Applying to the RAU for postgraduate courses

Applications to study for Masters and research degrees at the Royal Agricultural University need to be made directly through the university.

Please apply via our website, using the online application form. Go to the webpage of the particular course you are interested in and press the ‘Apply’ button. This will also give you some supporting information about the application process. Alternatively, if you are unable to access the online form you can call Admissions on 01285 889912, or  email

We are also happy to consider applications from students wishing to transfer from another university onto an RAU course. Details for how to transfer can be found here.

When to apply

Applications are welcome at any time during the year (with the main application period being between November and May) however it is recommended that you apply as early as possible.

We aim to make decisions on applications within two weeks of having received all required documents.  As part of the online application, you will be asked to:

  • Include a detailed personal statement (you can read our guidance notes here)
  • Upload copies of transcripts and degree certificates for previous study (please note that if the language of the transcript is not in English, we will require a certified translation)
  • Provide contact details for two referees. If you already have the references you can upload them with the application form

English language requirements

If your Bachelor's degree is not from a UK or a majority English speaking country (excluding Canada) or if you are not a national of a majority-English speaking country, then you will need to provide evidence of your English language proficiency.

N.B. The UK has left the EU and the Government has changed immigration requirements, applicants from EU countries may need to obtain a visa to study in the UK from January 2021.

Overview of your studies at the RAU

What to expect as a higher education student at the RAU

Studying for a postgraduate qualification is an extension of your previous university experience. Many of the same study methods still apply as a postgraduate student, however expectations around your performance and levels of independence are increased. It is therefore important that you prepare both mentally and practically for your postgraduate course well in advance of starting.

As with all of our academic programmes we are committed to developing you as a person in order to give you the very best opportunities for employment. We therefore pay as much attention to your transferable skills development as we do your subject knowledge. We have identified six key attributes that we believe make our postgraduates stand out from all the others:

Professionalism, resilience, innovation, global and environmental awareness, collaboration and business acumen

All of our academic activities are therefore geared around the development of your knowledge, intellectual skills and attributes so that you can adapt and grow to meet the challenges of tomorrow. Below are a few pointers to get you started on your postgraduate journey.

What does the academic year look like?

The Higher Education academic calendar is shorter than most school and college years, being just 28 weeks of timetabled contact time, split across two semesters. Each semester has 15 weeks and includes an examinations/assessments and feedback period at the end of each one.

Week 1 of the academic year starts at the end of September and there will be a continual run of 12 weeks until the break for Christmas, with the remaining two weeks of semester 1 running through early January.

Semester 2 then begins and runs until the end of the academic year in May. In addition to these formal teaching weeks, there is also a Freshers' week and induction. The academic year is organised into two semesters with breaks for Christmas and Easter.

Academic year 2023 - 2024

  • New student registration and induction: 18 - 22 September 2023
Semester Start End Length
1 25 September 2023 15 December 2023 12 weeks
Christmas 18 December 2023 5 January 2024 3 weeks
1 continued 8 January 2024 19 January 2024 2 weeks
2 22 January 2024 15 March 2024 8 weeks
Easter 18 March 2024 5 April 2024 3 weeks
2 continued 8 April 2024 24 May 2024 7 weeks

If you are studying for a Masters qualification you will follow this academic calendar for the taught elements and then go on to complete the dissertation element over the summer months, handing in at the end of September. A Masters programme, therefore, takes a full calendar year to complete.

January start

Whilst most postgraduate courses start in September, for some programmes there is an option of starting in January and completing in January of the following year. If this is an option for your chosen course it will be identified on the course information pages and discussed at open day.

Freshers’ induction week

The Freshers' induction week is for first-year students and takes place the week prior to Week 1 (sometimes referred to as ‘Week 0’). Alongside the Students' Union we have organised a range of daytime and evening activities designed to help new students settle in, find their way around campus, become familiar with key members of the teaching team and Support Services and make friends. You will be given full details about your induction week and timetables prior to your arrival.

Pre-sessional activities

Pre-sessional activities may well be held for a number of courses and you will be notified of this during the application process. They are usually there to ensure that your chosen programme of study is right for you, to bridge any knowledge gaps and to help you acclimatise to the UK university system.

