University Tips Blog
An image of a student holding a sheet with a tick and a cross on it
A headshot image of the author, Dr Morag Duffin

by Dr Morag Duffin

Head of Access and Student Success at The University of Law

posted on 12 Nov '23

Where to study? A guide to the different types of universities

The higher education system in the UK is very diverse, and you can study at a wide range of institutions, from traditional universities to further education colleges with higher education provisions, to smaller and specialist institutions. As a result of this diverse range of institutions and their different modes of teaching and learning, you can choose the setting that best suits you and your individual preferences.

When it comes to choosing what and where to study, the ‘what’ always comes first. What course do you want to study? Once you know that, you 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 you 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 make the best decision.

What type of educational setting are you looking for?

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

Some questions for you 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 you would prefer to study online, there are some institutions that provide a 100% online model. This could allow you to remain at home but still study your course of choice.

Are you 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 your style of learning will enable you to better achieve your goals. For example, if you prefer project work as a mode of learning, you can attend a university that does not place significant weight on end of year exams.

Do you 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 you may receive more individualised attention.

Do you want a traditional residential student experience or a more work-like experience?
If you are looking to study Make Up Artistry, you 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 choosing where to study your chosen course is to keep your mind 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 you the best.

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