Frequently Asked Questions

How will I develop as a Postgraduate Student?

As you move from undergraduate to postgraduate study, you will find a much stronger emphasis on self-directed learning, and an expectation that your own intellectual curiosity will drive your studies to a far greater extent. You will need to be able to deal with a greater level of abstraction and theoretical complexity. You will be expected to engage with and in the most up-to-date research or professional practices, and develop your own innovative ways of thinking about topics. You will need to develop your critical research and enquiry skills, as well as relevant technical and practical skills. You will become a much more autonomous learner, developing the skills of self-organisation and self-motivation. You will also need to learn to deal with the unpredictable nature of research, and how to cope with both negative and positive results from your data and/or research. Lastly, you will learn about appropriate professional attitudes, behaviour and values in your discipline, including learning ethical behaviours, developing academic integrity, recognising the need to reflect on methodology, and becoming part of a research community.

How can I improve my learning and research skills?

  • Identify your strengths: Think how you can use them to your best advantage, but also how you can make them even stronger.
  • Identify your weaknesses: Actively explore ways to address these and turn them into strengths.

How does feedback help develop learning and research skills?

  • Remember that all of us in universities receive feedback on a regular basis, whether students or staff.
  • Be open to feedback, even though it may sometimes be given less sensitively than it should; don’t be defensive or closed to the idea of feedback, and look for the useful comments, positive or negative.
  • Don’t feel that you necessarily have to accept all the feedback comments you receive, but don’t simply reject the feedback out of hand.
  • Actively reflect upon the feedback and develop practical ways to adapt your learning in light of it. Put these changes into practice thereafter.
  • Do approach your supervisor / tutors and seek clarification if you are unclear about aspects of their feedback.
  • See our Feedback Policy

Where do I find information on my programme and my modules?

It is also very important that your familiarise yourself with the Regulations for Postgraduate Taught Students.

Canvas is the intranet site at the University which houses all the materials for your modules. This will include details of how each module will run; materials you need for seminars and lectures, reading lists and announcements. You should check Canvas very regularly. Once matriculated, you will gain access to Canvas and the module information relevant to you.

Where do I find information about the University?

The portal is a good place to start. This can be accessed on the website (bottom right of the home page), once you have log in details. The portal gives up to date information and news, along with key information such as semester dates, exam information, access to University regulations, your grades etc. Make sure you familiarize yourself with its contents and keep checking it throughout semester.

You can also find detailed information on the Faculty of Arts and Humanities postgraduate web pages.

What are the semester dates?

The semester dates are available here.

How does a Postgraduate Taught degree work?

Universities work on a credit system so each module taken awards credits towards your degree. A module is usually a subject taken for one semester (12 weeks). A Postgraduate Taught Degree Programme consists of 180 credits, taken over 12 months full-time or 24-27 months part-time. Degrees vary in how they are constructed: details of the degree programme structure of your degree can be found on programme information pages.

Can I choose any module I like?

Some modules are “core” or “compulsory” for your programme, which means you must take them to be awarded your degree. Other subjects are optional and can be chosen from a list in the degree tables.

How will I be taught?

Postgraduate Masters courses are usually taught by means of seminars. They are small groups (5-20 students) where you will have a substantial volume of reading and thinking to discuss and check out your understanding with the module coordinator. You should prepare any work or reading as required by instructions on Canvas. This is a good opportunity to ask questions. The M.Res. in Historical Research, the M.Res. in Humanities and the M.Res. in Media Research, are more like the Ph.D. programme in being taught largely by independent reading and writing under the supervision of and in regular discussion with your supervisor.

All teaching staff also have offices hours or drop in sessions. This is a time when you can go along to their offices to see them and discuss any problems you have, ask questions or receive more feedback. This is a really important resource for students to get one-to-one attention and you should use it. Details of when and where your programme coordinator and module coordinators are available will be on Canvas and in the module outline.

Regular attendance at classes is essential: see the University’s Attendance and Engagement code of practice.

Some Masters programmes host guest speakers to enrich classes. Please make attending these lectures a priority. This is a courtesy to our guests, but we also expect that you will benefit substantially from attending these events.

What do I do when I am not in seminars?

A lot of time at University is spent on individual study. Each 20 credit module is the equivalent of 200 hours of study over a semester and so you are expected to study for 600 hours each semester. Individual study makes up most of this time. This will include going over notes from seminars, reading, preparing answers to seminar questions and preparing assignments. You can work in groups, which helps you revise and discuss subjects. Do not, however, work with other students on assessed work, unless it is group work, because assessments must be produced on your own.

Each Division holds its own Research Seminar programme, as do some subject areas within Divisions. You are warmly invited, and strongly advised, to attend these seminars, which are the heart of our research activity. Research Seminars offer the opportunity to hear experts in your discipline presenting cutting-edge new research, as well as the chance to meet and socialise with other postgraduates and staff in your Divisions.

You are also entitled to attend the research seminars and guest  in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, and the University as a whole, and should look out for information about topics of interest to you, even if they are nominally not within your own field of study.

Two heads are better than one

It can be really daunting when you start at a new University to find your way around and understand how things work. It is much easier if you can make connections with other students in your modules. Take every opportunity in classes to meet people and share information and support. It is likely that you will be given group tasks to do that will help you make these connections.

How is a degree awarded?


How will I be assessed?

