy the University’s English language entry requirements policy. Faculties, schools and departments should encourage students to attend English language courses as appropriate, either before their programme begins (if the IELTS score is lower than required before admission), or at the start of the programme.

6.3 Acceptance of Accredited Prior (Experiential/Certified) Learning (AP(E/C)L) credit will be in line with the University’s guidance.

Experience and/or Qualifications received via an online or distance learning programme such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) will be considered on an individual basis and at the discretion of the school in consultation with the Dean of Graduate Studies. Advice should be sought from the Academic Director of Technology Enhanced learning.

All cases will require prior approval by the Programme Director and Graduate Education Director. The maximum credit for which Accredited Prior Learning can be accepted is one third of a programme, i.e., 60 credit points APL for a 180 credit point Masters programme.

6.4. Professional programmes which lead to a recognised professional qualification may require a specific professional qualification and a number of years of relevant professional experience prior to admission, e.g., “an Education degree plus one year of post-professional experience”; “a qualified medical degree and, in addition, 2-3 years experience and evidence of interest in Continuing Professional Development in the subject”.


6.5. The University recognises the diversity of educational backgrounds from which its future students come. There are many ways of demonstrating the academic promise and ability to benefit from study and it is recognised that educational systems and choices vary extensively worldwide.

6.6. Postgraduate Admissions Tutors must ensure that their programmes have explicit criteria by which applications are judged, which support the University’s Admissions Aims and are in accordance with the principles in this document.

6.7. These criteria could be articulated at programme, department, school or faculty level, to meet local preferences and needs. Criteria should include elements that allow the following judgments to be made:

6.8. The University upholds the principles of equality and diversity, respect and dignity. Candidates are not discriminated against on the grounds of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, religion or belief, disability, health or age.

6.9. The University’s core requirements in respect of admissions decisions on formal applications for taught postgraduate programmes are set out below.

6.10. All applications are considered by at least two members of the appropriate admissions team, and in the majority of cases one will be an academic member of staff.

6.11. Admissions decisions will take into account the completed application form, two academic references, and the verified degree transcript. Admissions staff will be aware of University admissions guidance such as the Admissions Principles and Procedures for Postgraduate Taught Programmes and Guidelines on the Accreditation of Prior Learning. The reasons for an admission decision will be recorded for all applications.

6.12. Admissions staff will assess the academic potential of individual candidates and take into consideration the University’s Admissions Principles and Procedures and programme entry requirements. Selectors must ensure that all admissions decisions take account of equality and diversity policy and are based on fair and justifiable criteria.

6.13. Consideration of applications from students who declare a disability is based on the same criteria and principles as for other candidates. The University is seeking to reduce any barriers that might confront a student with a disability seeking to study at Bristol. A decision may need to take into account any overriding health and safety concerns, barriers relating to professional requirements, or the University's ability or inability to make any necessary reasonable adjustments. Such cases will be addressed on an individual basis. Implementation of the Admissions Principles and Procedures will be sensitive to the different experiences of disabled applicants, and will take into account their response to the opportunities and challenges they have encountered, on the understanding that these may be individual to the applicant. Applicants with a disability are encouraged to disclose this to the University, to enable any necessary reasonable adjustments to be planned in support of their education. Failure to do so may impact on the ability to make any necessary reasonable adjustments.

6.14. Admissions staff will disregard any criminal convictions that are spent under the terms of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, unless the programme of study is likely to bring the student into contact with children or vulnerable adults. Where this is the case, a disclosure will be sought through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Where an applicant has an unspent (or spent in relevant cases) conviction, a decision on whether to offer a place will be made by a group convened by the Academic Registrar according to the procedure set out in our procedures for the recruitment of students who are ex-offenders.

6.15. When considering an application, the University of Bristol will take into account whether or not a student is able to meet the necessary UK visa requirements for the full duration of their programme. The University reserves the right to reject an application, in circumstances where these requirements cannot be met.

