University Tips Blog
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by Christopher Edwards

Student Recruitment Officer at the University of South Wales

posted on 27 Mar '23

A guide to the different types of undergraduate university courses

There are multiple options when it comes to the types of undergraduate university courses. Navigating these and choosing which subject and which type of course to study can be a difficult and important part of a student’s decision when it comes to their higher education options.

This article will provide you, the teacher or careers colleague, with some basic knowledge so you can provide students with the best possible information and guidance to make informed degree course decisions.

Types of courses

What are Bachelor degree courses?

Bachelor degree courses usually involve a single subject, however there are options to combine two subjects in a single course (joint or dual honours), or multiple subjects (combined honours). These courses can be studied full-time, or in some cases part-time.

Some offer a sandwich year, where the student will have a year in their chosen industry forming part of the course. All these courses will have core modules, which every student studies, then for some there will be the ability to pick optional modules to tailor the course according to the interests of the student.

What is a Foundation year?

For some courses there is a foundation year attached. These are usually designed for those students who did not meet the entry requirements for the undergraduate degree. The foundation year will support students to develop the skills and subject knowledge to continue their studies and undertake the degree course. This will add an additional year and once completed, the student will usually enrol onto the first year of the undergraduate degree course.

What is a Diploma in Foundation Studies?

This is a one-year qualification, usually known as an Art Foundation and is a recognised route to gain entry to some of the prestigious art and design degree courses.

What are Degree apprenticeships?

This is where a student will achieve a bachelor degree as part of an apprenticeship. Degree apprenticeships are becoming more popular as the students will leave with greater work experience and still achieve the same degree status as those studying through a traditional degree route. These can vary in duration, and between institutions, so it is worth students spending some time researching them further.

How about HNCs, HNDs and Higher Technical Qualifications?

A HNC is a one-year course and a HND is a two-year course, both are work related. These are options for those who do not want to fully commit to a full-time bachelor degree but might want to complete this in stages and potentially join the third year later to complete the bachelor programme. Higher Technical Qualifications were new in 2022 and are level 4 and 5 qualifications, which are aimed at students who are retraining or upskilling within their workplace or CertHE.

Image of a student creating a table of what they are looking for in a university course

Choosing a course checklist

It is important to remember that no two courses are the same, just because the course has the same title and is offered at different universities, it does not mean students will learn, experience and be assessed in the same way. Therefore, it is important for your students to consider the following criteria when deciding between different universities when the course title is the same.

  • Course content – students should choose a course which includes topics they are interested in. This can differ depending on the university.
  • Assessment type – some courses might only assess students through exams, some a blend of exams and coursework. Students should consider options which meet their preferred assessment styles.
  • Accreditation – certain universities will have industry recognised accreditations as part of their degree.
  • Work placements – depending on the university, a course might offer work placements as part of their degree. It is important that students consider this, especially if they are considering a career where an accredited degree is a requirement to practice.
  • Travel / field trips – some institutions might offer opportunities for trips, either national or international within their programme. Universities must disclose whether the cost of these are included as part of tuition fees or whether there will be an additional cost to participate.

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