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Which degree course?

Five ways to narrow down your options

By Kelly Fenn - Which? University

There are thousands of degree courses to choose from - so how do you focus in on the ones that are spot on for your interests and life commitments?

We've got five key things to look for when searching out courses - and questions to ask yourself to determine if it's the right match.

1. The course

It might seem like a no-brainer, but don't skim-read the course content. Take a proper look through all the information you can - will you be happy spending the next few years committed to it? How will you be financially supporting your studies? Can you take it on a part-time basis?

Also look into whether the course is structured in a way that complements how you best work - do you prefer lots of time in lectures, completing practicals or studying independently? What about the split between coursework, exams and hands-on work experience?

Which? University's course pages (opens in new window) combine the UCAS course information with other official stats, including Key Information Sets (KIS), revealing a breakdown of how you'll be taught and assessed.

2. Entry requirements

When you're looking for degree courses, you might find that the entry requirements aren't always listed for Access students, and that Access courses aren't included in the UCAS tariff points system that certain universities use. Don't let this put you off from applying to a course. Contact the university department directly to ask whether they accept Access qualifications.

Some may be looking for you to have taken your course in a relevant subject area, and others may have specific credit and level requirements - or perhaps an A-level or extra reading. Make realistic choices based on what you're likely to achieve, including a back-up option in case things don't go to plan.

3. Where you'll be studying

Universities and colleges offering degrees differ hugely - self-contained campuses, urban locations where you're slap bang in the middle of a city and need to travel round more, through to colleges where the course hours are designed to work around the rest of your commitments.

Also think about your location right now. Do you plan to live at home and commute, or have you set your search radius 50, 100 or 200+ miles away? What will the travelling - as well as the cost - be like?

Universities are clustered into groups, including the Russell Group and 1994 Group, which tell you something about the overarching ambitions of the university. However, there are other factors between institutions that may sway your decision - from the crèche facilities to its links with local business. It's all about finding the best fit for you.

4. Your student peers

Finding out how current students rate things like the course facilities and teaching, captured in student satisfaction scores, gives you a glimpse into students' experiences on the course. Couple that with official stats - including the split of part-time/full-time students and mature/straight-from-school students - to get a notion of who you'll be studying with.

University is all about meeting like-minded people of different ages and background - expect to be mixing and learning with people you might not have met otherwise.

5. What you could go on to do next

What are your long-term ambitions? Even if you're not sure, it's useful to find out what students get up to after graduating, so you're clear about what your degree could lead to. Are they in work or further study? In graduate or non-graduate jobs? What about salaries?

Graduate employment rates can offer you some insight into this, though the numbers are measured just six months after graduation.

Ready to starting looking at courses?

Which? University (opens in new window) is the free and impartial guide to choosing degree courses and universities.

We've brought together the wealth of information that exists about undergraduate courses, from the league tables and official stats to UCAS information, combined it with personalised search filters and thrown in exclusive research and real-life insights from students into almost 300 universities and colleges.