travel guide

How to choose a course in a British university

how-to-find-the-perfect-university-courseIt is important that your chosen course is run by an educational institution that is licensed by the UK Border Agency to sponsor budding scholars like yourself. You can see which educational institutions are licensed by visiting There are more than 3,000 educational institutions that welcome international students to England. Indeed, they are a welcome source of revenue for the country. Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge are famous all over the world for the quality of their teaching. However, it’s not just in the traditional universities that you can study in England; there is a huge choice of learning environments ranging from the big old ‘red brick’ universities to smaller institutions such as the technical colleges and Further Education Colleges.

There is a variety of routes through the education and training system that you can choose, combining different types of course according to your needs and abilities. Many courses can also be taken through distance learning in your home country
To find what is available at universities look on the UCAS website or you can search a full database of courses in the UK on the EducationUK course database. This search is on the home page of their website at . Both sites give you all the information you need about the different courses available in any British university but perhaps the UCAS site is more comprehensive giving costs as well as the entry requirements and how to apply.

For all students embarking on a Higher Education programme it is important to carry out research on the courses before you decide which one to apply for but this is doubly important for students who are travelling across the world to study. It will also be important to check that the qualification you hope to achieve is recognised in your home country. The vast majority of UK qualifications are recognised worldwide but you should ask for information about specific qualifications from the education authorities in your home country.

Equally, if the course you intend to study in the UK is a vocational or professional one you should check with the leading professional body for that profession in your home country. Information can also be sought from The British Council office in your home country and you can find out where this is by visiting here.
To determine what your UK qualification will be equivalent to in your home country you can contact NARIC (National Academic Recognition Information Centre) or ENIC (European Network of Information Centre) for your country. Visit for more details.

Having decided on a course from looking at the UCAS website you should then contact the university for a prospectus and more details. The types of courses generally available at British universities are as follows:
Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE) are one year courses that are equivalent to the first year of a degree course. They can be full or part-time and can take place in Colleges of Further Education as well as Universities
Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) are normally equivalent to the first two years of a degree course and can often be used as entry to the third year of a related degree course.

They are usually full-time and take two years to complete. Mostly they are linked to vocational areas such as nursing and social work. These courses are also taught in Colleges of Further Education as well as Universities.
Higher National Diploma (HND). Like the above two courses these can also be taught in Further Education colleges. Mostly they are full-time taken over a period of two years and if completed with high grades can lead to the third year of a degree at a university.

A Foundation degree is equivalent to the first two years of an honours degree. They can be studied on either a full- or part-time basis, and consist of academic study integrated with relevant work-based learning undertaken with an employer. Foundation degrees may be studied as a stand-alone qualification or upon completion you can progress to the final year of an honours degree.
A Degree is a three- or four-year course where graduates obtain a bachelor’s degree. These are commonly known as undergraduate degrees. There are different titles and levels of degree, such as:
BA – Bachelor of Arts
BSc – Bachelor of Science
BEd – Bachelor of Education
BEng – Bachelor of Engineering

The qualification awarded from undergraduate degrees can be Ordinary or Honours. Although this can vary between universities and colleges, generally in England, an ‘ordinary’ or ‘unclassified’ degree may be awarded if a student has completed a full degree course but hasn’t obtained the total required passes sufficient to merit a third-class honours degree. However, in Scotland, an ‘ordinary’ degree is usually a three-year full-time course, whereas an ‘honours’ degree is usually a four-year full-time course.

Postgraduate degrees are courses for graduates, that is those who have already obtained an undergraduate degree… They normally involve one or two years’ additional work after a degree and lead to a master’s degree. A longer period of postgraduate study is required for specialist degrees, for example, graduate entry to medicine.
Taking a full-time Bachelor’s degree in England normally takes only three years, and Postgraduate Master’s courses only one year compared with four years and two years in most other countries.

This means you will save a great deal on both tuition fees and living costs and you will be able to start working and earning money sooner. English degree courses are shorter because they are more intensive, and therefore more efficient in terms of your time and money. If Scotland is your chosen location many undergraduate courses take a minimum of four years.
If you opt to take a Part-time degree course this will understandably be over a longer period, usually five years or more. Precise times may vary according to individual institutions, but increasingly they are able to offer flexible arrangements to suit your needs.

Single and Combined Courses

You can study a single subject, for example International Business or, if you are interested in more than one subject, you may be able to study a combination as part of your course, e.g. Business and Computing. You can often decide for yourself how much time you would like to spend on each subject. A Joint degree is where the two subjects are studied equally, 50/50 whereas a Major/Minor course is where the two subjects are studied on a 75%/25% basis. The title of your degree will reflect the combination of the subjects you have chosen, BA Hons Business and Computing or BA Hons Business with Computing.
The majority of higher education institutions have now adopted a modular structure for courses. This means that as far as is practically possible, you can build a personalised course by choosing modules or units of study from different subject areas.

Sandwich Courses

Certain vocational courses include a year of working within the industry as part of the course. This is what is known as a Sandwich course. Usually this work experience is during the final year of a three year degree course or in the second year of an HND, although there are variations depending upon the institution and the course. Furthermore, depending on the employer, the vocational aspect of the course may be full-time paid employment. The purpose of this is to introduce you to the world of work, whilst gaining valuable experience in a profession you might consider after completing your higher education course.

Study Abroad Programmes

Many British universities also offer a range of specially designed courses for international students currently studying at university or college in their own country and who wish to spend one or two semesters in a British university. These programmes are available at both Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels across a range of summer, semester or full-year formats. The Study Abroad Programme allows you to spend part of your course studying undergraduate modules (classes) alongside British and other international students. Subjects cover a range of areas from Architecture to Communication and Psychology to Business Studies.

In many universities it is possible to combine four modules each semester from a huge range of subject areas, and there may also be the opportunity to do an academically assessed work placement as part of your study abroad experience. The universities which are part of this programme have fully trained staff working in the Study Abroad Unit to help you select classes to suit your needs.

If you are currently studying in your home country and wish to take part in the Study Abroad programme, find out if your campus has a Study Abroad office. (It probably does if it sends a fair amount of students abroad to study). Study Abroad advisors are experienced guides, especially in knowing what your campus supports and encourages. They can assist you in exploring all reasonable alternatives and help you sharpen your objectives for a foreign study programme. The advisors will determine whether the courses you are considering will compliment with your educational goals and whether you will receive academic credit for them. If your school does not have a Study Abroad advisor consult the office of the academic dean, the office of academic advising or a faculty member who is knowledgeable about foreign study programmes.