College and university

Picking the right course, the right college or uni, and the right campus can be tricky. This is your guide to weighing up your choices and making your decision.

Picking the right course, the right college or uni, and the right campus can be tricky. This is your guide to weighing up your choices and making your decision.

Students in a lecture theatre

Using university rankings and league tables

Another way of finding out how courses and universities compare is to look at their rankings.

University league tables and rankings can be confusing. There's a lot of information to get through. 

So, we've pulled together a guide to help you make sense of them.

Ten things to consider when you’re deciding where to study

1. Subject ​​​​​​​

Our Learn and train search and strengths quiz help you explore your options and get suggestions. You should also browse through college and uni prospectuses to see what's out there, and what might suit you.

2. Type of Course

What kind of learning works best for you? Is college or uni the better fit? Could an apprenticeship be a better option?

3. Course content

Even within similar courses, you’ll have different options. Some things to find out: How is the course assessed? Does it offer a work placement, or a year abroad? British Council has more information about studying and working abroad. Sites like Unistats can help you get some insight.

4. The set up 

​​​​​​​You might not fancy a four-year, full-time course. Other options include part-time study and online or distance learning. Find out what else is available.

5. How long? ​​​​​​​

You’ll have to study longer to qualify for some careers. That might mean a longer degree, post-graduate course or exams once you start working. 

6. Entry requirements

What qualifications do you need to get in? If you don’t have them yet, is there another route you could take to get the experience you need?

7. Money

You need to consider things like student loans and the cost of moving away from home. Visit the funding page for more information.

8. Location

Does the campus feel like home? Take advantage of any virtual open days or events on offer. While most campus events have been cancelled or postponed, many universities and colleges are hosting virtual open days where you can take virtual tours of campuses and accommodation.

9. Prospects

It's important to understand where the course could lead. Check out our guide to using university rankings and league tables to compare courses and find out what students that were on the courses really thought.

10. Options

UCAS lets you pick five choices – make the most of them. If you’re going to college, find out if you can apply to a range of courses, or try a few different places.

Make the most of an open day or HE Exhibition

When you're trying to make your decision, it helps to speak to people in the know. Attending an HE Exhibition or open day lets you do that. Due to current Government guidance most colleges and universities are hosting online events. At a virtual open day you can attend taster lectures online, take a virtual tour of the campus and speak to staff and students who can answer your questions.

Getting support



If you're a disabled student, you may have extra support to consider as you get ready for university or college.

Under the Equalities Act, your college or uni has a duty to make reasonable adjustments so that you're not at any disadvantage to other students. Make sure you find out what support you can put in place - and get it set up so that you're ready go when your course begins.

In the video, Kieran, who is deaf, talks about the support he's set up while he studies primary teaching. 

He says, 'Just remember that you should have the same experience as anyone else in this university, no matter what.'

Extracurricular activities

What you do outside of lectures can be just as important for your future career. Make sure you consider what’s available after class when you’re deciding what to study.

Clubs and societies

You’ll meet lots of new people. As well as making friends, you’ll be building your network. You’ll also learn new skills and try things that aren’t covered by your course. You could take on responsibilities and learn about things like planning, budgeting or marketing.

This looks great on your CV, and can help you stand out in a crowd with the same qualifications.

Work experience

Getting experience while you’re at uni or college means more to put on your CV. You could take on part-time jobs, volunteering  placements or summer internships. Some courses also offer work placements fitted in to your studies.

These help you develop some of the transferable skills which employers love to see. It can also be a chance to get a start and make some connections in your industry.

Work or study abroad

Working or studying abroad while you're at college or uni can also be great to add to your CV. You'll be gaining skills that employers look for, including communication skills. Research shows this can help you to find work sooner, and get better paid employment too. 

While it might not be possible to study abroad right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, British Council support schemes to fund and organise work or study abroad. Keep checking their website for the latest information and guidance.

A student taking notes in a lecture. We see hands and a notebook full of writing.

Picked the wrong course?

If uni or college doesn’t live up to expectations, don’t panic. Lots of students have doubts about their course – but it can be very easy to change. There’s room for second thoughts.

What to do:

  • Try to identify what exactly you’re not happy with. Is it the course itself? A particular subject, your accommodation, personal reasons, finance, career choices?
  • Speak to someone at your university or college straight away. Course tutors and lecturers, your student adviser, welfare service or career service can all offer guidance
  • Finance advisers can help if you have any worries about funding entitlement
  • If you do decide to change course or leave, find out if you gain credit for the parts you’ve completed so far

Changing a little

If it’s just a particular module that’s the problem, find out if it’s possible to sit an alternative subject. You might also be able to get extra help with it, rather than change your whole course.

Changing course

If the module you’re struggling with is compulsory or you’re not enjoying any part of your course, it’s possible to change courses, but stay within the same university or college. Find out what your options are.

Changing university or college

If you decide to change university or college, you should contact the university or college you want to change to, and speak to the admissions tutor for that course. Explain your current situation and why you want to change. Discuss what level you want to transfer to and ask whether it’s possible to move credits across.

For university, you’ll need to apply to the new course through UCAS and notify your current university. For college, you’ll need to apply to the new course through their system and let your college know. 

Make sure you get some advice on how this could affect your SAAS funding, course fees and loans too.