Methods and materials for master’s and taught courses

As a student on a master’s or other postgraduate taught course at The University of Manchester, you’ll benefit from our excellence in teaching methods and the very best learning environments and materials.

As well as this, you’ll learn from leading teachers and scholars who are acknowledged international experts in their respective fields.

You’ll develop skills and gain experience that will be fundamental to your future career. We employ a wide variety of teaching techniques, from traditional laboratory-based work, lectures and seminars to e-learning.

How we teach on postgraduate courses

Teaching and learning methods at postgraduate level can be quite different from those at an undergraduate level. How you are taught will largely depend on your course content, level of study and your academic tutor – but, however you are taught, you will be required to undertake a large proportion of your study independently.

Since most of our master’s courses are only one year in duration, the academic experience can be quite intense compared to an undergraduate degree. As a master’s student you will begin to specialise in topics that interest you or start to work on a particular area of research which you may wish to undertake for further study.

Studying at a postgraduate level involves a greater emphasis on self-directed study than at an undergraduate level. You’ll be expected to think and study independently, conduct more extensive background reading and bring your ideas to seminars and tutorials for discussion and debate.

The main teaching and learning methods for master’s courses are:


Lectures are widely used across the University to deliver information, ideas and theories to a large number of students. Our biggest lecture theatre is located in University Place and can hold up to 600 people – lectures are usually delivered to quite large groups.

A lecture is normally a presentation or demonstration designed to give you an overview of a topic. Generally the lecturer will address the audience and you would not normally ask questions in the middle of the lecture, though there is often an opportunity for you to do so at the end.

Seminars and tutorials

Compared with a lecture, a seminar or tutorial involves much smaller groups of students. Similarly, the session is often led by an academic tutor or guest speaker and can involve a presentation, but the format is normally much more informal and promotes open discussion around specific topics or theories.

Independent study

You will be expected to take responsibility for your own learning and you will need to manage your time effectively to fit this around your academic timetable and any other activities that you are involved in. There are plenty of study spaces on campus.

Studying independently doesn’t necessarily mean you will be studying on your own as there are plenty of opportunities to study in groups and many of our courses actively promote peer mentoring and peer-assisted study schemes.


Laboratory and practical learning

Learning by doing is an essential part of many courses, particularly if you are studying a science, engineering or health-related degree. These sessions aim to give you an insight into a working environment, knowledge of experimental methods and techniques and an understanding of academic material taught on the course.

You may be asked to work independently, in pairs or as part of a small team and for most courses, where a practical element is incorporated, you will be required to submit a piece of work which will count towards your overall result.

Field trips

Fieldwork or field trips can be a compulsory element of some courses. Similar to laboratory and practical work, fieldwork can help you to put your theoretical knowledge into practice. Trips can range from one-day sessions to longer, more in-depth expeditions, in the UK and abroad, that allow you to explore specific areas or learn particular techniques.

Each course differs but you may need to pay extra for your field trips, so keep this in mind when budgeting for the year. For more details see the web page for the course you are interested in.

Problem-based/enquiry-based learning

Problem-based learning (PBL) or enquiry-based Learning (EBL) has traditionally been used by the Manchester Medical School and has now been adopted by many other disciplines across the University.

PBL or EBL groups are presented with a real-life problem or scenario and you will need to work as a team to investigate potential solutions while identifying what skills or knowledge you need to effectively manage the situation. 


As part of your master’s degree you will be asked to complete a final project. You'll normally choose, within the confines of your project, how much time to spend on it. In some cases you may be asked to give a formal presentation on the results of your project.


Many courses include online components, which can be an assessed part of your degree.

The University of Manchester has a virtual learning environment called Blackboard. This means you might study online using material created by your lecturers, download papers and take online tests, or access relevant audio and video material.

We're also creating technology-rich learning spaces across the campus, including access to the widest range of digital resources of any UK university.

Learning through research

On many of our master's courses you'll be given the chance to get involved in research. These opportunities give you the chance to be involved in work that has real impact beyond your degree, as well as equipping you with the analytical skills that will help you take the next step, whether that's into your new career or as a continuing student.

The main assessment methods are:

Continuous assessment

Most courses will involve some form of continuous assessment of students. This means that marks or grades obtained for essays, projects and laboratory work during the year are taken into account when deciding your final mark.

Examinations and assessments

Examinations are probably the most important method of assessment and knowing how to deal with them is an essential skill that you will need to develop.

Exams can be daunting, but it is important to know that there is plenty of support available to you in the run up to assessment periods.

In addition there are many other forms of assessment that you might experience, including presentations, assignments, research or portfolios.

Rewarding excellence

We recognise and reward excellent student performance. A range of prizes and bursaries, including the Manchester Medal, are presented each year to the best students.

When you graduate we’ll provide you with a comprehensive higher education record of achievement covering your entire course. Your record will identify and detail transferable life skills as well as your academic grades, to help you demonstrate the value of your learning experience to future employers.