- There's further education, which some of you may be in now – for example A levels or foundation courses.
- Then you get to higher education – this includes an enormous range of courses (degrees, diplomas and master's), with different levels of study, course duration, teaching styles and assessment methods.
Higher education course levels
Courses are either undergraduate, coming after further education, or postgraduate, coming after you've graduated from an undergraduate degree.
Most students study for a degree
Usually a three or four year course – also known as a bachelor's, undergraduate or first degree. These are dynamic academic environments with lectures and seminars, usually made up of different modules adding up to the full degree. You might get to choose some of the modules you take, so you'll be able to study the parts of your subject you're most interested in.
- Two subjects? Take a joint course (50/50) or a major/minor (75/25).
- Work experience? Do a sandwich course and work for a year in the industry your subject is based on.
- What next? After you graduate you'll be closer to a career, or you can move on to postgraduate study.
There are other shorter undergraduate courses
These are ideal if you want a quicker qualification. Do one year of a degree – a Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE) – or two years – a Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), Higher National Diploma (HND) or Foundation degree.
- These don't lead directly to postgraduate study, but you can go into the second or third year of a full degree if you change your mind and want to graduate after all.
If you're looking for performance based courses in music, dance or drama, studying at a conservatoire could be the answer for you. While academic music, dance or drama classes are more theory based, performing arts courses are much more practical.
Throughout my degree I enjoyed regular debates and discussions with my classmates, which I always found to be intellectually stimulating and engaging."
Taiwo Omolaso BA English, Birkbeck, University of London
Take a taught course
A one year academic course – taught in a similar way to a degree. Study the same subject or a new one on a master's course or a postgraduate certificate (PGCert) or diploma (PGDip). They're similar formats but the master's shows an added level of understanding – usually requiring a dissertation.
- You can turn a PGCert or PGDip into a master's later if you want to.
- If you want to do graduate teacher training you can do the PGCert – specifically the PGCE (or PGDE in Scotland).
More vocational course – a two year MBA to gain management and business skills, or one of a range of professional, vocational and conversion qualifications – improving skills or gaining new ones required by specific jobs, and lasting anything from a few weeks to a few years.
This is the PhD/Doctorate route – usually an independent research project that can take years to complete, but at the end you'll have a highly impressive qualification you could use to become an academic or industry researcher.
- Most PhD students have outstanding academic records and finish a master's first (or at least start one).
- You'd get a supervisor, and maybe an academic/training element, but often it's just you and your project.
Advanced performing arts
These are master's and PhD courses in performance based music, dance or drama – studied at a conservatoire, and either following an undergrad performing arts course or an equivalent level of experience.
You can get teacher training through either undergraduate or postgraduate study.
- At undergrad level you apply through the same kind of application as other undergraduate courses.
- At postgrad level you can use UCAS Teacher Training to apply to a range of postgraduate teacher training programmes.
I did a BA (Hons) Primary Education with QTS at Birmingham City University because I was keen to study the topic of education and how children learn, as well as starting to acquire the skills needed to teach."
Jamie Barry, Headteacher, Birmingham
How to apply
When you want to know how to apply, we've broken the information down into sections as different types/levels of study have separate application forms.
- Undergraduate – a one or two year course, or a full degree you can graduate from.
- Performing arts – courses at conservatoires, whether undergraduate or postgraduate level.
- Teacher training – at postgraduate level (for undergraduate teaching go to the undergraduate area).
- Postgraduate – courses you can take after you graduate from an undergraduate degree.
- Look at the flexible options if you can't study full-time, from part-time to distance learning.
There’s nothing stopping you from using more than one application form and applying for different types of course at the same time. If you get two confirmed places please withdraw from whichever one you don’t want, so the place can be offered to someone else.