UK College Courses
Colleges in the UK offer international students a huge selection of courses to choose from, ranging from very practical, vocational foundation programmes to academic postgraduate Masters.
Choosing the right level of course to study is one of the first decisions you need to make after deciding to study in the UK.
What Type of Course is Right for Me?
There are a number of different levels of course you can study at most UK universities and it can be confusing at first deciding which one is right for you. Here is a bullet point guide to what type of course you should choose if you want to study at university:
- Foundation course: . Foundation courses are usually just one year long and are usually designed to prepare you for a full undergraduate degree. To get on to them you only generally need a lower level of education than for undergraduate degrees. The equivalent of UK GCSEs (exams taken at the age of 16) are usually fine.
- Undergraduate degree: . If you have finished school and you have qualifications at the same level as International Baccalaureates (or UK A-Levels), and you want to continue your education, then an undergraduate degree is probably the right level for you.
- Postgraduate Masters: . Postgraduate Masters courses are only for students who have already completed an undergraduate degree (or the equivalent) either in the UK or your home country.
Why Should I Study a Foundation Course?
If you would like to study in the UK but you do not have the right qualifications for a university course, then spending a year studying a foundation course at college could be perfect for you. Many students study at colleges to prepare themselves and gain the relevant qualifications for university. For example, many degrees related to Art will require the students to have first completed a foundation year in the relevant subject area.
As well as this, colleges offer a huge range of practical courses that most universities don’t, which allows you to study whatever subject you are most interested in.
How Long do Foundation Courses Take?
Most foundation courses only last one year. if studied full time. Within this year the dates and study time can vary hugely depending on the course and college.
The structure may be more like school, where you have to be in college from 9-5 most days, or it may be much more like an undergraduate degree with only a few ‘contact’ hours (time spent in lectures and seminars) a week. Similarly, if you are studying in an Art related area, then you are likely to have to do a lot of work on your own, whilst a science or business related subject will require you to spend much more time with tutors.
Why Should I Study an Undergraduate Course?
There are a number of reasons why students decide to study undergraduate degrees at UK colleges rather than universities. Firstly, in a number of practical subjects, specialist colleges are the most highly respected institutions to study at. For example, in Art, the UK (and particularly London) boasts some of the most highly respected institutions in the world and they are all colleges.
Equally, colleges offer a far more diverse range of courses than most universities, offering very practical courses that universities are unable to provide. To see the full list of courses on offer at individual colleges, check out the college websites.
How Long do Undergraduate Courses Take?
If studying full time, most undergraduate courses last 3 years. in the UK. It varies slightly for each college but generally, each academic year will start around October and end in June, and is split into three terms (or semesters) of 10-12 weeks long. The exact dates of your course should be easy to find on the college website.
On a weekly basis, the number of hours you spend at college with tutors will very much depend on the course you are studying. For example, for an Arts course you will probably spend less time with tutors and more time on your own working on your individual projects than on a Business or Finance course where you can spend up to 40 hours a week in lectures and seminars.
However, this time difference between courses is made up by the amount of work that students do away from contact hours- reading, writing, researching, revising and so on. You should not expect every week to be exactly the same. Some weeks will be very quiet, whilst if you have an exam or essay deadline coming up, you will likely be working far more.
Why Should I Study a Postgraduate Course?
It is at postgraduate level that many UK colleges really excel. There are hundreds of colleges in the UK that specialise in particular areas of study and can therefore offer specialist Masters courses that nowhere else can.
Colleges offer highly respected Masters courses ranging from Business to Art, and Journalism to Music. Because colleges can specialise in just one area, it means that many of them have the best specialist knowledge and equipment in the UK.
Furthermore, because many of them have such good reputations, you will leave with a qualification that will help you throughout your life and career.
How Long do Postgraduate Courses Take?
Students studying full time will usually complete a Masters course in one year. It varies slightly for each college but generally, the academic year will be slightly longer than at undergraduate level, starting in October and ending the following September.
Most Masters courses will have two terms of teaching that last until around March. The number of ‘contact’ hours each week whilst studying a Masters is generally fewer than at undergraduate level as students are expected to work on their own far more. These hours could be as low as just 3 or 4 a week, although can also still be much higher. For example, on a Business Masters, students will usually still have to be in seminars and lectures for up to 40 hours a week.
From April onwards, many colleges will either end completely, or greatly reduce, the number of contact hours students have. Instead, students will have time to complete their dissertations or projects in time for the end of the academic year in September.