There are many different kinds of universities and colleges, each with its own distinctive character and merits. Some are centuries old; others have come into being more recently. Most are large institutions, but the student numbers vary considerably from one to another.
Many offer a wide range of courses, but some may have a focus on, for example, technology or vocational courses.
Higher education courses are offered by:
The settings of universities and colleges vary enormously, ranging from large, multi-site, city-centre institutions to campus universities or small colleges in attractive countryside. While most universities and colleges have excellent facilities, there will often be significant differences between institutions in:
In recent years, many universities and colleges have expanded into additional premises and some institutions have been created through mergers of a number of establishments in a town or city. In either case, the result can mean considerable travel between sites.
It is certainly common to have to travel between student residences and the teaching buildings and the costs and time involved may be significant. You should check to see:
Many mature students attend a local university or college, either on a part-time or full-time basis, for financial reasons or because of family or other commitments. Many part-time students need to continue with their existing employment. Students in each of these cases are likely to be home-based.
However, if you hope to move away in order to study, the availability and cost of accommodation will be an important factor, particularly if you have dependants. Many institutions have halls of residence, with or without catering provided. Some of these are single sex and others offer mixed accommodation. While a number guarantee accommodation for first-year students, it is common for students in later years to rent bed-sits, flats or houses from the private sector with the help of the institution's accommodation office.
An increasing number of universities and colleges make some specific housing provision for mature students and for their spouses and/or children. You should make early contact with the institution's accommodation office, particularly if you need family accommodation. You will find that facilities and costs vary considerably from one institution to another. You will probably have to make some sacrifices and your general standard of living may not match what you have been used to.
If you are going to need childcare support, contact the student services office of your chosen university or college at an early stage to find out:
Facilities vary considerably and there is often competition for places. It is therefore a good idea to apply early for nursery or creche places.
For advice on provision and benefits please contact The Daycare Trust - a charity promoting childcare facilities within higher education.
More information is available in the choosing a university or college section.