Choosing a subject, course and university

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“An advantage of taking the BMus Popular Music course [at Goldsmiths] is the variety of what you study: there’s a good balance of theoretical and practical classes.”

Making your subject choice

When people talk about going to university, it sounds like you should decide which universities you like and then choose a subject. Instead, you should first decide on the subject(s) you’re interested in and then see which universities offer those subjects.

Your subject choice does not need to be limited to a subject you have previously studied. Anthropology, Chinese, Criminology, Law and Philosophy are just some of the subject areas where most students have not studied them before coming to university.

Equally, there are some subjects that expect all students to have studied them before. For example, to study Fine Art at Goldsmiths you must have the Art and Design Foundation Diploma.

Consider if you want to study: 

  • Single honours degree: the course is focused on one subject such as BA (Hons) History. Sometimes a single honours degree may have a specialism from that subject area, such as BSc Psychology with Clinical Psychology.
  • Joint honours degree: the course covers two subjects such as BA (Hons) Anthropology and Sociology. Usually, ‘joint’ indicates that the timetable and module credits are equally split between the two subjects but check the course structure. 
  • Combined honours degree: the course covers two or three subjects. The degree title may be BA (Hons) Combined Honours or it may reflect the subjects you’ve studied, such as BA (Hons) Politics, Philosophy and Economics. Check the course information to see how many module credits are allocated to each subject.

Making your course choice

As universities create their own courses, you should always check the module content for each course so you know which topics and specialisms are available. Some other factors to consider when comparing courses: 

  • What’s the balance between compulsory modules and optional modules?
  • How are the modules assessed (essays, exams, case studies, presentation)? Are there group assignments?
  • Can you spend time studying in Europe or overseas as part of your degree course?
  • Are there work placements or work-based modules? If a course has a year’s work placement, this is sometimes called a sandwich degree.
  • Is the course professionally accredited? This is important for some subjects that relate to a particular career. For example, Goldsmiths’ BA (Hons) Social Work meets the standards set out by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and graduates are eligible to apply to the HCPC for registration as a social worker.
  • For practice-based courses (art, design, media, music, theatre), do you have access to studio, workshop, rehearsal or recording facilities? 

As well as the course content, each university decides on the qualification that is awarded. For some subjects, you may find that it’s a BA (Hons) at one university and a BSc (Hons) at another university. It’s fine for your course choices to contain a mix of awards. They are all the same level of qualification:

  • BA (Hons): Bachelor of Arts
  • BSc (Hons): Bachelor of Science
  • BMus (Hons): Bachelor of Music
  • LLB (Hons): Bachelor of Laws

Making your university choices

Your subject and course choices will help you narrow down which universities offer the courses that are the best match to your subject interests. The final layer of questions about your university choice will help you draw up your short-list:

  • What are the entry requirements?
  • Do you want to be at campus university (all buildings are on one site) or a city university (university buildings are spread out across a town or city)?
  • Do you want to stay at home and commute, or move away from home?
  • Will your selection be informed by league table rankings?
  • Would you like to include one or more Russell Group universities in your short-list?
  • Does the university offer scholarships and bursaries that you can apply for?
  • Are there nursery or childcare facilities?
  • When you looked at the prospectus or attended an open day, can you imagine yourself studying there? 

All degree courses available in the UK are listed on the UCAS website. However, use the search filters to manage the results list or you could be overwhelmed by the choice!

Students on the college green socialising

Choosing a subject and course

Choosing a university

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