University Tips Blog
Image the different types of university courses
A headshot image of the author, Ella Sancassani

by Ella Sancassani

Student Recruitment Officer at the University of Essex

posted on 16 Jan '24

Foundation, bachelor, sandwich years and more – what are the different types of higher education courses?

While it is important for your young person 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. I’ve 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 prepare your young person for undergraduate study and life at university. Upon successful completion of a foundation year, they will often progress to year one of their chosen undergraduate degree.

Bachelor’s degree

A Bachelor’s degree is the most common type of undergraduate degree. They 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 – they’re a great option if your young person’s interests span multiple subject areas.

Sandwich programmes

Sandwich programmes provide your young person with the ability to incorporate a study abroad or placement year as part of 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, gain work experience and boost their employability.

Degree apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships are a fantastic opportunity as an alternative route into higher education. With the support of an existing employer, your young person is able to further their career while studying and earning.

Higher National Certificate and Diploma

Available in a range of disciplines, Higher National Certificates (HNC) or Higher National Diplomas (HND) are focused on industry and incorporate practical methods of learning. These courses take one to two years to complete and can enable your young person to progress onto the second or third year of a fulltime Bachelor’s degree.

Integrated Master’s

These courses combine undergraduate and postgraduate study to enable your young person to graduate with a Master’s qualification upon completion of their course.

Tip: don’t judge a course by the title

The content, assessment methods and contact time of a course can vary significantly from one with the same title, so it’s important that your young person does their research and digs beyond the surface. They may wish to study something familiar or try something they haven’t heard of before – they should take the time to explore all their options.

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