How to choose a course

When students are thinking about university, we know that the choice of courses and institutions can be overwhelming. Therefore we have created a range of resources to support students doing their research, to help ensure they are making the right decision for them. 


This presentation supports students in thinking about their choices for higher education. It gives top tips for researching universities and courses, and encourages students to consider what is most important to them to ensure they make the right decision. 

To get a copy of the presentation, please email us.

This guide encourages students to explore what courses suit them, including a quiz activity to identify their key interests. The booklet also informs students of their possible steps following Level 3 study, and gives advice about what to consider when choosing a course and university. 

Download our how to choose a course guide PDF

View our how to choose a course guide online (accessible)

311undergraduate courses provided at the University of Derby** 2019
Top 3for satisfaction with teaching quality **Guardian University Guide 2020

Why should I study at university?

Why go to University video

View Why should I study at university video transcript

Choose a subject they enjoy

Students should make sure they choose a subject that they enjoy as they are committing to it for three or four years. They’ll be more motivated to work harder (more likely to attend 9am lectures) and their time at university will be a positive experience. If they are struggling to settle on just one subject, they may want to consider a Joint Honours degree which will give them the opportunity to explore two different subjects that they are passionate about.

Course and career

Advise your students to thoroughly research the options available. Universities will offer courses which have the same name, yet the content will differ. It’s important for them to consider what they hope to do once they have finished higher education and how will the course contribute to achieving that goal. It may be that their dream job requires a specific degree or a set of skills that only a certain university course offers. They need to compare the modules offered and how they will be assessed.

Course extras

Some courses offer the opportunity to undertake a year in industry. This will help your students apply what they learn in real world situations and boost their employability when they leave university. Additionally, they may even be able to take a year of study abroad. If this is something they are interested in, then they need to check with the universities that they are applying to, to ensure that they can support with this.

A student looking at a section of University Ram artwork
A student smiling at a careers fair

What qualifications are available to your students?

Course levelCourse description
Further Education Level 3

Students will choose or will have already chosen up to four subjects to specialise in. The choices open to them will vary depending on where they decide to study – either college or sixth form. Following this they can choose if they are ready to put their knowledge into practice in the working world or whether they want to study to an even higher level.

These qualifications help your students to specialise in a particular subject and use practical lessons and placements to aid their learning. These will help them to decide if they want to be an expert in that field - they can decide to do that through study or in the work place.

Your students can go straight into the world of work, with training through a university, college or training provider to support their development. They will usually apply directly to the employer offering the apprenticeship. Higher apprenticeships can enable them to go on to study for a foundation or full degree.

T Levels
T Levels are a new course for September 2020, which is equivalent to three A-levels. They offer a mixture of classroom-based learning and 'on-the-job' experience during an industry placement of 313 hours. They provide knowledge and experience needed to go on to further study or employment.
Access and Foundation

Access courses are for students aged 19 and over without the necessary qualifications for entry to higher education. They prepare people for university-level study so they can go on to do a degree course.

Foundation year (if required)
If your students have the enthusiasm for exploring a subject area but not all the skills needed to succeed as a student at degree level, they could consider a course with foundation year. This is an integrated four-year course that starts by introducing students to the foundation elements of study at university.

Higher Education Level 4

Year 1 at university
They will spend this year learning the basis of their subject. They will meet new people and learn from lecturers and teaching staff who are specialists in their field.

HNCs mix academic, hands-on, practical, and vocational learning that give students the skills they need in the workplace. They can then choose to progress further in education with a HND or go into work.

Foundation Degree
A foundation degree is a two-year qualification which is equivalent to two thirds of a full bachelors degree. Foundation degrees are usually career focused. Once students have completed two years of the course they can progress to a final year of study, usually called a ‘top up’.

Degree apprenticeships
Degree apprenticeships combine work with studying part time at a university. Usually students would spend one day a week at university with the other four being spent with an employer. This option is great for those who would like to combine full time work with part time study as part of their degree.

Higher Education Level 5

Year 2 at university
Students can start to specialise and choose their own modules. Their progress will be measured through assessments, practicals, exams or presentations depending on the university and course they choose.

This develops the skills they learned in their HNC. There are still opportunities to work during a HND and put their skills into practice. They can then choose to ‘top up’ with a third year and study for a degree or go straight into work.

Higher Education Level 6

Year 3 at university
In this year most students undertake their dissertation. This is an indepth research project on a topic of interest for them. Nearing the end of the year students will decide if they want to do even more studying or use their knowledge and skills in employment.

How to choose guide