How will I be taught?

During your undergraduate degree you probably became familiar with many of the methods of delivery and study that we expect you to continue with during your postgraduate course. It is expected that you come equipped with the basics in academic study, such as the ability to find, evaluate, manage, present and critique research or industry relevant output.

What you can expect from us

There is a greater emphasis on independence and individual contribution towards the topics covered, and so the expectation is that students will actively participate in class-based activities from the outset. Giving presentations, critiquing case studies, using peer-to-peer feedback, working in groups on topical problems and justifying opinions based on the evidence is the norm for postgraduate study.

It is not uncommon for students to arrive at a particular postgraduate qualification with very diverse backgrounds, qualifications and experience, and we welcome these different perspectives in the classroom to bring a debate alive, however, it does require the student to take responsibility for their own subject knowledge gaps and motivate themselves to fill them. Of course, there will be support and guidance provided for good sources of information, however it is not expected that these gaps will be specifically addressed within the taught sessions.

For most postgraduate programmes, group sizes range between 20 – 100 students depending on the course and electives chosen (if relevant). However, alongside the lectures are small group seminars and tutorials where you will have the opportunity to explore key concepts in more detail, discuss topical issues relating to the key themes and undertake practical activities that help set the theories in context. To complement the lectures and seminars, there may also be practical sessions, laboratory classes, off-site visits, case studies, guest speakers and field trips that are included in your timetabled activities, depending on the modules you are studying.

What we expect from you

Part of the reason for studying at postgraduate degree level is so that you are equipped with the knowledge and skills for your career. It is crucial for you to monitor and evaluate your own progress, take responsibility for your own learning and work collaboratively to solve problems. Postgraduate programmes help you develop these skills. Students and lecturers are on a truly collaborative journey as you move through your course and it is only fully effective if both parties are genuinely engaged.

Often students will see their timetable and misinterpret the non-timetabled slots as ‘free time’. Whilst there may be room in your schedule for other activities, the time in between lectures is there for you to work on assignments, group activities, prepare for lectures and seminars and deepen your understanding of the subject.

For every one timetabled hour, it is anticipated that on average two further hours are spent studying, so make sure you plan your priorities and use this time wisely. Of course there are many other things competing for your time and energy, and we want you to become involved with the social side of university life, but make sure this is not at the expense of your place at university. Part of your development is the skill of time management and priority setting, which we can support you with.

Supporting your development

For every piece of coursework you carry out you will receive constructive feedback not only on the knowledge and understanding of your subject but also how well you have demonstrated the skills and abilities that we are looking for in our postgraduates.

These summative assessments contribute towards your final module mark, which in turn contributes towards your end of year mark. Your feedback is provided online, so that you have a permanent record, which is important because when you carry out your next piece of coursework we will expect you to use your feedback to improve.

It’s important that you understand the feedback you have been given and ask questions to help develop your understanding. In addition to the online feedback it is highly likely that the lecturer will go through general aspects of the coursework with the whole group during face-to-face sessions or in a one-to-one, where appropriate.

To help prepare for these summative exercises there will be plenty of opportunities to practise the skills required for your assessments and gain feedback on your performance. These formative opportunities are extremely important and are usually embedded into lectures, seminars and the other activities that make up your course.

Feedback on these activities is usually continual and in a whole variety of forms – it may come from your peer group, question and answer sessions, one-to-one tutorials, exercises set in class or as a result of practising a skill and testing your abilities. The important thing is to recognise these as opportunities to learn more about the subject, how well you understand it and your ability to apply your developing skill set.

Supporting your wellbeing

When you first enrol, you will be assigned a personal tutor who will meet with you at least once a term, but you can request a meeting at any time. Meeting with your personal tutor offers the chance to talk through any issues, and may be all it takes to find a resolution for any challenges you are facing, but if necessary they are also able to guide you towards more specialist services.

Student Support Services encompass a whole host of personal, financial, health and well-being resources that can offer advice and support during your time at the RAU.

We have a team of academic support mechanisms to help with disabilities and identified learning needs. The important thing is to talk to your tutor early on about how we can best support you with practical solutions that help you achieve your full potential.