Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

5 Characteristics of Master’s degree graduates

The UK Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (UK Quality Code for Higher Education) sets out the core attributes and characteristics of Bachelor’s and Master’s degree graduates (i.e. students who have successfully graduated from Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes). A Bachelor’s degree typically prepares graduates for a higher level qualification involving research, to advance knowledge, skills and application gained, or for entry to professional practice. A defining difference between a Bachelor’s with Honours degree and an ‘ordinary’ Bachelor’s degree, other than the development of advanced knowledge, is the requirement for research and scholarship for an Honours degree (this could take the form of project work or an extended dissertation completed towards the end of the degree). However, the type of research or scholarship and the balance with coursework are likely to vary depending on the purpose of the qualification.

What are the characteristics, skills and core attributes expected of a successful Master’s graduate, and how do these differ from those of a Bachelor’s with Honours degree graduate? Let’s look at this in a little more depth before moving on to check your own development needs, and gauge your preparedness for postgraduate study.

Activity 3 Differences between Bachelor’s with Honours and Master’s degrees 

Timing: Allow approximately 30 minutes

Read Extract 1: Characteristics of Bachelor’s Degree with Honours Graduates [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] and Extract 2: Characteristics of Master’s Graduates and reflect on the following questions:

  • What skills and core attributes would a Bachelor’s with Honours degree graduate be expected to demonstrate?
  • How do these differ from a Master’s graduate (i.e. what other skills and attributes would a Master’s student be expected to demonstrate after graduating)?
  • Are there any skills or attributes that you would consider to be unique to Master’s?

Try to make your notes as specific as possible. Refer to the extracts so it’s clear which part you are writing about, but don’t just copy out the contents. Condense your notes to formulate a conclusion that puts your views across clearly and concisely (in less than 500 words). Retain a copy of your conclusion, as you will refer to this again in Session 2.


What was your first impression? Were there any surprises? Did you find it relatively straightforward or difficult to pinpoint differences clearly? Evaluating sources of information, providing a concise synopsis, a summary or a conclusion are skills that you need for postgraduate study, and this activity was a good place to start! You will often come across word limits or similar restrictions on the length of answers you are asked to provide within assignments, including essays. Being able to condense your thoughts and to put the main points across concisely is fundamental at postgraduate level.