University Tips Blog
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A headshot image of the author, Dr Morag Duffin

by Dr Morag Duffin

Head of Access and Participation at The University of Law

posted on 20 Mar '23

A guide to the different types of universities

The higher education system in the UK is very diverse, and students can study at a wide range of institutions, from traditional universities to further education colleges with higher education provision, to smaller and specialist institutions.

As a result of this diverse range of institutions and their different modes of teaching and learning, your students can choose the setting that best suits them and their individual educational preferences.

When helping students to choose what to and where to study, the ‘what’ always comes first

What course do they want to study? Once they know that, they might have the difficult but exciting prospect of deciding where to study it. A primary consideration is what the course is like at each institution, i.e., the content of the course – does the History programme cover the topics they are most interested in?

It is also important to note that different higher education providers might teach the courses in different ways. Some institutions might focus on the more theoretical aspects of the course, whilst others embed more modes of application and research. Understanding the different types of universities will enable you to best advise your students.

Image of a group of students in university accommodation

What type of educational setting is your student looking for?

A good way to answer this question is to encourage a student to think about what is most important for them as an individual and marry this with the type of setting.

Some questions for your students to consider include:

  • Do you have any preferences on location? This may be influenced by family or work commitments. It is important to note that if they would prefer to study online, there are some institutions that provide a 100% online model. This could allow them to remain at home but still study their course of choice.
  • Are they looking for a traditional academic university or a more vocational/ professional one? Everyone has a preferred style of learning, and different types of universities will accommodate these. Going to a university that better suits their style of learning will enable them to better achieve their goals. For example, if they prefer project work as a mode of learning, they can attend a university that does not place significant weight on end of year exams.
  • Do they like the idea of learning as part of a large cohort of students or as part of a smaller one? Attending a larger university will provide the conventional ‘university’ experience of being in large groups. Meanwhile, going to a smaller, more specialist institution will mean smaller class sizes where they may receive more individualised attention.
  • Do they want a traditional residential student experience or a more work-like experience? For instance, if they are looking to study Make Up Artistry, they could study at a specialist institution like the Arts University Bournemouth, or a traditional university like Solent University or at a further education college like Bury College. This variety is not just for more applied courses, for instance the academic subject of Law can be studied at a traditional university, but also a specialist professional university like The University of Law.

The best way to approach supporting your students with choosing where to study their chosen course is to encourage them to keep their minds open to all types of institution, to find out more about them (by reading prospectuses and social media posts, attending open days and talking to current students), and then decide which suits them best.

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