Comparing UK universities

Author
Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
Posted
August, 2021

While some students have their hearts set on going to a specific place to study, others base this decision on their ideal course - by comparing universities, you can make the right decision for you

How to choose a university

Submitting an application for full-time higher education through UCAS allows you to select up to five related courses, giving you scope to explore a number of institutions while improving your chances of being accepted.

As you start to narrow down your subject options, and compare course content, you'll also be shortlisting different universities that you'd like to study at.

If you're finding it hard deciding on which university to go to, you can find university courses at Discover Uni and compare them according to institution. This may help you to focus on your best options.

There are many other resources available to help you with this. The following are respected university ranking systems that can help when comparing universities:

You can carry out your research by:

  • Attending open days/university fairs - utilise the opportunity to ask questions to current students and alumni about their experiences and get a feel for the university campus and its location before you apply. You can chat to current students through UCAS - UniBuddy. Even if you can't visit the campus in person, since the COVID-19 pandemic many universities have continued to host virtual open days. Discover the latest open days and events.
  • Visiting university websites - a university's official website is a great way to assess how the university presents itself. You may be able to download an online prospectus to see what the university has to offer.
  • Checking out its social media channels - interact with the university and its students through platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, as these are ideal for making contacts and asking for advice.

What to consider when choosing a university

Some useful things to bear in mind when comparing UK universities include:

  • Location - are you planning on living at home or are you prepared to move further away to study your preferred course? Would you rather live in a big city or somewhere less hectic?
  • Travel - the ease of getting to and from university, plus train, bus and airport locations for getting home.
  • Culture - what it's like to study at that university, including the students' union and what it can offer you.
  • Student satisfaction - discover what other students think of a university by reading the Times Higher Education National Student Survey 2021.
  • Cost - when it comes to the cost of going to university, you'll find that it won't be cheap. As well as your tuition fees and accommodation, there are daily living costs including travel to and from campus. There's also a great disparity between towns and cities across the country. See NatWest's Student Living Index 2021 report to view the ten most affordable UK cities. You can also read our tips on saving money as a student.

Why you should check the TEF university ratings

The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) was introduced by the government in 2017 to assess excellence in teaching at universities and colleges. A new TEF framework is being developed in autumn 2021, with current assessment results to be taken into account when the new scheme is in place.

For students, the straightforward ranking system helps you to compare universities according to their standards of teaching and learning, so you can make an informed choice as to which option would be best for you.

While it's still voluntary, around 290 institutions in England, Scotland and Wales choose to participate. For a full list of TEF-registered UK institutions and their rankings, see the Office for Students' (OfS) TEF outcomes.

The TEF awards are as follows:

  • Gold - delivering consistently outstanding teaching, learning, and outcomes for its students.
  • Silver - for delivering high-quality teaching, learning, and outcomes for its students. Silver institutions consistently exceed rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education.
  • Bronze - delivering teaching, learning, and outcomes for its students that meet rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education.
  • Provisional - if the institution meets rigorous national quality requirements but doesn't yet have sufficient data.

The framework enables the higher-ranking English institutions to raise their tuition fees in line with inflation. In 2018/19, those with a TEF award were able to charge up to £9,250 per year as opposed to a maximum of £9,000 without.

While universities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have the option to participate in TEF, the award has no effect on the tuition fees these institutions can charge.

Students receiving tuition fee loans from Student Finance will find these still cover the complete amount, regardless of any fee increases. You can visit student loans and finance for further information on tuition fees and funding and to explore the cost of going to university.

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