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Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Questions

It might be that the things you're wondering about are the same as other people... here are some answers to some commonly asked questions.

What are the benefits of higher education?

There are numerous benefits to having a higher education qualification such as a degree – the most obvious being the fact that graduates generally earn more money than non-graduates and enjoy a more rewarding career with more opportunities for employment and progression. In fact, by 2022, it’s expected that half of all jobs will require a degree, or equivalent.

The benefits extend even further than this. Studying at this level develops transferable skills, such as time and workload management, and communication and leadership skills, just to name a few. These skills serve graduates well, outside the workplace as well as in it.

The way you learn in university is different from the way you learn in school. Although some of your knowledge will come from lectures, seminars and workshops, most of it comes from conducting your own research. By the time you leave university, you will have become very skilled in finding things out that you didn’t know before. This skill is valued in the workplace as you can be given projects to work on where you’ll be required to find things out.

Other benefits include increased independence and confidence, as well as a deeper knowledge of your specialised subject.

You can find out more on about the Benefits of Higher Education here.

How long does it take to do a university course?

Generally, most degree-level courses take three years – and this time flies by! A few universities are offering two-year degrees, although you can expect to spend an extra term in university or college per year.

If you decide to take a placement year during your studies, your course will extend for one more year – placement years can be very beneficial to your studies and your employability. You also get paid for it.

Find out more about placement years here.

Certain courses, such as Dentistry and Medicine can take up to five years.

Foundation degrees usually take two years (full-time) to complete and focus on specific professions. Foundation degrees are standalone qualifications, but also open the doors to higher study by providing a foundation on which you can build upon. Many people go on to ‘top up’ to a full degree.

If you’d like to know more about how long a university-level course takes, follow the link below:

The Length of the Course

When should I start thinking about higher education?

You can start thinking about higher education at any time. But, if you have an idea of a career you’re interested in when you’re young, you can choose options at school that will better prepare you for your future.

For lots of us, though, when we are young we have no idea what we want to do for a career – we’re not even aware of all the jobs that are out there.

If you fit into that category, try exploring our ‘Find your Career’ section and start identifying jobs that you like the sound of and see what skills and qualifications are needed. Having direction means knowing where you want to go and knowing how to get there.

How do people pay for university?

You don’t have to come from a wealthy family to go to university. If you’re from England you’re entitled to apply for a tuition fee loan and a maintenance loan. You apply for both of these at the same time through Student Finance England.

A tuition fee loan covers the cost of your course and it’s paid directly to your college or university, while maintenance loans are for your accommodation and living costs while you’re a student.

For a more in-depth explanation, check out our Guide to Student Finance

Will I fit in at university?

Heading off to university is an exciting time for new students, although it can be daunting at the same time. If the thought of not fitting in fills you with fear and puts you off the idea of university, just remember, going to university is not like going to school.

Universities are full of people from different places, different cultures, different backgrounds, and different interests. This diversity makes university a place where everyone fits in. Everybody’s in the same boat, and everyone who’s there wants to be there.

Also, from book club to rugby club, there are hundreds of opportunities on offer where you can meet like-minded people if that’s what you want. If for any reason you find yourself needing any support while at uni, you’re in the right place.

What can I do if I’m struggling with my mental health while at university or college?

A person’s mental health or wellbeing can be negatively affected for a variety of reasons. Financial problems can be a common concern for students in higher education, but personal, academic and physical issues can also impact on a person’s ability to cope.

If you find yourself experiencing mental health issues for any reason during your time in higher education, you won’t be alone, and universities and colleges have all sorts of support systems in place to help students through difficult times. There are a range of external organisations that you can also turn to, particularly if you wish to remain anonymous.

University and college services

Universities and colleges all offer a mental health and counselling service which will allow you to talk with a trained advisor. They will listen to you and offer support and guidance. You can also speak to your personal tutor or the Student Union as a first port of call, and they will be able to advise and direct you towards the most relevant service(s) available.

Did you know that the Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is available to those with mental disabilities as well as physical? If you have a mental condition that affects your ability to study, you are eligible to apply for additional financial support that can be used to pay for equipment that you need for your course. You might also receive support in the form of a note-taker or mentor. Find out more about the DSA here.

External organisations

In addition to university and college services, there are a range of external services that you can access either online, or by telephone if you wish to speak to someone urgently, or remain anonymous:

Young Minds provide support for all young people and empower them to overcome life’s challenges.

Text: If you need urgent help text YM to 85258. Texts are free from most major providers.

Childline is a free, private and confidential service where you can talk about anything. As part of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), the service is available to young people up to the age of 19.

