This section of Lifepilot will help you think about the type of study or course that will best suit your ambitions, interests and circumstances.
Adults can start their journey to higher education level study in all sorts of ways. You may feel ready to start a programme at this level straight away or you might want to begin by taking a course that will prepare you for higher education. Whatever your starting point, there is a variety of types of higher education course, lots of subjects to choose from, flexible ways to study and many different places where you can learn.
Decisions based on goals
Choosing the right course and mode of study means you need to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in the long run.
If you don’t have the necessary entry qualifications to start a higher education level course, find out what you do need. For example, if you are considering taking an Access to Higher Education Diploma, check that this will get you onto the degree you want to study.
If you are in employment and want to progress in your career, think about how your new qualification will help you achieve this aim. Find out whether your employer will support you with your course fees and/or time off for study.
If you have a new career in mind, before you apply for courses, find out what qualifications are most likely to be acceptable for future work or training in this career. For instance, you may need to take a degree course accredited or recognised by a professional body.
Checking entry criteria
Part of the process of choosing the right course is to research the entry criteria and make sure that you meet these.
Universities and colleges set their own entry criteria but are often very flexible, especially for mature students. Entry routes into higher education can include:
- an Access to Higher Education Diploma
- AS and A levels
- a BTEC Level 3 National qualification
- an OCR Level 3 Cambridge Technical qualification
- a Level 3 work-based qualification (e.g. an NVQ Level 3)
- a Level 3/Advanced Apprenticeship
- a foundation year
- previous relevant work experience
Admissions staff will want to make sure that you are able to cope with study at higher education level and that you have, where appropriate, sufficient relevant background knowledge for the subject you want to study. If necessary, the institution may ask you to take a test, taster module, submit an exploratory essay or do another type of assessment. If English is not your first language, you may have to take an English Language proficiency test.
It is important to check the entry requirements for any course you are considering. If necessary, contact the university/college to ask for advice.
Qualifications from outside the UK
If you have qualifications awarded in another country, you'll need to find out whether they are recognised in the UK. See the UK NARIC website to compare your overseas qualification with those offered in this country.