I'm currently applying to an MSc programme at Imperial College London but at the bottom of the page for each of the programmes I am considering, it states the following:

"A Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Diploma are not available on this programme."

Is this usual for MSc programmes? What exactly does it mean?

  • 1
    In my country, a Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma usually doesn't require a student to submit a thesis.
    – kitty
    Jan 20 '15 at 17:40

What are postgraduate diplomas and certificates?

Postgraduate diplomas (PGDip, PgDip, PG Dip, PGD or PgD) and certificates (PGCert, PgCert, PG Cert, PGC or PgC) usually follow Bachelors study in a similar subject. They are both at level 7 on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and generally vocational in nature, which makes them a popular choice for professionals looking to boost their CV.

The key difference between the two is that a postgraduate diploma is more extensive. Postgraduate diplomas require that you gain 120 credits, the equivalent of 30 weeks' full-time study. Meanwhile, a postgraduate certificate usually requires just 60 credits, the equivalent of 15 weeks' full-time study. Diplomas take around 6-12 months to complete when taken on a full-time basis, but part-time study can take up to a few years. Both diplomas and certificates are usually classified into distinction, merit and pass.

The exact structure of each PGDip/PGCert usually depends on the university itself, but as @kitty said, in most of the cases a thesis is not required. On the contrary, this is usually in what your PGDip differs from the equivalent Master's Degree.

However, many universities now offer the option to their students to go on after they have completed their PGDip commitments and write up a thesis, in order to reach the 180 credits a Master requires.

It is worth noting all these qualifications are of the same level (NQF level 7). For more, see:

How does it differ from a Masters degree?

The postgraduate diploma is often vocational, or at least allows the student to pursue a new study direction. It is, however, on the same level of the NQF as a Masters, and students often complete a dissertation to reach 180 study credits and turn their diploma into a Masters.


I am not familiar with UK terminology, but the probable American equivalent, the Post-Master's Certificate, is usually taken after a Master's degree and reduces the number of courses taken.

The graduate certificate may indicate a program that can be taken after graduating with a Bachelor's, and would fit between an BS and an MS in terms of education level.

I guess the better way to say it would be it's the Master's-level equivalent of a Bachelor of Arts vs a Bachelor of Science in terms of course load.

In most cases, if you're applying for a Master's program for MSc, you probably don't need to worry about anything regarding a PGCert or something similar. Those are separate degree programs that you're not going for.

As always, contact the advising department to make sure.

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