University Tips Blog
An image of open doors, to show the range of university options.
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 Mar '24

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

The higher education system in the UK is very diverse and your young person 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, students can choose the setting that best suits their individual preferences.

When it comes to choosing what and where to study, the ‘what’ should always come 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’re most interested in?

It’s 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, while others embed more modes of application and research. Understanding the different types of universities will enable them to make the best decision.

What is your young person looking for?

A good way to answer this question is to think about what is most important to them and to then marry this with the type of setting most suitable for them.

Some questions to consider:

Are they looking for a traditional academic or a vocational/professional university?
Everyone has a preferred style of learning and different types of universities will accommodate these. Going to a university that better suits a students’ style of learning will enable them to more effectively 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 or small cohort of students?
Attending a larger university will provide the conventional ‘university’ experience, while going to a smaller, more specialist institution, will mean smaller class sizes where your young person may receive more individualised attention.

Do they want a residential student experience or a hands-on experience?
If they’re looking to study Makeup Artistry, they could study at a specialist institution such as Arts University Bournemouth, a traditional university such as Solent University or at a further education college such as Bury College. This variety is not just for applied courses, for instance Law can be studied at a traditional university but also at a specialist university like The University of Law.

The best way to approach choosing where to study their chosen course is to keep your young person’s mind open to all types of institutions, to find out more about them by reading prospectuses, social media posts, attending Open Days and talking to current students, before deciding which suits them most.

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