Supporting Taught Postgraduates

Studying in the UK

Some key features of what you can expect your academic education in the United Kingdom to be like, and links to further resources on this topic

Features of the UK academic culture

The UK academic culture is based on active and independent learning – something which may not be familiar or comfortable for some of our students.


Lectures are generally 50 minutes long and may include time for discussion or group work. Lectures allow you to learn from experts within your discipline and to ask questions.


Tutorials are an opportunity for more intensive discussion, much of which will be student-led. If you are uncomfortable asking questions during a lecture, you may find it easier in tutorials which tend to consist of smaller groups. Not all postgraduate courses offer tutorials as lecture classes may already take place in small groups.

Active learning

In the UK academic system, learners are expected to participate fully by preparing for lectures through reading, by asking questions and by joining in group discussions. Your programme may also involve group projects where all team members need to contribute

Forming opinions

Forming opinions, and developing your own conclusions, constitutes an important part of postgraduate learning. Your lecturers will want to hear your views, and you need to develop the confidence to express them. Listening to the views of other students will help you develop your own thinking and analysis.


The University has several central support services which may be of value to you such as the Careers Service; the Institute for Academic Development; The Student Disability Service; and Edinburgh Global.  You can also ask your personal tutor for guidance, or talk to your programme director.

Postgraduate support at The University of Edinburgh

Academic conduct

Our students overwhelmingly want to behave in an appropriate manner by attending and contributing to classes and by completing assignments on time and without plagiarising.

University of Edinburgh guidance on avoiding plagiarism

When problems do arise, they often result from lack of clarity in terms of what’s expected. You can avoid this by

  • checking your programme handbook to find out about referencing,  expectations around assignments and group work
  • asking for clarification if you are unsure about how to present academic work
  • asking for help as soon as you realise there is an issue; it is easier to resolve problems early in the programme
  • giving yourself enough time to complete assignments
  • valueing your own work, and understanding why it is important that you reference the work of others properly
  • keeping proper notes, as it can be very challenging to reference properly if you are unsure of the details of source material. There are different systems for organising your references. The library has information on these –

Research data management

Tutorials for bibliographic managers:

Endnote (web version) video tutorial for getting started (by IS skills team)

Mendeley video tutorials for getting started

Zotero video tutorials for getting started