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On the UCAS form you will be able to choose up to six universities: the courses you choose should be roughly the same for all six universities because they expect a degree of commitment to the subject you are applying for. Most students find that the subject to be studied chooses itself, based on ability and interest in certain A2-level subjects. However, you should remember that a large number of courses which are not taught in the Sixth Form are taught in Universities. The most obvious group is the Social Sciences which includes Sociology, Political Studies, Economics, Psychology, History, Business and Management Studies, Anthropology, etc. Also, there are more specialised subjects which are often more directly related to vocations, such as Accountancy, Architecture, Engineering, Law, Medicine and Surveying. If you are attracted to one of these you will need to prove your commitment by :

  • Reading about it. University departments can normally recommend an introductory text if school advice is hesitant. 
  • Where relevant, doing something practical to prove an interest, such as arranging a few days work-shadowing an architect, visiting Law Courts, or joining an archaeological dig. Experience shows that a high proportion of successful applicants for competitive careers such as journalism, the media or medicine have an extensive work experience. 

It is possible to choose a combination of subjects which may accommodate a range of academic interests. Moreover, some courses are deliberately flexible, allowing you to change the nature of your course at the end of the first year. Many are arranged on a 'modular' basis, enabling you to pick modules from a wide range. Many universities will have in place a "credit" system enabling students to switch between courses more readily, carrying with them credit for work already covered. 

Having thought of the subjects you would like to study, you need to look at the courses available in the different types of institution: there is often a great variety of emphasis among courses that have the same title. For example, some Modern Language courses place the emphasis on balancing language and literature studies, whilst others may involve the study of language and linguistics only, or the study of the politics, history and economy of a country. 

In summary, the factors in deciding which course to apply for are : 

1. Interest 

2. Non-school subjects that may be available 

3. Degree of flexibility required 

4. Emphasis on any particular aspect of study 

5. Employment implications 

6. Performance at AS-level 

Does the Course exist? 

All the available degree courses in Universities are listed in the publication The Big Official UCAS Guide to University and College Entrance: the new edition of this publication is expected in May. The same information is also to be found on the UCAS Web site (see page 26). 

A useful source of first reference is the series of CRAC DEGREE COURSE GUIDES, which are in the Careers Department. These contain a detailed comparison of the different courses available in particular subject areas. 

It is sensible to check the UCAS and University Web Sites to confirm that the course is still available. Financial 'cuts' have meant that a significant number of courses have been discontinued or amalgamated in recent years. 

Entrance Requirements and the Revised UCAS tariff. 

Students must satisfy the entrance requirements both of the University and the faculty or department in which they wish to study. It is in the latter respect that most vigilance is usually necessary. Currently University and College Entrance gives a summary of the general entrance requirements for all universities, and the probable requirements for particular courses - it also indicates any preferences which Universities may have for particular AS- and A2-level subjects. 

If you do not meet the entrance requirements for your chosen course at one University, you may find that there are similar courses elsewhere for which there are different requirements (e.g. some Universities require A2-level Maths for Economics, whilst others require only GCSE; or, some courses require a GCSE in a Modern Language whilst others make no such requirement). 

In the first instance, check the University's prospectus carefully for guidance; if the situation is still unclear, check with your Tutor, who will be able to find out for you. If you are worried that the A2-levels you are studying might not be thought suitable for a particular course, there is nothing to stop you from writing to the University department and asking - indeed some Universities seem to think better of students who have taken the initiative to write (although they may not be impressed if the letter is badly written, semi-literate and presented on a torn-out sheet from an exercise book!). 

It is very important that any doubts about entrance qualifications are sorted out before submitting your UCAS form: you do not get the chance to alter your form once it has been submitted. 

The Revised UCAS Qualification Tariff 

The new UCAS Tariff simply gives a numerical points score to all post-16 qualifications. The Tariff covers the new National Qualifications Frameworks for England, Wales and Northern Ireland - including A2- and AS-level, Vocational A2- and AS-level and Key Skills - and for Scotland; including New Highers, Advanced Highers etc. 

UCAS states that it gives value and recognition to your achievements, and establishes an agreed equivalence between qualifications thus helping admissions tutors to make fair decisions on applicants. 

Essential features of the points system are set out below. There is no limit to the points score that can be achieved, although you cannot count the same or similar qualifications twice. 


120 A  
100 B  
80 C  
60 D A
50   B
40 E C
30   D
20   E

At the time of producing "YFNY", Higher Education Policies over the use of the Tariff are still emerging and you are advised to check institutions' websites via the UCAS website. 

Details of Courses. 

Courses with apparently the same content may vary greatly from one institution to another. In addition to the official Prospectus, many Universities publish 'Alternative Prospectuses' which are written by students, and usually contain views on the merits and demerits of each of the academic departments. Look up the universities you are interested in on the Internet : all have a website. Additionally, in our Careers Room there are files of comments by Old Boys on the different courses they have experienced. 

What does the Course lead to? 

A good way of assessing the career implications of any degree course is to see what past graduates have done on completing the course. This can be checked in the booklet WHAT DO GRADUATES DO? (available in the Careers Room). If you require more specific information, the careers advisory service of each University is usually willing to give details of the first destination of their graduates. You should consult a member of the Careers Department if you wish to get such information. 

Chances of a successful application. 

Most students get an offer from at least one of the Universities to which they apply, but to avoid unnecessary disappointment it is sensible to show some caution in selecting courses and Universities. Courses such as Law, Accountancy, Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science and English are very popular so that the average entrance offer is likely to be relatively high. 

Offers - expressed in terms of required minimum grades at A2-level and/or AS level or points total - depend not only on the course and institution, but also on your estimated ability, your interests and character, suitability for the course, motivation, etc. In this respect it is imperative that reference is made to the ENTRY PROFILES for each university course (completion date, Summer 2001) where entry requirements, further course details, likely selection criteria, type of interview etc will be available to students via the Internet.




E-mail Steve Margetts