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UCAS Undergraduate: what to study

Trying to decide what degree you should do? Find information and advice about choosing what to study and where to go to university.
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Choosing courses
There's a lot to consider when choosing a course, so our guide gives you hints on what to think about.
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Signed choosing courses video
This signed video takes you through what to consider before deciding on what and where to study.
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1. Choose a subject

  • The important thing is to choose a subject you’ll enjoy that will help you reach your goals.
  • Think about what you enjoy doing day-to-day – maybe this could be part of a future job role.
  • Explore jobsites and graduate careers to look for ideas to work or study towards.
  • Take a look at our subject guides to get an idea of the types of subjects you could study.
  • Thinking about more than one course or subject?
    To increase your chances of getting a place on a course we give you the option of applying to up to five courses at once, usually all in a similar subject so that your application is relevant to all of them.

    Please note, there are a couple of restrictions though.

    • You can only apply maximum of four courses in any one of medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine or veterinary science.
    • Usually you can only apply to one course at either the University of Oxford or the University of Cambridge. There are exceptions though – if you'll be a graduate at the start of the course, and you're applying for graduate medicine (course code A101) at the University of Cambridge, you could then also apply to medicine (course code A100) at Cambridge, as well as graduate medicine (course code A101) at the University of Oxford. (Some applicants will need to complete an additional application form to apply – visit the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge websites for more information.)
  • International and EU students
    In the UK degree courses tend to be very specialised, allowing students to focus on their chosen subject from their first day.

    However there are others that allow you more flexibility in what you study. So when you start searching for courses, make sure you read the course descriptions carefully, and click through to university websites for further information.


2. Choose a type of undergraduate course

Most students study for an undergraduate degree.

These are dynamic academic environments with lectures and seminars, usually made up of different modules adding up to the full degree. Each course varies in learning styles, assessment methods and topics studied – and you'll usually get to choose some of the modules you take.

Options for achieving a degree

Here are some examples of the types of undergraduate courses you can do:

  • Full-time three or four year course
    This is the route which most people choose (although some courses are longer than three or four years). You can concentrate on a single subject, or combine two subjects in a single course (often called dual or joint honours courses); others will involve several subjects (combined honours). You can also choose to study part-time or combine your course with work. Sandwich courses, for instance, involve a placement or year in industry or business as part of the degree programme. Most courses have core modules which everyone studies, and many courses allow you to choose options or modules to make up the course that suits you.
  • Foundation or qualifying year
    Some degrees offer a foundation or qualifying year as the first year, sometimes called ‘year zero’. This year is designed to develop the skills and subject-specific knowledge required to undertake a degree course in subject areas such as art, design, engineering, and science. It can be offered as a ‘standalone’ course or as part of a degree. Most students who take a foundation year choose to stay at the same university/college to complete their full degree, but it is also possible to apply for a full-time degree course elsewhere. 
  • Diploma in Foundation Studies (art and design)

    This one-year qualification – often shortened to ‘Art Foundation’ – is widely recognised as a primary route to gain entry to the most prestigious art and design degree courses. The learning is tailored to a student’s specific area of art and design subject interest, so they can progress to study that area at degree level. For funding purposes, this course is classified as a further education course, so student loans (for tuition and living costs) are not available. However, UK/EU students under the age of 19 on 31 August of the year of entry will not be charged a tuition fee. As a result, many students choose to take this course in their home town or city.

  • Degree or graduate level apprenticeship
    This is a new type of higher level apprenticeship, which can lead to a full undergraduate degree as part of an apprenticeship. It is important to check the full details of a given job and apprenticeship with the employer and training provider. These courses are a good fit for students who want to gain work experience rather than studying full-time at university, but would like to achieve the same degree status. Students need to be highly committed – competition can be fierce and entry qualifications can be high. If you’re considering this option, you may want to keep your options open by making an application to a full-time university degree through UCAS at the same time.
  • Foundation degrees
    These can be a good destination for school leavers at 18, offering a qualification that can help gain degree entry. They’re usually two-year courses (longer if part-time). This route is a good option for students who need a course with lower entry requirements and fewer examinations, would prefer a vocational degree / to study while they work, or are not yet ready to commit to three years at university. Foundation degrees combine academic skills and knowledge with workplace performance and productivity. They are designed in partnership with employers and therefore focus on a particular job role or profession, enabling you to gain professional and technical skills to further your career. They can be used as a standalone qualification for employment, but are more commonly used as the basis for progression to a final ‘top-up’ year, leading to a full BA or BSc degree. The final year may be taken at a different university/college.
  • HNCs or HNDs offer other routes to a degree

    The Higher National Certificate (HNC), a one-year work-related course, is equivalent to the first year of a university degree programme. The Higher National Diploma (HND) is a two-year work-related course, which is equivalent to the first two years of a full honours degree. As with a foundation degree, it is possible to progress from these courses to complete a full honours degree at a university.

  • Accelerated degree
    This is a two-year, fast-track degree course offered by some universities/colleges in some subject areas. It is more intensive and demanding than a typical degree, because you have to cover the same course content in a shorter period – however, it may suit those students who are prepared for the workload.
There are quicker qualifications too.

They don't lead directly to a degree, but you can go on and join the second or third year of a full degree if you change your mind and want to graduate after all.

  • One year of a degree – a Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE).
  • Two years of a degree – a Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), Higher National Diploma (HND) or a Foundation degree, which combines academic study with workplace learning.
  • Interested in performing arts?

    There are theory-based music, dance and drama courses in undergraduate education, but if you're looking for more performance based courses, studying at a conservatoire could be the answer for you. If so, please apply through UCAS Conservatoires.


3. Choose where to study

Some students set their heart on a particular uni, while others just want to choose the course they like the sound of best. Either way is fine, but there are a few things to check first.