Each module is assessed to test the learning outcomes of the module. These can be found in the programme table and in the module outline, which you will receive at the start of each module on Canvas – the University intranet site. Assessment types vary in different programmes and even in different modules  within a programme in order to test skills appropriate to each subject: at Masters level, these can include essays, reports, presentations, group work and practical projects.

Most Masters programmes also involve you in writing an extended project, or dissertation, which is usually worth 60 credits (and sometimes more). The module outline will set out the details for each module and the module coordinator will give you more details as required. They will help you understand what is required before you start the assessment and will advise you when they are available to answer questions you may have. Check Canvas for FAQs regarding the dissertation requirements for your own programme.

When do I have to complete assignments?

Deadlines are set out on Canvas and in the module outlines. These are strict deadlines. If you submit work late it will have marks deducted and could result in receiving a mark of 0.

How do I submit assignments?

Check Canvas and the module information very carefully as instructions can vary. Check well before the deadline so you do not have a last minute panic.

What is Turnitin?

Turnitin is software which checks to ensure your work is your own. Most assignments at the University have to be submitted via Turnitin electronically and, possibly, as well as a hard copy. Turnitin submission is available on Canvas in your module area and it is possible to submit it early to check for any problems in advance of final submission.

What do my marks mean?

All modules are marked against a mark descriptor which describes what the mark means. You can find these mark descriptors here.

What feedback can I expect?

You are entitled to feedback in line with the University feedback policy. It is your responsibility to pick up feedback, to ask any questions you have to clarify feedback and to reflect on what you will do differently in future.

What happens if I am ill or can’t hand in an assessment or essay during the semester?

You should contact your module co-ordinator (details are in the module outline on Canvas). If you explain the circumstances to them, they may be able to help you.

What happens if I miss the deadline for handing in a piece of work?

Deadlines are important at University. It is part of being an independent learner that you are able to manage your time and meet deadlines. Normally a piece of work submitted late will have 3% deducted from its mark for each day after the deadline. If there is a good reason why you think you are going to miss a deadline, contact your module co-ordinator before the deadline to explain and ask for an extension. If you are simply late, still hand in the work. You will still receive marks for the work if it is a few days late, even though it is penalised.

How is my final module mark calculated?

Once all the assessments on the module are completed, the marks from each part will be added together to reach an overall mark. The pass mark in Postgraduate Taught modules is 50%.

What happens if I fail a module?

If you fail one or more elements of a module, you will be given the opportunity to resit the exam or assessment. If you pass the assessment when you resit the exam or assessment, your grade will be “capped” at 50%. This means you cannot receive more than 50% for the module when you resit.

If you fail the resit there are a few more options available to you and your Advisor of Studies will be able to help you with understanding your options.

What happens if I just miss passing a module?

It may be that you will be eligible for compensation if you narrowly fail a module. Compensation allows one module worth up to 30 credits (20 credits for PG Cert) to be noted as a pass by compensation, which means you will still receive the credits for that module at Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level 10 towards your degree. A marginal fail in a dissertation (or equivalent) is not eligible for compensation. The decision on compensation is made centrally, annually, after resit exams have taken place.

English is not my first language. How can I access English language support?

INTO is a partnership with the University of Stirling that offers academic preparation courses and English language programmes designed specifically for international students. The courses help prepare students for entry to university in the UK and acclimatise students to living and studying in a university environment.

We also run a comprehensive in-sessional language support programme in partnership with INTO which will support all international students through their studies. this service is provided as part of all of our programmes.

Who can I ask for help?

Where can I find out the University rules?

I don’t understand some of the terms used at the University of Stirling

Compensation - The awarding of a pass mark where the module mark is just below the pass mark.

Component of Assessment - A module is assessed by one or more elements of assessment (e.g. examination, coursework, or practical). These components contribute to the overall result for the module.

Credit - A system for determining the time and duration of study needed to gain a particular award. The structure of most taught programmes are expressed in terms of the number of credits required to complete the programme. Credit levels are defined by SCQF. Each credit point represents an average of 10 hours of learning.

Dissertation - An extended piece of written work or research project looking at a subject in more depth. This is the final piece of work for a Masters degree.

Module - Undergraduate and Postgraduate Taught courses are broken down into discrete parts or units.

Compulsory Module - This is a core module which must be taken as part of a particular degree programme and is named in the Degree Programme Table

Optional Module - An elective module that a student may choose to take as part of their degree programme.

Pre-requisitesPre-requisites (compulsory pass): in order to take module A, a student must pass module B.

Prerequisites (module content): in order to take module A, a student must have taken and satisfied the published requirements for, although not necessarily passed, module B.

Prerequisites (recommended): in order to take module A it is recommended that the student has taken and passed module B.

Programme of Study - A Programme of Study incorporates the qualification and, where applicable, the subject(s) studied, for instance, MSc in Investment Analysis. All programmes are modular and based on the accumulation of credit. Credit levels are defined by SCQF. The level and amount of credit required depends on the type of qualification.

Re-assessment - Re-assessment provides students with a second opportunity to demonstrate their learning and their competence to progress to further study. In terms of examinations this may be referred to as a resit.

Faculty - One of the academic areas of the University. Academic units within a faculty are referred to as Divisions.

Semester - The academic year is split into two semesters (Autumn & Spring), and the summer dissertation-writing period.

Seminar - A teaching class, overseen by a lecturer, which usually has a smaller number of students than a lecture and is more interactive.

Turnitin - An online plagiarism detection system which works by comparing student assignments against text on the internet and previously submitted assignments.

See Definition of University Terms

© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
Portal Logon