With so many university courses to pick from, deciding what to study can be a long process - so start by narrowing down your degree options

What undergraduate qualifications are available?

The subject you choose to study at university will usually determine the type of qualification you'll be hoping to achieve.

Bachelors degrees are the most popular undergraduate route into higher education, and they span the range of subject disciplines - from environmental sciences, health and psychology, to law, history and English literature.

Most Bachelors degrees last from three to four years if studied full time, with assessment made through a combination of written exams, assignments and group projects. In many cases, they'll include opportunities to spend a year abroad or in industry.

Shorter undergraduate courses also exist in the form of foundation degrees, the National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) and the Higher National Diploma (HND). If you're an aspiring social worker or engineer, you may be better suited to a vocational award.

To find out more about the full range of UK qualifications, read our guide to qualifications.

What degree should I do?

For those who've already decided they want to pursue a Bachelors degree at university, it's now time to decide on the subject(s) you wish to focus on.

If you have a particular career in mind, such as medicine, law or journalism, finding a suitable course for your chosen subject should be fairly straightforward.

However, if you're not sure what degree you can do with your A-levels, asking yourself the following questions might be a good starting point:

  • Which subjects do I enjoy studying?
  • Are there any subjects I'm particularly good at?
  • Are the subjects I'm interested in ones I've studied before?
  • What do I see myself doing after university? Would my choice in degree affect this?
  • What are the most employable degrees?

Many graduate jobs require candidates to be educated to degree level without specifying a particular discipline, so finding a subject you enjoy that develops your transferable skills means you're more likely to obtain a high standard degree while having fun achieving it.

Plus, while changing or leaving your course is possible, finding the right course that motivates and excites you will save yourself further trouble down the line.

To help you decide between different careers, browse our job profiles or try using our Job Match tool.

What grades do I need to get into university?

Before applying for university, you need to be aware that institutions will set their own entry requirements for their degree courses. These can vary according to the subject, the course and the university's specifications.

For instance, to study BA English at University College London (UCL) in 2023/24 you'll need to achieve AAA at A-level (or ABB to be eligible for a contextual offer as part of the Access UCL scheme). On the other hand, you would require 112 UCAS Tariff points (BBC at A-level) for the same course at Birmingham City University.

It's therefore advisable to look for courses that match with your predicted A-level results and always check these against the entry requirements for courses of interest.

Generally speaking, universities will expect you to have achieved a certain amount of UCAS Tariff points - see how to apply for university - most commonly linked to A-levels (or equivalent), in addition to pre-16 qualifications, such as GCSEs.

Can I get into university without A-levels?

The simple answer to this is 'yes' - but you may need to do some more research into this to locate viable options.

The University of Hull is one institution that takes into account all your qualifications and experience up to this point - not just your academic grades.

Aside from searching for universities that may consider qualifications other than A-levels, there are other routes to go down.

One of these options is to take an Access to Higher Education course at a further education (FE) college. These qualifications are available in specific subjects - for example, the Access to HE Diploma (Health) from the Open Study College (OSC) can provide a direct pathway into degree-level nursing and midwifery courses at university. To be eligible for the course you need to have achieve grade 4 in both GCSE English and maths.

How can I compare university courses?

No two universities in the UK will offer identical courses for the same degree. When comparing courses, it's important to consider:

The Key Information Set (KIS) is a useful course comparison tool that helps you to compare degree programmes at different universities. You can use KIS information to search for and compare all UK degree courses at Discover Uni.

What about online degrees?

For those with work or other commitments, online degrees provide a viable alternative to the traditional university route.

As with any distance learning course, you can usually choose to study from anywhere, with the added flexibility of being able to arrange your studies around the other things you have going on in your life.

Your study materials are typically accessed online and so all you need is a computer or laptop and a decent internet connection.

A growing number of universities, including the University of London, University of Portsmouth, University of Essex and Coventry University, now offer a range of Bachelors programmes via distance learning. You can also find suitable degrees through online course providers such as The Open University and FutureLearn.

As well as being able to learn at your own pace, fees for distance learning courses are often cheaper than for those requiring you to attend the campus in person.

For example, a six-year, part-time honours degree from The Open University costs £3,462 per year (2023/24) - £20,772 in total. By studying part time, you'll save roughly half what you would if you enrolled at a campus-based institution.

Read more about online learning in general, as well as bitesize microcredentials, which can help students and workers to develop new skills or even change careers.

Find out more

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