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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.

There's lots to think about when you're deciding which course to take at university. Here are five academic factors to consider, along with some tips on how to make sure you find your ideal course…

1. Course content

You're going to be studying your degree for a few years, so it's important that the course content appeals to you enough to maintain your interest for all that time. 

This means 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 

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. 

The academic reputation of a university might feel very important, but it's sensible to base your decision about where to apply on more than just that. 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?  

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3. The quality of the academic facilities 

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

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 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.

The main league table rankings are published annually by The Guardian, The Times and Sunday Times and the Complete University Guide.

5. The type of work involved

There are all sorts of ways courses can be delivered and assessed, so it's a good idea to think about your preferred learning style when choosing a course.

Do you prefer more hands-on, practical learning to independent essay-writing? Exams to coursework? Are you interested in completing a placement or studying abroad as part of your course? All of these factors can help narrow your options down to the right course for you. 

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