University Tips Blog
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A headshot image of the author, Ella Sancassani

by Ella Sancassani

Student Recruitment Officer at the University of Essex

posted on 16 Feb '23

A parent guide to the different types of higher education courses

Whilst it is important for students to research different universities, choosing the right course for them should be their crucial first step. There are over 50,000 courses to choose from in the UK alone, and it can be difficult to pick a course when the language used is unfamiliar. We have created this guide to outline the types of courses available.

Foundation year

The first level of study available at university is a foundation year. These can be standalone one-year courses or part of an integrated Bachelor’s degree. These courses are designed to improve academic skills and subject-specific knowledge as well as preparing students for undergraduate study and life at university. Upon successful completion of their foundation year, students will often automatically progress to year 1 of their chosen undergraduate degree.

Bachelor’s degree

A Bachelor’s degree is the most common type of undergraduate degree. These are typically three-year programmes, although can vary dependant on the course and the university. There are different types available, most commonly BA (Bachelor of Arts), BSc (Bachelor of Science), BEng (Bachelor of Engineering) and LLB (Bachelor of Laws) programmes.

Joint honours

Joint honours degrees combine two or more areas of interest at degree level and can cross disciplines and faculties – this may be a great option for those with interests spanning multiple subject areas.

Sandwich programmes

Sandwich programmes provide students with the ability to incorporate a study abroad or placement year within their time at university. Typically extending the course length by one year, this option can provide a once in a lifetime opportunity to live and study overseas and develop their work experience to boost employability.

An image to illustrate the different types of university courses

Degree Apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity as an alternative route into higher education with the support of an existing employer to further a young person’s career; enabling students to study towards a degree while working and earning.

Higher National Certificate and Diploma

Available in a range of disciplines, Higher National Certificates (HNC) or Diplomas (HND) are often focused around industry and incorporate practical methods of learning. These courses typically take one to two years to complete and can enable students to progress into the second or third year of a full Bachelor’s programme.

Integrated Masters

These courses combine undergraduate and postgraduate study to enable students to graduate with a Masters qualification on completion of their course.

Final tip - don’t judge a course by the title

The content and delivery of courses with the same title can vary significantly across different universities and it is important that students do their research to dig beyond the course title. Students may wish to study something familiar or try something they haven’t heard of before – I would recommend students take the time to explore all of their options.

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