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Choosing what to study

Study options

Discover ways of studying other than a traditional, full-time degree – whether you’re a school leaver, are returning to education, were unsuccessful in obtaining a full-time university place, or something else.

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CONTENTS

  1. Part-time study and flexible learning

  2. Online learning and blended learning

  3. Accelerated degrees

  4. Courses starting in January

  5. Work-based learning

  6. Degree apprenticeships

  7. Foundation degrees

  8. Other options

Part-time study and flexible learning

A large number of full-time courses can also be studied part-time and are a good alternative if you can't commit to full-time study. They're taken over a longer period where you can learn at your own pace or work alongside studying.

Courses may be delivered through evening or weekend classes, online or offline, with study breaks, regular assignments and tutor support to help you fit your studies around other commitments.

You can apply to some part-time degrees via UCAS, but most applications are made directly to the relevant institution. You can contact the university or college to find out about vacancies, entry requirements, fees and funding.

Online learning and blended learning

Online learning, also known as distance learning, is usually a part-time course you can engage with remotely rather than through regular face-to-face contact hours. Blended learning combines face-to-face sessions with online learning.

Learning materials are provided online and academic guidance is offered through virtual learning environments and tutorials by phone, email, video call or the occasional meeting in person.

You'll find some online-learning and blended courses using our course chooser and some on university or college websites. For most courses, you’ll need to apply directly to the university or college.

Accelerated degrees

An accelerated degree is a full bachelor’s degree completed in a shorter time period.
Courses provide the same amount of content as traditional degrees but take two years (or three in Scotland). They're offered by a handful of institutions in some subject areas.
Courses often include work-based learning such as placements. Universities regularly allow you to transfer from an accelerated degree onto an equivalent three-year degree.

Accelerated degrees vary in structure. Some offer a three-term structure, the third term taking place during the summer holiday period. They may mean lower cost and less debt as you spend less on tuition fees, maintenance loans and rent. There are also shorter holidays than traditional degrees.

Row of people writing notes

Courses starting in January

Not all university courses start in September. January starts are ideal if you don't get your university plans in place for September, or if you went straight into work and have since changed your mind.

You'll graduate with the same degree and be taught to the same high standard as those who started in September. Some January-start courses are accelerated, which can save you time and money.

Work-based learning

If you’re employed in the UK it’s also possible to study at work. Some course providers partner with official organisations to create customised programmes, from certificates to doctorate-level qualifications. For example, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) offers a flexible study programme for those already working in the industry who want to qualify officially.

Degree apprenticeships

Similar to higher apprenticeships, degree apprenticeships combine the aspects of a university degree with the practical experience of an apprenticeship. They help you to learn and develop skills employers look for, but simultaneously gain a full degree at a partner university. Programmes can last one to four years, with a minimum of 30 hours of work a week.
 
The majority of degree apprenticeships focus on STEM subjects. However, there are others available such as in healthcare, digital or business.

Reasons to do a degree apprenticeship

  • You’re in full-time employment but still graduate like a standard university student, just with more practical experience – making you highly employable
  • There are no university fees or debts, with training and tuition costs covered by the government and employer (degree apprentices aren't eligible for student loans so you must cover your own living costs – however, you'll be earning money as part of the scheme)
  • You usually get the benefits of a normal employee – for instance, you'll receive contributions to a pension and have access to leisure facilities

 A number of institutions offer degree apprenticeships, but you apply through the employer. The entry process can be different to university admission. To apply, visit employer websites or search through the government’s official apprenticeship service.

Foundation degrees

Foundation degrees are usually two-year courses (longer if part-time), equivalent to the first two years of an undergraduate degree. They aren't the same as a foundation year.

Foundation degrees are university-level qualifications designed to equip you for a particular area of work. They can be in partnership with employers, enabling you to gain professional and technical skills to further your career.

They can also be used as a standalone qualification for employment or as the basis for progression to a final ‘top-up’ year, leading to a full bachelor’s degree. The final year may be taken at a different university or college.

Full-time foundation degrees taken at a university or college are usually applied to through UCAS. For institutions not in the UCAS scheme or for part-time study, you can apply directly to the college offering the course. Foundation degrees are now more likely to be offered at a further education college linked to a university.

Other options

Maybe university isn’t right for you, or it’s not the right time for you to go. If you’re not sure what you want to study, maybe look into an alternative option, such as a gap year.

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