6.16. In order to avoid the proliferation of potentially dangerous technologies in unstable or unfriendly regimes, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) runs an Academic Technology Approval Scheme. This scheme is compulsory for overseas applicants from outside the EU and approval by the FCO under the terms of the scheme is a requirement for entry to a number of programmes.

6.17. The University of Bristol is not prepared to admit applications on the strength of information believed to be either fraudulent or plagiarised, and reserves the right to reject or cancel an application under these circumstances, as outlined in the University statement of policy on fraudulent applications.

6.18. The University reserves the right to exclude a candidate who is considered on justifiable grounds to be unsuitable for a place on a particular course or for attendance at the University.


6.19. In general, the University does not require candidates to be interviewed. Schools/departments may interview candidates, subject to clearly explaining why and how the interview will be used in assessing the candidates, and to following University-approved procedures. These are:

i. All candidates must be treated on an equal and fair basis.

ii. Interviews intended to select students must normally be conducted by at least two people, including a member of staff who has undergone University-provided training on fair and effective recruitment techniques.

iii. The interview and consequent decision-making will be consistent with the University's policy on equal opportunities. Questions related to the race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, religion or age of the applicant must not be raised either at the interview or in subsequent discussion. However, staff should encourage applicants to disclose any disability to the University, to help ensure that any necessary adjustments can be planned to support their education.

iv. Criteria for measuring a candidate's performance must be specified in the Admissions Statement.

v. A standard format note of the interview must be taken and submitted to the Admissions Tutor.

vi. Where appropriate, telephone interviews by conference call may be conducted.

Additional material

6.20. The University does not normally require applicants to provide supplementary written work for admission. However, departments may ask applicants for an example of their work, or set them a written task, subject to explaining clearly why and how this will be used in assessing the candidate. For example, applicants may be asked to provide a creative piece of work or a critical essay on a specific topic where additional professional or other vocational selection criteria exist.

7. Offers

7.1 Wherever possible, applicants to PG taught programmes will receive a decision within 21 calendar days of submitting a complete application.

7.2. Faculty Offices normally make formal offers on behalf of the University. Offers may be made with or without conditions attached. The levels of conditional offers made must normally be in line with published entry requirements and may not vary substantially from these.

7.3. All offers, including unconditional offers are made in good faith, and the University reserves the right to withdraw an offer on justifiable grounds.

7.4. In determining the number of offers to be made, Admissions Tutors must take account of the student number targets agreed by the University Planning and Resources Committee on an annual basis.

8. Acceptance and Confirmation

8.1. Applicants are required to confirm their acceptance of an offer within 40 days of the date of the offer being made. The University does not guarantee to hold open places for offer holders who have not confirmed their acceptance.

8.2 Where a conditional offer is made applicants are expected to provide the University with evidence that any offer conditions have been met. The Admissions Statement should make clear the timeframe in which applicants are expected to confirm acceptance of an offer or provide evidence that conditions have been met. The Admissions Statement should also make clear if it is possible for candidates to apply for deferred entry to a programme.

8.3. International applicants should indicate whether they require the University to act as a sponsor for the purposes of a visa application.

8.5. The University has contingency plans in place to enable it to cope with failure of these processes (for example, localised computer systems failure) or in the event of candidates being unable to satisfy their offer conditions because the outcomes of previous qualifications have been delayed by strike action, by natural disasters or similar unforeseen circumstances beyond the applicant’s control. However, depending on the timescale, the amount of information available and availability of places, it might be necessary to offer a place for the following academic year (ie deferred entry).

9. Applicants to whom an offer is not made

9.1. Unsuccessful applicants will be informed in writing. The reasons for an admission decision should be recorded for every application.

9.2. Due to the volume of applications received by the University, we regret that it is not possible for us to enter into correspondence with unsuccessful applicants.

9.3. The University will correspond about a decision only with the candidate, unless the candidate provides written permission for the University to discuss it with another person. There is no right of appeal and the decision will not be reviewed. However, concerns that the University’s Admissions Principles and Procedures have been incorrectly implemented may be investigated under the Applicant feedback and complaints procedures.