How to Choose the Right University?

Choosing a university isn’t easy. There are over 150 institutions to pick from and all of them offer different experiences, different subjects and different courses. Picking between them, with only a vague idea as to what it might be like, is a real challenge? 


Get your priorities straight

A top ranked course – let’s say something at Oxford or Cambridge – might be well regarded, but it might not be as flexible as a degree elsewhere. You might not have the chance to take modules outside of your particular subject area. Do you want prestige or flexibility?


What about work placements? 

Some courses offer students a full year in an industry of their choice, the sort of thing that kick-starts a career. Others might give you the chance to study abroad. It's worth thinking about the kind of degree you want and the opportunities you want to get from it. 


Or optional modules? 

Some courses will let you take modules from other subjects. A degree in English, for example, might let you branch out into other areas of the humanities with modules in History, Philosophy or Creative Writing. Others might not. It’s all about making sure you know what you want from your course, about deciding what's right for you. 


Comparing course content

You will need to choose the type of course you’d like to study. If you don’t know your options, you should look at the different course types and entry requirements.

If you have already decided on the type of course you would like to study, here are some things to consider when comparing different courses, and different universities.

Look at the modules covered in each course and identify which ones are most interesting, or relevant to your career aspiration.

1.) How many lectures are there, and how much group work will be done in seminars?

2.) What does the assessment at the end of each module look like?

3.) Exams, coursework, presentations, or a combination of all three?

4.) Who are the tutors, and are they experts in areas you want to learn about?

5.) When choosing a course, remember that not all courses with the same name are identical in content.


Comparing course providers and locations

There are many ways you can research a university, conservatoire, or college, including reading their website or prospectus, looking at online reviews, and social media channels, but ideally you should see the campus, city, and course lecturers for yourself. Universities and colleges run open days throughout the year – find upcoming open days.

Once you have shortlisted the different universities and colleges offering the course you are interested, in there are a number of things to consider when comparing each one:

1.) What subject areas do they specialise in?

2.) Can you study part of your course abroad, or get help with work placements?

3.) Discover what studying at a UK college is like, and how it differs to studying at university.

4.) Do they have sports facilities or societies that you would want to join?

5.) How near to home, a city centre, or the countryside are they?

6.) What accommodation is available for students?


Subject and university reviews

As well as talking through your ideas and plans with family, friends, teachers or advisers, you can find other opinions online. Take the time to check what other people through by visiting the following:

  • Get a student viewpoint at Unistats – perfect for subject and course provider reviews.
  • Read uni and college reviews from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.
  • Check league tables that rank university and colleges.
  • Make sure you check the sources though, as some can be biased. 
  • The Guardian, The Times, and The Complete University Guide are some of the more impartial places to look.
  • Look at the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) for ratings on teaching quality, learning environment, as well as student outcomes.


International students

There are hundreds of universities and colleges in the UK with different subject specialisms. Rather than choosing a famous university, see which one offers the best course for you. Here are some top tips to help you:

Ask how many other international students or students from your country are studying there.Find out if the university has any cultural or social clubs you would like to join.Remember to check entry requirements in the course descriptions to see what you need to get a place.


Sources: The Complete University Gude, 2018 , UCAS, 2018

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