Telephone: 0800 1111

The Samaritans provide emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Telephone: 116 123

Mind provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They also campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.

Telephone: 0300 123 3393

Further information

For more information on How to look after your mental health at university, we recommend this article by savethestudent.org

I don’t like school. Does this mean I wouldn’t like university?

Many people who didn’t like school absolutely flourish in higher education; it’s a completely different experience and way of learning.

While you’re at school, you are told where to be, what to do and what to wear. If you don’t attend a lesson, or do what you’ve been asked to do, you’ll be held accountable. It’s not like this in higher education.

A day at university looks very different from a school day. On a weekly basis, students will have a certain amount of contact time. These hours are actually spent attending lectures, seminars, workshops, meetings, or tutorial sessions – sessions where you’re with a member of teaching staff in some sort of form. On average, you can expect around 12 hours of contact time per week, but this varies from course to course.

On top of contact time, students will spend time working independently and sometimes in groups. Independent work can, again, vary from course to course, but on average, this would be around 14 hours per week. This is what really makes higher education different from school.

What are lectures, seminars and workshops?


Lectures are the starting point for all students’ learning at university. They’re not the same as lessons in school. In a lecture, a subject specialist will provide an outline of a particular topic while the students take notes of key points. This acts as a starting point from which you go off and learn more about yourself (or sometimes with a group). Lectures often cater for larger groups of students as there isn’t usually much discussion taking place; however, lecture sizes often depend on the size of the university or college.


Usually, seminars take a topic that was introduced in a lecture and explore it further among much smaller groups. In a seminar, there is much more discussion and debate. Through discussion and debate, a lot of learning takes place as you get to hear the opinions of others.


Again, like seminars, workshops are for smaller groups, but instead of discussion, students might learn about a tool or a technique that they will be required to know about for their course. They are generally practical in nature – in fact, they might even be called ‘practical sessions in some institutions.

Field trips

Depending on the course, you might get to go on field trips!

A field trip could be half a day visiting a local business or facility, or a month on the other side of the world, Again, it really depends on the course.

Does it matter what A-Levels or BTECs I take?

Studying the right subjects at A-level/BTEC serves as good preparation for higher-level study. In fact, for certain courses it’s a requirement that you have studied specific A-levels, but for many courses it’s not quite so critical.

Entry requirements vary among universities and colleges, and popular locations are able to command high standards, so it’s worth checking out their websites to get an idea of what they require.

The article below by Which? contains some really useful information for anyone thinking about their A-level choices.

Six things you need to know before making your A-level choices

What if I don’t like the course I have chosen?

It’s important to find out as much as you can about the university and the course you’re interested in before applying. This will give you a good idea of what content you will cover and if the course will meet your needs and expectations. Sometimes, though, you never really know how something is going to turn out until you try it. For those who find themselves a few weeks, or months, into a course that they are really not enjoying, there are options available.

Initially, you should speak to your course tutor who will discuss with you the reasons why you’d like to change courses. It might be that some support is required to help you get through the first term or two. This can benefit people who might be finding it difficult to adjust to university/college life, or living away from home.

If it’s absolutely clear that the course isn’t for you, then they will explain the process for transferring to another course. These processes can vary from institution to institution. The process also depends on how far into the course you are and if you meet the requirements of the course you’d like to transfer on to.

Although the process can be dependent on a number of factors, it is possible, and there are several options available. University years are some of the best for most people, but if you are genuinely unhappy, you don’t have to be.

I’d like to know more about changing or leaving a course.

I want to go to university, but I don’t know which course or where to study.

Going to university is a big investment of your time and money, so you want to get the most out of it. If you have a genuine interest in the course you apply for, your time as a student is going to be much more enjoyable.

With the increase of tuition fees, more and more students are choosing courses that will allow them to progress on to specific career paths. It’s also important to see what content is taught on courses that you’re interested in as this can vary from university to university, or college to college.

Once you’ve decided what to study, you want to look at places that offer that course. You should be looking at the course content and assessment methods and see what suits you best. This information will all be available online.

Attend an open day

We can’t emphasise this enough! Attending open days gives you a chance to get a feel for a place. You also get to meet teaching staff and current students where you can ask questions about the course. You get the opportunity to see what accommodation looks like and what support is on offer, should you need it.

Click on the links below to find out more about choosing a course and university or college:

Help! I don’t know what course to choose – what do I do?

How to choose the right degree

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Plan Your Future

The perfect job for you might be something you don’t even know exists yet. Use the Find Your Career section to find out more about the diverse range of careers that are out there, and they require a higher education qualification? Use the Course Guide to see if what you need is available in the South…


Plan Your Future
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