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Choosing the right UK undergraduate course 

Things to think about when choosing a UK undergraduate course to suit your needs:

  • What type of degree is it?
  • What are the entry requirements?
  • What are the options with the subject?
  • Does it follow your chosen career path?
  • Is it a recognized qualification in your home country?
  • Are you happy with the teaching methods?
  • How is the degree assessed?

A UK undergraduate education gives you an amazing opportunity to immerse yourself in a subject that fascinates you. Whether you choose to study for a degree, foundation degree or HND, you'll learn to think for yourself and work independently.

You can choose from thousands of UK courses in science and technology, computing and business, art and design, social sciences, the humanities and many others. The broad range and flexible approach of the UK education system means that you're free to choose exactly what you want to study.

UK undergraduate study that suits your needs

The wide range of undergraduate courses in the UK gives you a huge amount of flexibility. You can enrol on a bachelor's degree from the beginning, or you can start by taking a two-year HND or foundation degree and then top up to a degree afterwards. You can study a single honours degree and focus entirely on one subject, or study two subjects in a joint honours or combined honours degree - it's entirely up to you.

How long is a UK undergraduate course ?

Full-time undergraduate courses in the UK vary from one year to four years depending on the type of course you choose:

  • HNC: one year
  • HND, foundation degree, Dip HE: two years; three with a year in industry/overseas
  • Bachelor's degree: three years (four in Scotland); four with a year in industry

Master's degree (where these are awarded as a first degree): four years

What UK undergraduate courses are available ?

Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Diploma (HND) Higher national certificates and diplomas are one- and two-year career-related higher education courses, equivalent to the first stages of a degree. They are available in many areas including engineering, sports studies, art and design, media and communications and music technology. On successful completion you can enter a career at junior management level or can choose to 'top-up' to a degree by transferring to the second or third year of the degree course. Look for HNC/HND courses in the course finder. (internal link)

Foundation Degrees (FdA, FdSc, etc.)

Foundation degrees are two-year career-related higher education courses, which are equivalent to the first stages of a degree. They are available in areas including art and design, media and communications, engineering and hospitality management. They can be used as a good foundation for a career or as a basis to progress on to a degree course. Look for foundation degrees in the course finder. (internal link)


    Diplomas of Higher Education

    Diplomas of higher education are two-year courses in subject areas usually related to the social sciences, such as education, theology, communication studies and social work. They are ideal for students hoping to progress to a career in these areas and also provide a foundation for higher education courses in the same subject area. Look for higher education diplomas in the course finder. (internal link)


    Degrees are the most popular undergraduate qualification in the UK. They are academic courses, usually studied over three years in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, or four years in Scotland (where the title master's degree may be awarded). Some degree courses may be extended for a year to enable students to spend time in industry or overseas. Look for degrees in the course finder. (internal link)

    University International Foundation Year

    The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) is a centralized application process for UK undergraduate study. It makes applying for full-time undergraduate degree courses and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) straightforward and easy to understand.

    All UCAS institutions are recognized by the UK government or offer courses that are validated by UK government-recognized universities. When you apply through UCAS you can:

    • Make up to five choices at once on one application
    • Apply to a wide range of different courses and institutions
    • Apply online using UCAS Apply
    • Track the progress of your applications.

    All international students who apply through UCAS will be treated fairly under UCAS procedures and rules.

    Online applications with UCAS Apply

    Most UCAS applications are made using an online system called Apply. When you choose a course and select ‘Apply online’ in the course finder, you will be taken through to the UCAS Apply website. You can also use Apply independently or through a school, college or other organization registered with UCAS.

    Using UCAS Apply offers many benefits:

    • Automatic checks ensure accurate applications; common mistakes, such as an invalid date of birth or an invalid course code, are eliminated
    • Corrections can be made at any time before sending the application
    • ‘View all details’ lets you see how your application will look when UCAS sends it to the universities and colleges you have chosen
    • You can monitor your progress, change your contact details and accept or decline offers online using ‘Track’.

    UCAS Apply is the preferred method of application by UK institutions and can be used by any student with access to the internet.

    You can find out more about UCAS online applications at the UCAS Apply website.

  • Preparing your UCAS application

    You can apply for up to five UK courses in a single UCAS application (two different courses at the same institution count as two choices). If you apply for medicine, dentistry and veterinary science/medicine courses, you can only enter four choices (plus one other choice in a different subject).

