How to choose your degree course and university
Courses vary considerably in their content and many universities have modularised their courses. This means that you can choose modules of different subjects and build your course within certain pathways. Some modules are compulsory and some optional. You are more likely to be assessed after each module, rather than at the end of each year.
Understanding Degree Terminology
- Single subject courses Single Honours degrees
- Two subject courses with equal weighting – 50% each Joint Honours degrees
- Two, three or four subjects studied together Combined degrees
- Two subjects with unequal weighting e.g. 75% 25% Major/Minor degrees
Three or four year courses where graduates obtain a Bachelor's Degree, have different titles and levels e.g. –
- BA- Bachelor of Arts
- BSc- Bachelor of Science
- BEd- Bachelor of Education
- TBEng- Bachelor of Engineering
Types of Courses
Types of Degree Courses
Ordinary / Honours
This can vary between universities and colleges, although generally an 'Ordinary' degree may be awarded if a student has completed a full degree course but hasn't obtained the total required passes sufficient to merit an Honours degree. The Scottish degree structure differs significantly from that in the rest of the UK. Typically, students in Scottish universities study for four years to gain an Honours degree. In years one and two, students often take a wide range of subjects, only then having to decide which subject or subjects to study during their final two years. The Scottish degree structure may appeal to you if you are not quite ready to narrow down your studies to a single subject area.
Certain vocational courses include a year of working within the industry as part of the course. This will usually be for the third year of a degree course or the second year of an HND and depending on the employer, 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.
The majority of higher education institutions have now adopted a modular structure for courses. This means that you can build a personalised course by choosing modules or units of study from different subject areas.
The Higher Education Courses below generally have lower entry requirements than Degree Courses
These are the equivalent of the first two years of an Honours degree and designed and delivered in partnership with employers to equip people with the relevant knowledge and skills for business. They are offered by universities in partnership with higher education colleges. Upon completion you may progress to the final year of an Honours degree.
Higher National Diplomas
These are two year vocational courses, which, if completed with high grades, can lead to the third year of a degree. They are often delivered as a sandwich course with the second year, or part of the second year in industry or on placement.
Certificate of Higher Education
This is the first year of a degree course.
So Which is the Best Course for YOU?
When choosing your course remember one course is not better than an another, it's just different, the best course is the one that suits you. After provisionally choosing your courses, check the university website again carefully, to be sure that you understand what is included in the 3 or 4 years study. Each institution differs in its course content, even though titles may be the same. Choose your course first and then research the university. Course choice must take priority over a particular location or institution, as your main objective is to get a degree. You need to choose a subject which will keep you interested and motivated.
Just because a university has a good reputation, or is ranked higher in the league tables doesn't necessarily mean that courses at that university will be better for you. Compare as many suitable courses as you can and find out what is right for YOU! Try to speak to or email students already on the course you are considering and ask for feedback on their experiences.
Use the summer to do your research and visit universities you are interested in, so that you are well prepared and ready to write your personal statement and complete your UCAS application when you return in September.
On average 14% of students drop out of their courses without finishing them- the reasons for non-continuation are complex and there is rarely one single factor involved. Reasons are likely to be a mix of personal, institution, financial and course related but the most common is "The course is not what I expected/wanted."
So choose wisely, get as much information as you can about the courses because an informed choice is much more likely to be a successful choice!
How Courses May Differ:
- Subject and module options – can you choose to study options you are particularly interested in?
- Methods of assessment – unseen exams, continuous assessment, project work, dissertations.
- Contact time with tutors – will you get enough time to discuss academic and other issues with your tutors?
- How are they taught – e.g. engineering students could have 25 hours contact time (with lectures and tutors) and some social science students may only have 8 hours contact time.
- Size of lectures - Some universities have huge lecture halls with hundreds of students, you may prefer smaller groups.
- Proportion of mature students to school leavers – This may affect you both academically and socially.
- Practicals – Field work, studio, labs – how much, where and when?
- Amount of free study time – are you motivated enough to take a course with lots of free study time?
- Opportunities to study abroad – do you want a year studying or working abroad?
- Professional Accreditation – check the courses have professional accreditation e.g. British Psychological Society-BPS, Law Society-LLB, Qualified Teacher Status-QTS etc.
- Sandwich courses – does the course offer up to 12 months industrial, commercial or public sector placements? This will give you some skills employers are looking for once you have graduated, giving you an advantage over students who have not worked. Students studying in the UK can expect to earn 10-12,000 sterling during that year and many get firm job offers as a result.
Choosing the right university and other issues to consider:
- Is it a campus or city university?
- Does it have good transport links and is it close to an airport (if you are travelling back to Doha)?
- Do they offer the sport and leisure facilities you need?
- Is the location important, do you want to be near the sea, countryside or in the city?
- Do they guarantee student accommodation for all 1st year or international students?
- What is the cost of living e.g. London is more expensive than most other cities.
- Is it a traditional or new university?
- What are their graduate destinations- what do their graduates go on to do?
- Do they offer scholarships e.g. for music or sport?
- What links do they have with local, national and international employers?
- "How to" guides - www.ucas.tv
- Course Search facility - www.ucas.com
- Powersearch - www.ukcoursefinder.com
- US Colleges and Universities - commonapp.org
- American Application Information - www.collegeboard.org
- Tools and Resources, Career Ideas - careerswales.com
- A free online library of careers related to film, news and information - careersbox.co.uk
- Higher Education information- Guides on budgeting, societies, studying etc. - www.studential.com
American University League Tables
UK University League Tables
Choosing your degree on the basis of your IB Diploma subjects is a reasonably safe option, you are already familiar with the subjects and what they involve. However you can choose degree courses based on career interests, or whether you want to study an academic subject such as English and History or a vocational degree where you are trained to do a specific job e.g. Speech and Language Therapy or Dentistry. If you are taking science subjects for example, they can naturally lead on to a range of scientific careers although many scientists follow non science careers such as law and accountancy. Training for many arts and social science graduates begins once they have completed their degree. Destination information for graduates going into their first job shows that approximately 60% go into jobs which are NOT related to their degree subject, this is reassuring for those who are struggling to choose their degree course and career path. Choose your degree course based on something that will keep your interest over the duration of the course. Make sure you have the right subjects for entry to the course you are considering including IGCSE grades, e.g. the requirements for teaching primary level in UK schools include GCSE Maths, English an Science at grade C or above.