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Choosing a university course: five academic factors to consider

From interesting lectures to high-quality libraries, it’s important to find a university course that will offer you a great academic experience. Students give us their top five factors to consider.

We asked this year’s round of uni applicants which academic factors were most important to them when deciding on a uni course. Here’s their top five, along with some tips on how to make sure you find your ideal course…

Here's the full report on how 2014's uni applicants made their choices

1. Course content

The course content was by far the number one academic factor for this year’s uni applicants – 73% told us it was important to them when making their choices. And it’s unsurprising – if the course content interests you, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy studying it for the next few years!

Tip: it’s crucial not to skim through the course content when comparing courses – similar-sounding courses can actually cover quite different topic areas. Have a close look through the information on the university website, including the core subjects and optional modules – do these sound appealing?   

2. Academic reputation 

Academic reputation was next on uni applicants’ priority list – 59% said that it was an important factor in their decision-making.

While some universities are known for vocational education and links with employers, certain universities – such as those in the Russell Group - are recognised for their academic research and teaching style. 

Tip: don’t apply to a university based on academic reputation alone. Make sure you go an open day and try out taster lectures and seminars – is the learning style for you? Does the wider student experience appeal, too?  

3. The quality of the academic facilities 

The quality of the academic facilities was another key consideration for applicants  58% said it was important.

Going from classroom-based learning to more independent study, you’ll naturally be expecting access to top-class learning resources to support your needs. 

Tip: when you’re on an open day, make sure you check out the academic facilities you’ll be expecting to use, including the library, computer suites or labs. And if you can’t make it to the uni itself, get as much information as you can – maybe even a virtual tour – from the university website.

4. League table rankings

Checking out the league tables is common practice when it comes to researching universities – and four in 10 applicants told us it was important when choosing their uni course.

While unis at the top of the league tables are obviously doing something right, it’s important to read between the league table lines to get the full story.

Tip: you can find the main league table rankings (The Guardian, The Times and Sunday Times and the Complete University Guide) for each university side-by-side in our university pages.

5. The type of work involved

Is the course centred around essay-writing, practical work or problem-based learning? The type of work involved was another important factor for more than a third (37%) of applicants. 

Key Information Sets, which you'll find on our course profiles, show you the proportion of time you'll spent in lectures and seminars versus the time you're expected to spend studying independently or in work placements.

Tip: think about your preferred learning style when choosing a course. Do you prefer more hands-on, practical learning to independent essay-writing? Interested in completing a placement or studying abroad as part of your course?


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