Tag Archives: higher education

Mature Students: An Overview of Applying for a University Course

Many students who enter Higher Education do so at a later stage in their lives. There are many reasons why they didn’t enter HE study after they finished their education – they chose a different career path, they may not have had the financial means to study at the time, they may have had other commitments or raised a family or they may not have thought that studying at university was for them at the time. However, it’s never too late to take up an undergraduate course.

It can feel like a minefield when setting out on the path to applying for a course. Whilst prospective students who may be studying for A-levels tend to receive a lot of support for applying to university from their college, mature students don’t always have the same level of access to information and advice. Many universities, like Birmingham City University, have dedicated staff who can help with any questions mature students have about applying for their courses – our Choices department has a dedicated adviser who can help with queries made in person, by email or by phone.

We’ve put together a few key points for mature students to consider to help try and make sense of the process and what sort of things to consider if you’re a mature prospective student and are thinking about applying for a university course. Continue reading Mature Students: An Overview of Applying for a University Course

Mathematics and English requirements for Higher Education courses

University course entry requirements often stipulate that prospective students will need to have suitable qualifications and grades in mathematics and English in addition to other entry requirements for their courses. In UK institutions, GCSEs may be specified as the minimum required level although certain university courses may require a higher level qualification for entry onto particular courses.

Alternative qualifications, such as Key Skills qualifications, can sometimes be considered in lieu of GCSEs but this is very much dependent upon the university and course, so prospective students should endeavour to check individual entry requirements before considering undertaking any alternative qualifications. For example, teacher training courses have requirements for English and mathematics (and for Primary Education and Early Years courses Science) which are very specific. Key Skills qualifications are not appropriate in this instance, so it’s essential that those wishing to apply for a teacher training course have appropriate qualifications in these areas.

Prospective students whose first language isn’t English often have to demonstrate other appropriate English language qualifications or achieve specific scores or grades in tests such as IELTS or TOEFL. There are potentially a wide range of qualifications that could be considered in this instance, but it’s important that clarification is sought with individual institutions as to their policies on this.  

These core requirements depend on the university’s individual entry requirement policies, so the golden rule is that you should always check with the institutions you’re thinking about applying to in order to find out exactly what qualifications you will need to offer in advance of signing up for them.

Student Finance

If you’re a home student planning on studying on a full- or part-time undergraduate course at university this September, you’ll need to apply for financial support to determine your eligibility and individual support package. Eligibility for certain elements of support is usually assessed on your household income, so it’s important that you apply for assessment well in advance of the course start date so that you are able to plan ahead.

Standard student support arrangements can include loans for fees and living costs and a maintenance grant*. For more information about funding for the 2009/10 academic year, visit the Direct website. 

You can apply online for student support at Student Finance Direct or download a form to complete. Further information is available from your Local Authority or by visiting www.studentfinancedirect.co.uk. Through this application you can be assessed for eligibility for tuition fee loans, maintenance loans and a maintenance grant. Many universities also offer a bursary to their students, with each university determining its own policy with regard to how bursary money is allocated to eligible students. You should contact individual institutions to enquire about their particular University Bursary arrangements.

For more information about fees and finance for Birmingham City University courses, please visit our website.

Students from EU countries can find out more about funding by visiting the section about funding for EU students on the Direct.gov.uk website.

*Please note that those who will be studying on NHS-funded degree or diploma courses have different funding arrangements and are advised to consult www.nhsstudentgrants.co.uk for information about this.

New Year, New Opportunities?

With the advent of a New Year, people often take time to reflect and start thinking about future aspirations. Maybe:

  • There’s something you’ve always been interested in – like learning a new skill or hobby, for example.
  • You’re considering a change of direction in terms of your career or professional development.
  • You want to do something to because you’re motivated by improving your knowledge in a particular area.

There are a whole host of ways you could go about making these changes – there may be local workshops, adult education classes or short courses provided by education providers in the area. For more significant changes, you could be looking at retraining through a degree or professional qualification.

Careers advice:

If you’d like to explore avenues for developing yourself or doing something different but you’re unsure about what you’d like to do, perhaps talking to a careers advisor could help. Visit http://careersadvice.direct.gov.uk/  for more information about contacting a qualified careers advisor.

Study options:

If you do decide to take up study; it doesn’t have to mean studying on a full-time course; there are a multitude of part-time or short course options that might be appropriate, depending on the subject you’re interested in. But, if you do want to consider more substantive study options, it’s important to be fully clued up on what’s available and what you’ll need to do. You’ll need to research courses, study commitment and costs for starters.

Finding a course to suit you:

Tools such as www.hotcourses.com can help you to find everything from short courses to postgraduate study in your area or further afield. Postgraduate study options can be researched at www.prospects.ac.uk. The UCAS website has a great course search function, allowing you to explore available full-time undergraduate courses. And, of course, university and college websites will tell you more about what’s on offer at particular institutions.

Money matters:

How much will the course you’re looking at cost? Is there any financial support available? Here are a few starting points you can use to find out more about possible sources of funding:

  • Information about financial help for adult learners can be found here
  • Want information about student financial support for University and Higher Education courses? Look here for more details.
  • Postgraduate funding is different to undergraduate funding and there is, generally, no financial support available through the government. However, there are exceptions to this, such as certain NHS-funded courses, Social Work courses and PGCE qualifications. Prospective postgraduate students often need to be resourceful in seeking out funding opportunities. If your proposed study is related to your current job role, is it feasible to talk to your employer about support for the course – either as study leave or in terms of paying for the course? Are there any relevant scholarships or bursaries available? The Prospects website has links to resources which can help you find any such schemes.

First steps:

Whatever spurs you on, you can start taking steps towards your goals and exploring options open to you. If you’d like to chat to a course adviser about any courses offered at Birmingham City University, please contact Choices on 0121 331 5595 or email us.

Graduate options: considering postgraduate study

Postgraduate study can provide a rewarding and exciting route to developing yourself personally, academically or professionally. There can be a whole host of reasons as to why those who decide to take up further study choose to do so at different stages of their lives.

However you arrive at a decision to study, it’s important that you are comfortable with any decision you reach, considering the full range of options available to you in terms of course selection, institution and funding.

Finding a suitable course

There are a myriad of course options available to prospective students. Think about what you want to get out of postgraduate study. Do you want to enhance your knowledge in a subject related to your bachelor’s degree? Are you seeking a course which will provide a professionally recognised qualification in a particular area? Do you want to change direction completely? You need to ask yourself as many questions as you need to in order to draw out relevant information on which you can base your decision. Continue reading Graduate options: considering postgraduate study

Thinking About Studying for a Part-time Course?

Over recent years, part-time study has become more appealing to a large number of people. Increased interest generated by employers’ staff development needs and individuals’ desires to further themselves educationally at various stages of their lives has seen Higher Education course providers move to offer more flexible study modes in addition to their full-time course provision to respond to this need.Part-time courses can range from short practical courses, professional qualifications and vocational studies through to academic courses at bachelors and masters degree level. Some courses may allow students to prepare for a change in their career or enhance their current one. Students may be able to study on a day release basis, in the evenings or at weekends depending on the course itself.

The benefits of part-time study mean that students with other commitments – whether work or family – have greater opportunities to access courses which accommodate these more effectively.

Funding part-time study

Financially, many part-time courses are more cost effective than full-time study in terms of actual fee amounts charged and the ability to pay for the course over a longer period of time. Some students may be able to gain funding from their employer if the course they are studying is relevant to their professional development and their employer agrees to this. Other students may be able to gain support for funding for eligible courses via their Local Education Authority. Continue reading Thinking About Studying for a Part-time Course?