Which course is right for you?
Some people have a clear idea of the subject they want to study or the career they want to progress to, but aren’t sure which type of course is suitable for them. Others want to go to university or college but feel overwhelmed by the options available and don’t know which subject to pick.
We’ve broken down the types of qualifications and gathered some advice to help you make the right choice for you. We’ve also listed the different kinds of higher education providers in West Yorkshire, so you can understand the differences in provision in the region.
Choosing your subject
If you’re not sure which subject is right for you, try researching the jobs that are currently in demand or that you’d like to do.Prospects.ac.uk has a useful guide to the range of careers you could enter directly after undergraduate study. Go Higher West Yorkshire also has information and resources on local labour market information, including a tool to compare pay for different job roles.
If you have a specific career in mind, it’s a good idea to talk to people within the sector to find out about the realities of the job and what kind of qualifications you need. If you haven’t worked in that area before, try to gain work experience to see if you actually like it – you can also include this in your application to show that you’re committed to your choice.
In West Yorkshire we have a range of higher education providers, some offering a wide selection of different subjects and others specialising in particular areas. Whatever you’re interested in, you’re sure to find a university or college to suit your choice. See ‘Choosing your provider’ below for more details.
Choosing your qualification type
There are eight different levels of education which are recognised across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and higher-level qualifications are Level 4 and above. They are provided by: a University Centre within an FE college; a university; an approved training provider; or a conservatoire.
This graphic shows how different courses and qualifications compare, and how to progress between them. The higher the level, the more advanced the qualification is.
Undergraduate degrees, which are generally studied full-time over three years or part-time over six years, are the most well-known higher-level qualification. There are nonetheless a range of alternatives that are becoming increasingly popular and which we encourage you to investigate. These include Higher and Degree Apprenticeships, which are a job with training that allows you to earn while you learn, and Higher Technical Qualifications such as Higher National Certificates (HNCs), Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) and Foundation Degrees, which are specifically approved by employers to prepare you for a particular career (e.g. business management).
Learners usually complete preceding levels before progressing to more advanced qualifications. Some higher education providers will consider equivalent work experience instead of a formal qualification – it’s always worth speaking to your chosen university or college’s admissions team to check.
Qualifications can be grouped into vocational and academic:
- Vocational qualifications focus on practical application more than theoretical knowledge. They can be offered in everything from animal care and manufacturing right through to management and health & safety.
- Academic programmes can offer work-based learning and industry insight through short-term opportunities, longer placements, or a year-in-industry (also known as a sandwich year).
Making your choice
Choosing your provider
In West Yorkshire there are 13 higher education providers offering higher-level qualifications: six universities, six further education colleges with HE provision, and a music conservatoire.
Regardless of which institution you study at, the government’s Office for Students ensure that providers deliver positive outcomes for students. Any publicly-funded higher education provider must ensure that all students, from all backgrounds, and with the ability and desire to undertake higher education:
- Are supported to access, succeed in, and progress from, higher education.
- Receive a high quality academic experience, and their interests are protected while they study or in the event of provider, campus or course closure.
- Are able to progress into employment or further study, and their qualifications hold their value over time.
- Receive value for money
This means that wherever you choose to study, you can be confident in receiving a high quality experience and that your qualifications are recognised and valued by employees.
Higher education at FE colleges
Some further education colleges have HE provision, usually within a ‘University Centre’ which means you’ll be studying with other adult learners aged 18 and over.
Colleges offer many benefits that make them attractive for mature students. Features of HE study within an FE college include:
- lower tuition fees
- small class sizes
- frequent contact with your tutors and individual study support
- location – you can choose to stay close to home (reducing any living expenses)
- flexible study options, including two-year professional courses and part-time provision
- progressive and modular programmes – you can choose to continue to future courses
Further education colleges with HE provision in West Yorkshire include:
Conservatoires provide performance-based higher education, including music, drama, screen and production courses – both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Courses at conservatoires are based around individual tuition, practical training, and frequent opportunities to perform. They have a strong vocational focus, with teaching designed to reflect the industry you’re interested in so that students graduate with good knowledge of ways of working and industry standards. All teaching staff at conservatoires are working professionals. There is a strong emphasis on one-to-one tuition, alongside group work and performances.
Students are often expected to be on campus full-time every weekday, with performances and workshops mostly held in the evenings and at weekends. On top of this, students are expected to practise extensively in their own time.
Conservatoires in West Yorkshire:
Universities are the most common providers of higher education, with 165 public universities in the UK. These span small institutions with a couple of thousand students, to very large organisations with tens of thousands of students. They might be on a single campus or across several locations. Some universities offer a broad range of subject choices, whereas others specialise in a few areas of excellence.
Given this diversity, it’s difficult to generalise what you can expect from a university. However, there are some common features for most universities:
- tuition fees at or close to the maximum (currently £9,250)
- likely to be a larger cohort of students on your course – although you may have smaller study group sizes
- a focus on independent study
- a range of subject choices, with options to pick modules in different subjects
- dedicated student support services such as careers advisors, wellbeing support and student unions
- large campus locations with accommodation and social venues on-site or nearby
Different types of university
Some universities specialise in conducting research – their teaching staff are also likely to be carrying out research in their specialist fields, and this can inform the curriculum. 24 of these ‘research-intensive’ universities form the Russell Group.
Following the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, many former polytechnics became universities, most commonly known as Post 92 universities. Education at these institutions combines vocational, professional and industrially-focused learning with innovative teaching, state-of-the-art facilities and strong links with industry partners.
Universities in West Yorkshire
Making your decision
When considering which provider would suit you best, it might be helpful to think about the following questions:
- Would you relocate to study? If not, how far are you willing to commute to attend your university or college?
- How important is it to you to have a ‘traditional’ student experience?
- Would you prefer to be part of a large or smaller group of learners?
- What support do you need (e.g. academic support, disability support, financial support), and which providers best suit your needs?
- Which providers can support the way you want to study (e.g. part-time, flexible hours, etc.)?
- Which providers would be most affordable for you?
- Do you want to be taught by research-focused academics, and/or industry professionals who have expertise outside of academia?
- What are the progression opportunities once you’ve graduated from study? What links to employers do providers have, and what employability support will you receive while studying?
The Discover Uni website allows you to compare official statistics for courses at different providers, including National Student Survey satisfaction scores, fees and accommodation costs, how the courses are taught and assessed, and employment and salaries after study.
University and college open days give you the chance to visit the providers’ location, see facilities, and ask questions to students and staff. These are usually at the start of the academic year (September – October), and towards the end (May – July). Check providers’ webpages for dates of upcoming open days.
If you can’t attend an in-person open day, you might be able to explore through a virtual tour, digital experience or webpages which introduce you to study at the provider you’re interested in:
- Bradford College
- University of Bradford
- Calderdale College
- University of Huddersfield
- Kirklees College
- Leeds Arts University
- Leeds Beckett University
- Leeds City College
- Leeds Conservatoire
- Leeds College of Building
- Leeds Trinity University
- University of Leeds
- Wakefield College
View our information about support while studying.