Thursday, 11 July 2013

The UK’s Higher Education System

After the age of the 18, the typical student enters Higher Education and works towards a degree. In the UK the degree studied at University is the Undergraduate Degree.

An undergraduate degree normally takes three years to complete and specialise from year one. However, they can take longer if students choose to do the degree part time, take a sandwich year (work placement or go abroad) or study additional subjects.  The types of undergraduate degree include:

·         BSc (Bachelor of Science) - a science degree

·         BA (Bachelor of Arts) - an arts degree

·         BEng (Bachelor of Engineering) - an engineering degree

 Some institutions also offer Undergraduate Master’s degree which is an enhanced four year undergraduate degree including extra subjects studied at a deeper level.

After graduating from their Bachelor’s degree, many students go on to a postgraduate/master’s degree.  A master’s degree takes a year to complete and there are different types as follows;

·         MSc (Master of Science)

·         MA (Master of Arts)

·         MEd (Master of Education)

·         LLM (Master of Law)

·         MBA (Master of Business Administration)

Some students also decide to go on to do a doctorate or PhD which takes another two to three years.

Unfortunately, not everyone is able to take the direct route of going to University; this could be due to the lack of qualifications or due to financial problem. However there are alternatives to help people to eventually get into University. Firstly people can choose to study at a higher education college, where students study HNC/D level courses which then can give them access to their final year of the Bachelor’s Degree. The benefits of this are; the entry requirements are not as rigid as the ones to get into University, the fees for these courses are significantly less than a normal degree and finally student can get in to their final year in eighteen months.

Some take the route of Adult Learning/Education. Adult Education also known as Life Long Learning or Continuing Education is offered to all adults regardless of age.

This kind of learning includes all the qualifications mentioned above, but also allows adults without required qualifications to take an access course leading them to university.

Finally, students also have the option of Open University which runs undergraduate and postgraduate distance learning degrees. There are no formal entry requirements for the undergraduate course therefore allowing people who lack qualifications a chance to achieve university-level qualifications. As the courses are done online and in the students own time, it allows them to work, gain experience and also build up their career.

To sum up, these some of the Higher education routes student can take not just after completing A-levels or college, but also without formal qualifications and at any point in their life.


The Alternative Routes to University

Each year, more than 170,000 students will miss out on a place at University. So what do you do if you’re A-level grade did not secure you that place you want?

Many students tend to go through clearing, a long and tedious process, which may end in a result they are not happy with. However, there are many alternatives that are less popular but equally exist.

The first of many routes are apprenticeships – learning while earning. These come in three levels, Intermediate, Advanced and Higher apprenticeships. Apprentices are put into a full time job where they work alongside more experienced colleagues gaining job-specific skills as well as earning a salary. They are also given one day off per week to attend college and complete an NVQ in that specific field. An apprenticeship can take any time between one to four years to complete depending on the level and the industry. The minimum wage for an apprentice is £2.65 but most apprentices tend to get much more. Anyone living in England, over 16 and not in full-time education can apply.

So what are the benefits of an apprenticeship? Firstly, you are going to be in a job and earning a salary that is secured, and get paid holidays! Secondly you receive training and gain qualifications specific to that industry. Finally you are learning job-specific skills that can come at an advantage when applying for jobs in the future!

Another alternative option to Uni is to go through higher education. There are many HE/FE colleges that offer a vast range of courses. So how does it work? Well, it’s different to a normal degree programme. Courses start from a Level 4 (1st year of University) through to Level 7 (masters). You will be required to study for 12 months but also complete 6 months’ work placement, all of this for half the price that you will be paying at University (per year). Entry requirements vary in different colleges, most look at age and a pass at A-levels, some courses don’t require even a-levels (handy for those who didn’t do so well).

What are the benefits of this route? Firstly it’s the huge amount of money you will be saving on tuition fees and the one less headache of massive loans! You are still able to pay for your tuition fees through Student Finance or Scholarships/Sponsorships if you are eligible.

Next it will be what you will take away with you at the end of the course. Not only will you have a bachelor’s degree, you will also gain a Chartered Membership and 6 months’ work experience, all a bonus on the CV! Finally, just like the apprenticeship, you could end up with a secured job at the end of your placement making you better of then those who took the traditional route of going to Uni.

There we have it, these are only two of the many alternatives students have instead of Uni; it’s just finding the one that best suits you.