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Wednesday, 3 October 2023

Choosing a university or college

Whether you have your heart set on a particular university or college or haven't yet decided where to pursue your chosen course, there are a few points you should consider.

Choosing where to study

Where you study can be almost as important as what you study. You may want to consider the extra-curricular aspects of your institution as well as the academic ones.

Wherever you go, you'll want to feel happy and settled. For example, would you prefer somewhere rural or somewhere urban? Do you plan to live at home or move away? Do you want to study full time or part time? Would you prefer to attend lectures or study at your own pace on a distance learning course from home?

Living at home

Living at home while studying has been the norm in countries such as France and Australia for a long time.

By staying put, you can often save money on rent and keep in touch with home life - while still making new friends and having new experiences.

For some people it offers ‘the best of both worlds’, and it is becoming more popular as more institutions, such as further education colleges, offer higher education qualifications.

Moving away

Moving away to study is still a popular option. It may make sense to move if you want to study a particular course at a specific university or college.

Some students also value the experience of living in halls of residence, or in shared accommodation, as an important part of university life. Others want the opportunity to experience living in a different part of the country.

Distance learning

If you have commitments, such as family or a job, a distance learning course (also known as self-study) may be the best option.

Distance learning allows you to learn at your own pace - at home or wherever you choose.

You’ll be sent course materials and assignments to work through on your own. You’ll get feedback on your work from a tutor – plus extra advice if you need it. You may also be able to meet your tutor or other students face to face, through study groups or residential events.

Facilities, accommodation and costs

Although course and location are crucial when you're choosing a place to study, it's also worth thinking about:

  • size of the institution: is it one campus, or are the buildings scattered?
  • social facilities: what are the pubs, clubs, live music venues, cinemas and sports facilities like?
  • accommodation: what are the halls of residence like, and how much does university and private accommodation cost?
  • cost of living: how high are the costs of food and entertainment?

Support during your course

It’s worth researching the help and support that would be available to you at different universities and colleges.

This will vary widely depending on the type of institution you attend and the type of help and support you need. For instance, many universities and colleges have study skill centres to help students adjust to academic life.

All universities and colleges will have support staff to help you with the kinds of problems you might encounter, whether it is the purely practical - a problem with housing, for example - or the very personal.

If you have a disability

Knowing in advance about the support available can be especially important if you have a disability.

Colleges and universities have an obligation to make provision for disabled students - and you may qualify for extra financial help. Follow the links below for more on what you can expect.

Finding out more about your place of study

With so many higher education courses on offer, it’s important to choose the right one for you. See ‘Find a university or college course’ for more.

Attending an open day is a good way to find out more about a university or college’s facilities. It will also give you a chance to gauge the atmosphere and feel of the institution - and the area it's in. Can you imagine spending the next three or four years there?

If you get in touch with the Students' Union at your preferred institution, you'll be able to find out about existing students’ opinions. Many student unions produce an ‘alternative prospectus’ based on students’ views.

Compare courses

See what students thought of their course, and what job they got afterwards

Get facts and figures on universities and colleges

Before making a final decision on where you'd like to study, take time to look at objective information on the college or university's performance. See ‘Get facts and figures on universities, colleges and courses’.

Among other sources of information, you’ll find a link to the Unistats website. Unistats includes results from the National Student Survey, which can give you an insight into what students think of a university or college.

Additional links

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