Parents and family

Choosing a course

Studying at degree level is vastly different from learning in school. Degree programmes can be exam based, or examined mainly by coursework. Your son or daughter should choose a course that enables them to perform to their strengths.

Most degree programmes are made up of a choice of modules, enabling your son or daughter to have a greater level of control over the direction of their course and the way they study.

A degree programme demands independent learning. Your son or daughter will have to set aside time to read course materials and prepare for lectures and seminars. They will be given deadlines, and will be expected to meet them. It is this independence and responsibility which develops many of their transferable skills.

 

Where to start

Your son or daughter will need to decide on the type of degree that would suit them:

  • a traditional academic degree
  • a vocational course

The best place to start is the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) which lists over 300 institutions and over 37,000 courses.

There are many routes into higher education and committing to a three year course is just one way to achieve a higher education qualification. Many full-time degree courses can be studied on a part-time basis, offering the opportunity to earn money at the same time as gaining a qualification. Foundation degrees are also available and are designed and delivered in partnership with employers to equip students with the relevant knowledge and skills for business.

Type of qualification Duration

Traditional academic degree (BA, BSc, BEng etc)

  • Three or four years full-time
  • Up to six years part-time

Higher National Certificate (HNC)

  • One year full-time
  • Part-time option available

Higher National Diploma (HND)

The HND can be topped up with a final third year in order to earn a Bachelor's degree

  • Two years full-time
  • Part-time option available

Foundation degree

  • Two years full-time
  • Part-time option available

 

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Interest/enjoyment

Top tip:

Check the course content

Some subjects despite having similar, if not identical, titles will vary in their content.

It's important to make sure your son or daughter’s chosen course matches their specific requirements.

Your son or daughter should first and foremost choose a course they enjoy. They should be passionate about theirchosen subject as they will be studying it in depth for three or four years.

A degree programme demands independent learning. Your son or daughter will have to set aside time to read course materials and prepare for lectures and seminars.

They will be given deadlines, and will be expected to meet them. It is this independence and responsibility which develops many of their transferable skills.

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Variety

Top tip:

Don't just think about 'traditional' subjects

There are many courses available which are not taught in schools:

  • Architecture
  • Criminology
  • Journalism
  • Forensic Sciences
  • Sports Rehabilitation.

Studying at degree level is vastly different from learning in school. Degree programmes can be exam based, or examined mainly by coursework. Your son or daughter should choose a course that enables them to perform to their strengths.

Most degree programmes are made up of a choice of modules, enabling your son or daughter to have a greater level of control over the direction of their course and the way they study.

It is important for them to think about where their interests lie and whether there is a course to match those interests, rather than just considering a course relating to their current subjects. Studying at degree level is more flexible and they are not restricted to studying just one subject. For example, they could combine two subjects in a joint honours degree (eg Film Studies and History).

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Research

You can use the UCAS course search to find out more about the each course and institution in which your son or daughter may be interested in. You will also find links to each institution’s web pages, entry profiles and fee information.

UCAS also host a number of higher education conventions across the UK which are informative events offering advice and guidance to prospective students.

Make sure you look at different university prospectuses. They give a feel for the university and provide detailed information about the facilities, the local area and courses on offer. They are marketing tools, so make sure you download or send off for individual subject leaflets. These provide greater detail about course structure, content of modules and assessment methods.

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League tables

University league tables provide an objective way of comparing one university with another. They can be found in national newspapers and online and can give you an idea of how a university is performing. They all employ different weighting systems and may use different sources of data which may or may not be supported by the universities.

The factors to consider are the quality of the course and whether a university meets your son or daughter’s academic, social and cultural needs.

You can compare official course data including satisfaction scores in the National Student Survey, jobs and salaries after study and other key information by visiting the Unistats website.

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Independent assessments

Top tips:

TEF - Universities are awarded gold, silver or bronze for the quality of their teaching.

NSS - Look out for the ‘overall satisfaction’ score. This gives an indication of how current students rate the whole course.

QAA - Look for judgements of confidence in areas such as the quality of learning opportunities, support and advisory services.

REF - Look out for scores of 4* or 3*. Indicates the research produced by the department is of world-leading or internationally excellent.

There are a number of independent assessments that are worth considering when choosing a course. These can give you an insight into the academic quality of a university as well as information on the experiences of current students.

Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)

The UK has a world-class higher education sector, with rigorous systems in place to ensure high-quality teaching. The TEF is a new scheme for recognising excellent teaching, in addition to existing national quality requirements for universities, colleges, and other higher education providers. Find out how Kent performed in the TEF

National Student Survey (NSS)

This survey is completed by final year undergraduate students who are asked to evaluate different aspects of their course including teaching, facilities and assessment methods. It is an excellent resource for assessing a university as it is based on actual student experience.

Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) Institutional Audit

The QAA safeguards and helps to improve the academic standards and quality of higher education in the UK. For more information and reports on individual universities, visit www.qaa.ac.uk/

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

It is important that the department your son or daughter is applying to is contributing to its field by publishing new research and developing new theories. The REF is a government exercise which measures the quality of this research. The ratings are usually published in the prospectus and can be an important indicator in league tables. Find out how Kent performed in the REF 2014

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Other study options

There are many courses which include spending a year abroad and working in industry. You should encourage your son or daughter to consider these types of courses as they will gain valuable experience and develop new skills.

Year Abroad

  • Many universities offer students the opportunity to spend a year or a semester abroad as part of their studies
  • Undertaking study in another country and experiencing a different culture develops social and language skills, cultural understanding and confidence as well as enhancing employability skills.

The ERASMUS programme

  • If your son or daughter is interested in studying abroad, they may be able to participate in the ERASMUS programme
  • All UK universities and other UK institutions have some involvement, but not all universities offer the programme for all subjects. Your son or daughter should check with their chosen universities to find out what is available.
  • Students do not necessarily need prior knowledge of the language as some courses are taught in English
  • Other degree programmes allow students to learn the language from scratch or will require an A level qualification
  • The year abroad is recognised in the degree title (eg BA in European Economics with a Year in Europe) and may result in a degree from the host university.

Year in Industry (‘sandwich’ course)

  • Spending a year in industry offers hands-on experience, the opportunity to develop new skills and put theory into practice
  • The university provides support and guidance during the application process and this support continues throughout the placement
  • Academic work, usually a report, is undertaken during the placement and the marks will contribute to the final degree result
  • Students who spend a year in industry earn a salary, which will vary depending on the industry and the company, but the average is £15,000
  • Some students are offered a full-time job with their placement employer once they have graduated.
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Last Updated: 23/10/2017