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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 getting a full-time university place, or something else.

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  1. Part-time study and flexible learning

  2. Distance 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.

During the coronavirus pandemic, most UK universities have temporarily moved to a blended learning approach, mixing face-to-face teaching and access to facilities, with online lectures and tutorials, to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.

This change has also taken place across the world and is expected to return to a normal campus-based teaching model when the virus is brought under control. However, online learning (and the benefits of it) are here to stay as part of the teaching mix, particularly if it benefits students’ learning. 

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 through UCAS but most applications are made directly to the institution. You can contact the university or college to find out about vacancies, entry requirements, fees and funding.

Distance learning and blended learning

Distance learning (also known as online learning) usually involves remotely engaging with a part-time course instead of through regular face-to-face contact. Blended learning combines face-to-face sessions with distance learning.

Learning materials are given 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 distance-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 often let you transfer from an accelerated degree onto an equivalent three-year degree.

Accelerated degrees vary in structure. Some offer a three-term structure, with 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.

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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.

January starts are common (as well as September) for Nursing and Health related degrees, partly as many students taking these courses already have their grades.

Hospitals and health bodies like to have new intakes of professional health workers throughout the year, so there's no disadvantage to starting later. There are normally still January start places available in December each year, so it's not too late to secure a place. 

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

Degree apprenticeships combine a university degree with the practical experience of an apprenticeship. They help you to learn and develop skills employers look for while simultaneously gaining a degree at a partner university. Programmes last from one to six years, depending on the programme and hours you’re employed. 
What’s available depends on where you live in the UK. Most degree-level apprenticeships focus on engineering and IT, with business and accountancy also common. In England, there are over 150 degree apprenticeships in jobs from teaching to healthcare, law and journalism.

Reasons to do a degree apprenticeship

  • You’re in full-time employment but still graduate like a standard university student, except 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
  • You get the benefits of a normal employee – for example, you’ll get paid holiday and may get contributions to a pension or access to leisure facilities 

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. 

Unlike a university degree, you don’t apply via UCAS or the university. Instead, the employer advertises a degree apprenticeship vacancy, which can happen at any time during the year. To apply, visit employer websites or search through each nation’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're not 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, letting you 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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