The Length of the Course

Courses can differ markedly in length, varying from two years for most sub-degree courses to six years for a professional course in architecture and possibly longer for some part-time courses.

  • The majority of full-time courses are three years, but some add a 'sandwich' or placement year (usually spent in work experience or as a year abroad).
  • Most language courses last four years and many science and engineering courses lead to a Master's degree (such as MChem or MEng) after four years.
  • Sandwich courses with placement years are usually expressed as 4yr SW on UCAS course searches and prospectuses.
  • 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.  

It is sometimes possible to add a foundation year to the beginning of a course, making it a further year in length.

  • These foundation courses vary somewhat in nature and entry requirements.
  • Some are essentially a conversion course for students who have the 'wrong' subjects in their examinations and will expect the same or a similar standard for entry as the courses they lead on to (though key subjects for direct entry will not be required).
  • Others are designed to take students who have performed below the normal entry requirements for a course to bring them up to speed. These courses will often have lower entry requirements.

In some cases the length of a course can be misleading if you intend to go on to a profession in the same subject.

  • Five years of medicine or six of architecture will qualify you to start work as a doctor or an architect (though in both cases there are further hurdles before full qualification).
  • However, three years of law does not qualify you to be a lawyer. You must undertake further training (often at your own expense) before you can work as a barrister or a solicitor.
  • In the case of engineering, a four-year MEng course will give you maximum credit towards the status of Chartered Engineer, but if you take a BEng course you may have to undertake further study after you have finished. Other BEng Engineering graduates progress well in their careers without the MEng element.

The start of courses may vary, too.

  • While the great majority still start in September or October there are a few that start in January.
  • Many of these are nursing courses but some universities are offering a spring start in other subjects, too – partly to fill quotas of places.
  • Some universities offer fast track two-year degrees in subjects such as law, business and accounting.