Teaching Methods

The academic year at LSE is made up of the Michaelmas (autumn), Lent (spring) and Summer terms.

Most taught master's programmes span a full calendar year (September - September), though a few are only nine or ten months long, finishing in July or August, and a few others span two years.

Some programmes, notably in the Departments of Economics, Finance and Management, require you to attend introductory courses before main teaching begins. For some other programmes you may need to take these introductory courses if you wish to take Economics options as part of your degree. Your department will let you know about this once you have an offer.

The majority of taught programmes comprise:

  • Taught courses, usually including substantial independent study, lectures, seminars and other group activities. These may be examined through sit down examinations, essays and other assignments
  • A piece of independent research culminating in a dissertation

Teaching is usually spread over the Michaelmas and Lent terms, with the Summer term generally reserved for one week of teaching and revision sessions, followed by preparation for exams or other assessment, and/or the writing of your dissertation.

Examinations and assessment

Coursework, feedback and examinations

In all programmes of study, you will have some opportunity to get feedback on your work prior to undertaking any formal assessment/examination. This 'formative' work can take different forms. It might involve presenting in a seminar, writing a short individual assignment, working on a set of problems, or undertaking a group project of some kind. All assignments should provide useful preparation for the examinations and formal assignments on which your degree classification is based.

The vast majority of examinations take place in the Summer term and are usually two or three hours in length. For some courses they account for 100 per cent of the final mark.

Dissertation or thesis

Many taught master's programmes include a specific research element, culminating in a dissertation or long essay (usually 8,000 - 15,000 words). In most cases, dissertation support will include a combination of some taught elements and individual support from a dissertation supervisor. The taught element often comprises a series of workshops on how to approach your research, along with some opportunity for students to present work in progress to their colleagues.

Lectures, classes and independent study

Independent study

Most LSE graduate programmes expect students to manage the majority of their study time themselves. This varies depending on the programme of study but you will certainly find plenty of opportunity to read and research those aspects of courses that most interest and excite you. You should expect to spend a significant amount of your time reading, note-taking, thinking and undertaking research.


Most taught master's students can expect to have between three and eight hours of lectures each week. All students on a given course attend the same lecture, with anything from a handful to more than 50 students in attendance. Academic lecturing styles vary considerably - some will be highly interactive, others more didactic.

Seminars and classes

In addition to lectures, most courses will have an associated series of seminars or classes. A few courses opt to have a longer session, incorporating more formal lecturing with group activities/discussions built in. Some seminars will be run by the lecturer responsible overall for the course, others may involve other teachers from the department. The purpose of seminars and classes is to give you the opportunity to discuss the reading or preparatory work done for the seminar and building on the lecture. It is very important therefore that you prepare for each seminar carefully and bring questions you would like to raise.

Course capping (master's and diploma courses)

To keep within School guidelines on graduate class size (a preferred maximum of 15) and/or in the event of demand exceeding departmental expectations, the School may limit the number of places on certain optional courses.

Research students

Research students are expected to manage their own research with guidance from their supervisor. In addition, the majority of programmes require research students to take a number of taught courses in their first year, and some courses in the second and third years (see Lectures, classes and independent study tab above for more information about taught course teaching methods). Requirements will vary across programmes but will usually include methodology and skills training courses as well as subject-specific courses. Full details of individual programme requirements are published in the Calendar. All research students are also expected to attend, and usually present at, regular doctoral workshops held in their department.

Requirements for progress reviews are set within each department but could include passing compulsory taught courses to a particular standard and/or producing particular pieces of work relating to the research topic.

The final award is determined either by a traditional thesis (60,000 words for an MPhil or 100,000 words for a PhD) or, for some programmes, a thesis containing a series of publishable papers, an introduction, critical discussion and conclusion. Where a department does not permit submission by papers, this will be clearly indicated. A viva oral examination forms part of the final assessment for all students.

Your work and progress as a research student is supported by LSE's new PhD Academy:

Teaching and Learning in 2020

How will pre-sessional courses run?

All pre-sessional/introductory graduate courses will be delivered online and you will be able to access these remotely. The exceptions to this are the pre-sessional courses for the MSc Finance (full-time) and the MSc Finance and Private Equity. Both of these courses will be delivered on campus but will also be available to access online. Your programme team will contact you with more information about how the pre-sessional/introductory graduate sessions will run. 

How will I attend classes and seminars?

We will run classes, seminars and tutorial groups, as well as Harvard style teaching sessions, face-to-face on campus in a socially distanced environment, wherever possible. These classes will also be accessible by students unable to access campus in the early weeks of the term. 

Where departments are running synchronous classes/seminars, they will run at least twice so that students in different time zones can engage with them at the start of term.

As term progresses, we expect all students to take part in face-to-face classes, seminars and tutorial groups on the LSE campus. 

How will I access lectures?

All lectures will be delivered online for the Michaelmas Term.  All lectures will be recorded and made available to students to access wherever they are. 

Why are you recording lectures and classes?

We are recording lectures and classes, some of which will be recorded ‘live’ at the point of delivery, so that all students can access them online at the most appropriate time for them. Online lectures form a key part of our flexible teaching approach next term and their availability is a useful learning resource for all students.

Will I be able to work with fellow students and faculty?

All students will have the opportunity to work together between classes in Peer Study Groups on tasks or activities (academic and social).

What will my timetabled contact hours look like?

Timetabled hours of study for students should stay broadly the same as they would in a ‘non-socially distanced’ LSE environment.

How will LSE ensure high quality teaching and learning?

Experts in our Eden Centre for Education Enhancement have guided the development of our flexible approach to teaching and learning to ensure that you benefit from LSE’s high standards in education in a safe environment. Our flexible teaching approach will be subject to our stringent quality assurance processes, ensuring that there is no compromise on the rigour or standard of LSE degrees. We will continue to apply our validation, monitoring and review mechanisms to assure the quality of our courses and programmes.

What are the teaching and learning arrangements for the Lent and Summer terms 2021?

Our flexible approach to teaching and learning will be in place for the duration of Michaelmas Term. We will deliver seminars, classes and interactive teaching sessions face-to-face on a socially distanced campus, and online for students whose arrival is delayed, with all lectures delivered online. We will monitor and review these arrangements regularly throughout the term and follow government guidance to keep our LSE community safe. We will keep you updated as our plans for the Lent and Summer terms develop. 

I will not be able to study in the evenings or weekends due to caring or work commitments. What can I do?

We aim to timetable classes/seminars during regular hours on weekdays as far as possible. We will only schedule classes/seminars in the evenings and weekends when there is no other option. 

Where possible, we aim to ensure that the classes/seminars scheduled in the evenings and at weekends have alternative classes/seminars timetabled during weekday hours. This means that, for the courses in which we can achieve this (and keeping in mind that we will not be able to achieve this for all courses), for graduate seminars, you should be able to select an appropriately timed group via ‘LSE for You’ or via your department.