Courses also Differ in their Structure

Some will concentrate on a single subject, some will allow you to combine two subjects in a single course (often called Dual or Joint Honours courses) and others will involve several subjects (Combined Honours).

  • Some will have a large proportion of the course fixed in advance, while others will allow you to choose options to make up a substantial part of the course.
  • There are even flexible courses where you can choose from a wide range of very diverse options.

Some courses are organised on a modular basis, usually with two semesters rather than three terms a year.

  • Each module will require the same amount of study and will usually be assessed separately.
  • This tends to increase the number of examinations and assessments you will have to do.
  • In some cases the courses are organised in this way simply to assist a university with its administration, timetabling and so on.

The courses themselves continue to be traditional single or joint honours courses.

  • In some cases the modular courses are advertised as being very flexible, allowing you to choose your options from a very wide range of available modules.
  • These courses may not be as flexible as they appear, as timetable clashes may restrict the real choice available to you.

In making your choices you should think about how they will appear to an employer, as they may well prefer to see a coherently structured programme of study rather than an eclectic mix of unrelated modules.

Things to look out for

  • Most degree courses in Scotland last four years rather than three years, though some English students with good A levels can be exempt from the first year. 
  • Some UK Universities have condensed degrees lasting two years rather than three. These tend to have four terms a year rather than three, allowing you to complete your degree more quickly and with less debt.  
  • Check where your course will be based when a university has a split site. 
  • Large adverts in the press may mean a university has lots of spaces to fill. 
  • Engineering courses are either MEng or BEng; only the MEng will give maximum credit towards Chartered Engineer status. 
  • Some courses offer the chance of spending a year or part of a year in Europe or beyond. 
  • Accommodation might be guaranteed in first year, check whether it is five minutes or five miles down the road, and check deadlines, prices and other conditions. 
  • Courses based in two or more departments can feel as if they are based nowhere – check for a 'home' department where you will belong.
  • Sandwich courses involve an optional or compulsory placement year in industry, business, education or public sector - in the UK or overseas.

Across the varying course structures, there will be differences in teaching methods and assessment.

  • Some courses will make more use than others of particular teaching methods, such as tutorials, computer-assisted learning or dissertations (large projects).
  • If you are not good in formal exam situations, you may want a course with a lot of continuous assessment.
  • Alternatively, if you don't like the continuous pressure that this involves, you may prefer one with an emphasis on final examinations.
  • If that isn't enough variety for you, there are differences between universities in the weight given to second and third-year modules in the final degree classification and there may be different rules about how often you are allowed to re-sit examinations.
  • Re-sit rules at university are likely to be stricter than for A levels, although from 2014 A levels are changing, including the regulations on retakes.