There are more ways of going into higher education than ever before and many different ways of studying. There are also new options to think about such as 2-year, 'fast track' degrees and private sector universities.It can all seem a bit bewildering so it might help to start with two questions:
- What do you want to study?
- Where do you want to study?
What to study?
There are more than 37,000 courses on offer and you have to narrow these down to no more than 5! One of the first decisions to make is whether you'd prefer an academic or vocational course.
An academic course involves studying a subject in a theoretical rather than a practical way. Courses may be single subject or joint (two subjects or more) or multi-disciplinary which may include a mix of sciences, arts and social sciences.
Vocational (also called ‘applied’ or ‘work related’) courses involve using your knowledge of a subject to solve problems, often in a work setting. Such a course may prepare you for a specific career (e.g. nursing) or for a broad work sector (e.g. marketing). Some include work placements (sandwich courses).
Bear in mind:
- You can’t always tell from the title whether a course is academic or vocational e.g. some courses in media studies are very practical whereas others are highly academic. You have to check the content every time.
- You can combine both types of course e.g. French with accountancy.
- For many vocational courses e.g. teaching or nursing, you need work experience before you apply.
It's worth checking whether the course or university offers any chance of work experience. It's been said that without it, most graduates will struggle to find employment. Even if you have a part-time job you may also need some experience that relates to your career interests. Many university careers services can help with this e.g. by advertising internships.
Where to study?
You’re not only choosing a course, you’re deciding where to spend the next three or four years of your life. Don't even think of applying without going to some open days first!
Home or away?
Sheffield has two great universities and lots of students now stay in their local area. You’ll probably find that living at home is much cheaper although bear in mind that you'd get a lower student loan.
On the other hand, studying away from home can be a great experience. It may also give you more choice of courses. There’s no right or wrong answer – it’s your decision!
Many universities and colleges run part-time courses or distance learning which can sometimes fit in better with work or family commitments.
There are opportunities to study almost anywhere in the world. This can bring all kinds of benefits, such as:
- Experiencing a new culture.
- Greater independence.
- An extra edge in a highly competitive and global job market.
- The chance to learn at some of the best universities in the world.
Students from the UK can study anywhere in the EU and pay the same tuition fee as a student national of that country. This may mean paying much lower fees (e.g. in The Netherlands) or no fee at all (e.g. in Denmark). However you'd be unlikely to get a Student Loan and the cost of living in that country may be higher than in the UK.
If you don't want to be based overseas, some courses at UK universities include time abroad. There are also schemes such as the Socrates-Erasmus programme.
Want to know more?
UCAS – Anything to do with choosing and applying for higher education.
www.prospects.ac.uk – Really useful information on where different degree subjects can lead.
www.studyineurope.eu - More about studying in Europe.
ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/index_en.htm - The Socrates-Erasmus programme.