Choosing courses

Selecting the right course is the first important choice you face in your HE journey.

  • The courses on offer as are varied as those who study them. The same applies to course objectives.
  • Having a clear idea of the value you'll get from your course will help you focus on what's right for you.
  • Even if you're unsure what to study, researching what's on offer can really help inform your decision.

Amanda Scales

'It’s like seeing a whole other world' – Amanda found university a transformative experience. Watch her video and read her story in Related case studies below.

Alan Markland

'Life has become more satisfying' – Alan overcame tough personal problems and found his voice at university. Watch his video and read his story in Related case studies below.

What to study

Whatever your aims, making the right course choice is critical in ensuring you make the most of your higher education experience.

There are thousands of different options available, but choice can be confusing and off-putting, particularly if you're unsure about the path you want to take. Research and preparation are vital.

Types of qualification

There are numerous qualifications you can study for:

  • an honours degree, which takes three years to complete full-time and is usually in a single subject.
  • a foundation degree, a vocationally focused qualification combining academic and work-based learning. These usually takes two years full-time.
  • Higher National Diplomas and Higher National Certificates (HNDs and HNCs), vocational qualifications offered across a wide array of subjects – from engineering to art and design. An HND normally takes two years full-time, while a HNC takes one.

Foundation degrees, HNDs and HNCs can also provide the basis for progression to a full honours degree.

Find out more in the exploring your options section of the website, or search for courses here.

Narrowing your search

Before you search for courses, it's worth considering:

  • what you want to achieve 
  • what interests and engages you
  • when you want to study and for how long
  • what type of qualification you want.

You can find out more about narrowing your options and choosing a subject and career by going to the Explore your options section of the website.

Search for courses

Don’t sit and wonder how to do it, do it and wonder how you did it."

Amanda Scales, Sussex University

Research each university or college

Take a look at all your preferred university and colleges' prospectuses and websites.

It's worth finding out:

  • if any parts of the course you're thinking of applying for are compulsory
  • when you have to choose between options
  • what opportunities there are to change track later – should you want to

The admissions teams at each uni or college can give you any additional information.

It's also a good idea to attend an open day – to get a real feel for the place. Search for open days.

The quality of courses

It's important also to research the quality of the course you're considering. Luckily, there are some good resources available, such as our search tool.

You might also want to look at the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) website for more in-depth data.

Unistats allows you to search and compare data on different courses – helping students making more informed decisions about what and where to study.