University Tips Blog
An image of students discussing university courses
A headshot image of the author, Ella Sancassani

by Ella Sancassani

Student Recruitment Officer at the University of Essex

posted on 14 Nov '23

Foundation, bachelor, sandwiches and more. A guide to the different types of higher education courses

Whilst it is important for you to research different universities, choosing the right course should also be a 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. They are designed to improve academic skills and subject-specific knowledge, as well as preparing you for undergraduate study and life at university. Upon successful completion of a foundation year, you will often automatically progress to year one of your 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 they can vary dependent 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 (Law) 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 if you have interests spanning multiple subject areas.

Sandwich programmes

Sandwich programmes provide you with the ability to incorporate a study abroad or placement year within your 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 your work experience to boost employability.

Degree Apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity as an alternative route into higher education with the support of an existing employer to further your career, enabling you 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 you to progress into the second or third year of a full Bachelor programme.

Integrated Masters

These courses combine undergraduate and postgraduate study to enable you to graduate with a Masters qualification on completion of your 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 you do your research to dig beyond the course title. You may wish to study something familiar or try something you haven’t heard of before – I would recommend you take the time to explore all of your options.

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