Tertiary Education: Your Choices – Part 2 – Bachelor’s Degrees

undergraduate degrees

Welcome to part 2 of our tertiary education guide (part 1 can be found here). Today we’ll be discussing arguably the most popular choice of tertiary education qualification here in the UK: undergraduate bachelor’s degrees.

Why Choose an Undergraduate Degree?

We began part 1 of our guide by praising the UK’s education sector for the amount of choice it offers to post A-level (or equivalent) students; this is most evident in the thousands of undergraduate degree subjects available through UK universities and higher education providers. Whatever expertise you’re looking to gain, there will almost certainly be an HE provider that will offer a relevant course (Puppetry: Design and Performance from the University of London has to be up there with the strangest degrees on offer in the UK).

Likewise, if you’re unsure which career path you’ll end up following, an undergraduate degree in a broad subject will give you plenty of professional wiggle room come graduation. Subjects like English Literature and History can land you a job in sectors like marketing, teaching or administration.

Learning Style

While apprenticeships heavily lean towards obtaining practical skills with on-job learning (and often an additional day of classroom-based learning), undergraduate degrees primarily focus on academic learning. The theory behind principles is explored in lectures and seminars, and students are expected to demonstrate their knowledge of such theories in long essays and formal examinations. During the final year, students usually write a dissertation (typically 10,000 words), which acts as a cumulative assessment of the knowledge gained over the three years of study.

It’s worth noting that university courses are in a constant process of innovation; many universities are implementing new methods of delivering course syllabuses. Such an example is The British and Irish Modern Music Institute which offers a BA (Hons) in Music Production. The course blends theory and practical studio production skills to prepare students for various roles upon graduation.

Vital Statistics

Unless you’ve just woken up from a six-year nap, you’ll likely have heard the contentious issue that is university tuition fees. Since the mid-noughties, tuition fees have risen from around £1,000 a-year to an eye-watering £9,000 a-year in the 2017/2018 academic year. Unless there are some considerable political changes, these types of figures look likely to stay. That kind of financial burden (around £50,000 of debt upon graduation according to reports) could scare potential students away, and the numbers reflect this as applicants for undergraduate courses are now at their lowest since 2009.

Thankfully, income contingent loans are still available making it possible for students from a range of backgrounds to benefit from higher education programmes in the UK. Unfortunately, the financial burden of going to university falls hardest on the poorest students. However, the nature of income contingent loans make paying back the £50,000+ cost at least bearable; students do not begin paying back the loan until they earn over £21,000 a year (as of 2017/2018 academic year), and payments rise incrementally as the graduate earns more.  

Typical undergraduate degrees last around three years; there are courses which include a sandwich year in which the student works in a relevant position to gain on-job experience. Sandwich years can be an invaluable point of differentiation come job application time, so it’s worth speaking to the university course advisors to see if you can include a sandwich year on an ad hoc basis if one isn’t included in the course.

Entry requirements for the course range from institution to institution; some HE providers may require very limited A-level (or equivalent) results, whereas other may need top grades in core subjects before considering a candidate. Be sure to search UCAS for information on each specific course and provider’s entry requirements.

Join us next time for our take on higher national diplomas (spoiler alert: we think they’re great).    

Interested in finding out which higher education course matches your professional goals? Get in touch with an HND Insider course advisor today to discuss your options further.



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