    The current application fee is £9 for a single choice and £19 for up to five. Only one UCAS application can be submitted in each application cycle.

    You do not have to apply for all your choices at the same time. Further choices can be added as long as you have not used up all your choices and have not accepted a place.

    You can find video guides to help you prepare your application on the UCAS TV website.

    Dates for your UCAS application

    There are three deadlines for course applications through UCAS:

    October January March

    If you are applying from outside the European Economic Area (EEA), you can apply at any time between mid-September and 30 June. If you are applying to the University of Cambridge or Oxford, or for courses in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and veterinary science, you should apply by 15 October.

    For UK courses that start between January and May, you may need to apply before these deadlines as the universities and colleges will need time to consider your application. The ‘course details’ page in the course finder will tell you when the start date is.

    Although some UK institutions will be happy to receive applications right up to the start of the course, you are advised to send your application early. There is no guarantee that applications received after 15 January will be considered, and some popular courses may not have vacancies after this date.

    Post Graduate Course

    Most master's degrees and MBAs at UK universities last one year compared to two in other countries, including the USA and Australia. Choosing the UK means you only have to pay tuition fees for one year and you'll be back in the workplace before you know it.

    While you're here, you'll be immersed in English, the world's most important business language. At the same time, you'll be part of a truly international community - you may find as many as 50 different nationalities on a single campus.

    A master's degree, PhD or MBA from a UK university will prove to employers that you're capable of independent thought and self-discipline. They’ll know you can conduct and analyse your own research and make a real contribution to their company or organisation.

    UK postgraduate study that suits your needs

    The wide range of UK postgraduate courses on offer gives you great flexibility. You can start by enrolling on a postgraduate diploma course (PG Dip), then transfer to a master's degree, or begin by taking an MRes (master of research), which could lead on to a PhD. It's up to you.


    How long is a UK postgraduate course ?

    Full-time postgraduate courses in the UK vary from one year to four years, depending on the type of course you choose:

    • One-year courses: Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma, Master's degrees, MBAs
    • Two-year courses: Some master's degrees
    • Three to four-year courses: PhDs, New Route PhDs

    What UK undergraduate courses are available ?

    Full-time undergraduate courses in the UK vary from one year to four years depending on the type of course you choose:

    • Pre-master's courses : Pre-master's courses can last from one term to a complete academic year and cover academic study, cultural instruction and language training. You may need to take a pre-master's course if your qualifications or English language skills don't quite match the standard required for a UK master's degree. Many courses will guarantee progression on to a master's course at a particular university.
    • Postgraduate certificate or diploma (PG Cert/Dip) : Postgraduate certificates and diplomas are one-year taught postgraduate courses that don't usually involve research. They're often accepted as professional qualifications, giving you a fantastic head start in your chosen career.
    • Taught master's (MA, MSc, LLM, Med, etc.) : Taught master's courses generally last for one year and consist of two elements. You'll complete a number of modules (attending lectures and seminars, writing essays and taking examinations) and produce a dissertation from original research.
    • Research master's (MRes, MPhil) : On a master's degree by research in the UK, you won't typically attend lectures; instead you'll devote the entire year to research. Your final mark will be determined by the quality of your dissertation.
    • Master of Business Administration (MBA) : An MBA is a specialist business taught master's course that will give you a real step up the managerial ladder. It's the best-known and most popular postgraduate qualification.
    • Doctorate (PhD) : A PhD, also know as a doctorate, takes three to four years to complete, during which time you'll be working on a single research project. In your final year, you'll be asked to present a dissertation of approximately 100,000 words. New Route PhDs include taught elements as well as a research project and give you the opportunity to undertake interdisciplinary study.

    Look for all types of UK postgraduate study in the Course Finder.

    Before taking on a job, you need to check whether are entitled to work and how many hours you can work each week. For more information, visit the UK Border Agency (UKBA) website.

    Your UK place of study will have a careers service to help connect you to the world of work. They will provide a wide range of help and support, including:

    • Access to job adverts
    • Help with writing CVs and job applications
    • Tips on preparing for job interviews
    • Information about what it’s like to work in the UK.

    They will also help you get first-hand experience of the workplace, consider career choices and make professional contacts. Many UK institutions also have partnerships with local employers who want students to work for them – so they understand that you’ll need flexibility to work around your studies.

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