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5 tips for researching uni choices

Decisions, decisions.

With thousands of courses to choose from, offered by scores of institutions the length and breadth of the country, it can be hard to whittle down the list of things you might want to study at university.

Not to mention the fact that, in Year 12, it all seems so very far in the future.

So what can you do to focus the mind and make the right choice? We ran an in-depth piece from long-standing UniBox contributor Philip Rogerson last year entitled How to Choose a University Course, which is a worthwhile read. For now, here are five broad headings to start a student's thought-processes.

Compare courses

  • If you're going to spend three or four years filling your head with facts and ideas about one particular subject, it needs to be one you love. If it's not something you can spend 10 minutes talking excitedly about, forget it. If it's not something you will get out of bed with a raging hangover for, then think again.
  • Look at the fine details of any course that appeals to you: expected contact time with tutors, specific course modules covered, work placements, how you will be assessed. Will one course suit you more than another with the same name? UniBox's Roshan Walkerley talked last year about why these things are important in choosing the course that's right for you.
  • What are the entry requirements? Do you meet the criteria and is it a realistic goal?
  • Is the university offering the course somewhere you could be happy and successful? Do you want to be close to home, or doesn't it matter? Do you want a close-knit campus or somewhere sprawling or collegiate? What's the atmosphere like?
  • Visit Which? University to start asking yourself these questions.

Look at facts, figures and comments

Once you have a long-list of courses that might fit the bill, have a look at sources of information like these:

  • UniStats - This gives all the official data held about UK universities, from National Student Survey scores to graduates' jobs and salaries, and allows you to compare different universities.
  • The Complete University Guide - This site has university profiles and its own leagues tables covering, it says, "over 140 UK universities, and 70 subjects, ranked by quality measures important to students".
  • Times Higher Education - The THE does annual rankings of universities here and around the world.
  • The Student Room - As well as having plenty of advice about applying to uni, this site has forums for applicants to talk about different courses and universities.
  • Universities' own websites - You must look at these for details of the courses you are interested in.

There are plenty of other sources to dig into when researching the courses you are considering. Just remember to keep your critical faculties about you. League tables and survey results may be helpful indicators, but they can't necessarily tell you whether you, with your own unique circumstances, will be happy and do well on any given course.


If you are reasonably certain you want to make a university one of your UCAS choices, go and see it in person. You need to be sure you like:

  • the location of the campus or college
  • the atmosphere of the place
  • the facilities and support networks it has to offer.

And while you're there, take the opportunity to...

Talk to people

  • Talk to students at open days at universities you're interested in. Find out what it's really like there, and whether it would suit you.
  • Talk to staff at those open days too, and really find out what the courses entail. Impress them!
  • Look on forums for honest views about your preferred courses.
  • If you know anyone who's been to a uni you're considering, get them chatting about their experiences of the place and the people (including getting the low-down on lecturers!).
  • Don't be afraid to call up a university with any questions you may still have.

Do a taster course

  • If you think you want to study a particular subject, earmark a few weeks for diving into it more deeply before you commit to spending years doing a degree.
  • Find something appropriate and relevant on FutureLearn. If you don't enjoy the taster course, perhaps you should look at a different subject.
  • Many universities run taster days, which might be about the transition to that particular university, or on a specific subject, or a bit of both. Get on one of these courses - it'll be worth it, either because it gives you extra ammunition for your application, or because it shows you a different path. Either thing is a win.
  • UniBox looked at the subject of taster courses in more detail here.





Posted by Nicholas Manthorpe on Wed, 19 Apr 2017

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Nick was a reporter for the Eastern Daily Press and its sister weekly titles in Norfolk and Waveney, then served as Media Officer for North Norfolk District Council for 13 years. He now works as a writer and PR and media relations consultant. He is a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, an associate member of the Chartered Management Institute and a member of East Anglian Writers.

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