Should you study at British Colleges or Universities?

study at British Colleges or universities
Masters Degree

Should you study at British Colleges or Universities?

Have you ever thought about whether you should study at study at British Colleges or universities? British colleges and universities may seem like the same thing to you, but they are different. Studying at a college and university results in diverse degrees and qualifications.

If you want to study in the United Kingdom, you can apply to either study a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. You can choose to do this at a college or a university. Which you choose depends on many factors that relate to your educational preferences.

Read on to learn about these factors so the choice can be easier for you to make. You’ll also learn about the differences between colleges and universities in the United Kingdom, as well as some other interesting facts. 

What is a College? 

A college in the United Kingdom is an educational school that offers further education courses to acquire certain degrees. These are typically vocational courses or practical courses. This includes courses to get  A-Levels so you can successfully pursue a university degree afterwards.

You might choose to study courses like diploma courses, Foundation degrees or General Certificates of Secondary Education (GSCEs) there. Colleges also offer Higher National Certificates (HNC), Higher National Diplomas (HND) or International Baccalaureate courses. 

College course offerings

College courses, if you study in the UK, help students earn skills and knowledge in a certain field. This is so they can get a job. They might also want to become prepared to enter university and study a bachelor’s degree and later go on to study a master’s degree.

College courses give you practical skills. This is opposed to the equal focus on practice and theory that typically happens in university courses. This is because most students in the UK who choose to study in colleges do so for this exact reason. After all, they want to work shortly after graduation. They want to finish their courses in a shorter time frame than studying at a university. 

College courses in further education last for either one or two years, way shorter than a university degree. You are taught how to apply your skills in the real business world. They’re also a good option if you are already working. This can also be the case if you have limited time and want to study a part-time degree

Read more: What is the most prestigious women’s college in 2023?

Types of colleges in the United Kingdom

There are different types of colleges if you want to study at one in the UK. For example, there are sixth-form colleges, which are alternatives to school sixth forms. School sixth forms are connected to secondary schools. This means the school is shared by students from year 7 through to year 13. Students that attend there are aged in a range between 11 to 18 years.  

Sixth-form colleges, on the other hand, are separate from schools. They are sometimes called Further Education colleges. They teach many A-level and BTEC subjects and qualifications. These colleges allow students the chance to continue their education if they don’t have a sixth form attached to their school.

Sixth-form colleges are very similar to regular schools’ sixth forms. As previously mentioned, the main difference is that they are not attached to secondary schools. However, they also offer more courses like job and skill-focused courses that are more vocational. Another difference is that Further Education colleges have no students under the age of sixteen years attending. That means that people older than 16 can also enrol in the courses there. 

Some colleges are also attached to universities, sometimes sharing facilities or accommodations with the school. These also offer courses that take 1-2 years to be completed. These are vocational courses. They also have foundation courses that you can choose to pursue higher education degrees at the same university after them. 

This means they prepare them for a specific job role like as a teacher, nurse or technician. This is an alternative to pursuing an entire degree to achieve this qualification. They also offer adult education courses for those who want to study continuing education programs. 

Read more: Should you study at an American College or University?

What is a University? 

On the other side, a university in the UK is different from a college because it is a recognized educational organization authorized to hand out higher education degrees. Study programs at UK universities give out degrees like bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees or PhD degrees. Students tend to pursue University degrees after graduating from secondary school or college. After graduating from a university, you can either get a job or go on to pursue a further education degree.  

Because there’s no accreditation system in the UK, any school becomes a university if they get certain education qualities and pass measures set by the authority in charge. After they meet these measures, they are then examined by a group of examiners.

This authority is called the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. They check that the quality of education the university offers passes specific quality standards. They don’t assess courses and degree programs individually. But rather, they assess the education system put in place at the university as a whole. 

Read more: The most popular countries in University Education for international students

University course offerings

Students typically get way more choices when studying at a university when choosing degree courses than they would if they are studying at a college. There are so many course offerings in diverse areas of study. For example, they can choose to study fashion design or study hacking and cyber security degrees.

Students can pursue a degree in financial accounting or economics, or simply business. They can even choose to focus on a literature degree specialising in medieval literature. The possibilities for courses to choose from at universities are endless. Students can definitely find courses that serve their interests. 

Read more: Best universities to study history, languages and literature in 2023

Russell Group universities

Universities in the UK could also pertain to the Russell Group. The Russell Group are a famous group of 24 British universities. These universities have a focus on excellent research and presenting it to the academic community. They simply set the gold standard for academic studies.

If you are interested in research, maybe it’s best to look into these prestigious universities and try securing a spot there. It could truly make a big difference when it comes to your research interests, both during the course of your degree and after it. 

study at British Colleges or universities
Girl concentrating in university lecture.

Should you choose to study at British Colleges or Universities?

After reading about what a college is and what a university is, you might be curious about what the factors are that go into deciding between the two. This is other than the obvious facts that we have already presented in the article. In this section, we discuss in more detail which you should choose to study.

First, we will talk about why you should study at a college in the UK. Then, we will go into more detail about why getting an education at a university may be more fitting for you. Read on to find out more about this interesting topic!

Why study at a college in the UK?

After learning the difference between UK colleges and universities, you might still be unsure which type of school you want to study at. An interesting statistic is that 187,000 students currently attend colleges in the UK for their higher education. Even though this is only a minority of students, there are many benefits to choosing to study at a college rather than at a university.

Some of these benefits may include the following:

  • Lower-tuition fees for course programs. 
  • Less overloaded classes. There is a lower student-to-professor ratio.
  • The chance to study from home and decrease extra expenses. 
  • The chance to pursue flexible study programs, like part-time courses. 
  • The choice to move on to prestigious university degrees if you have low grades. 
  • Much more individual support, if needed. 
  • A large variety of courses, especially in subject areas like Business, Administration and Law, and Educational Studies. There are also many Arts and Media, and Technology study courses. 

Why study at a university in the UK? 

On the other side of the spectrum, there are many reasons why you could choose to study at a university rather than a college. The more popular option, there are numerous benefits to pursuing your higher education degree at a university in the UK. This means you would forego the college experience.

Here are some of the most popular reasons students choose to study in universities: 

  • Bigger variety of course options to choose from. These exist in basically every field you can imagine. 
  • Employers tend to respect graduates from university programs more than those from college programs. This is because university programs are considered more difficult, usually. 
  • If you qualify and start off studying a university degree, this will be cheaper. The alternative is first paying for a college degree then going on to study a university degree later on. 
  • It’s easier to go on to do postgraduate degrees at the same school. That is if you choose to study a PhD degree or master’s degree program. 
  • More facilities that are usually more high tech and advanced.  
  • Universities typically have stricter quality control. This is to gain university status. Because of this, they might offer a higher quality of education. 
  • Your degree will be considered a higher education degree, rather than a continuing education degree.

Read more: An easy guide to convert your UK master’s grades to other grading systems

Why study a degree in the United Kingdom? 

After learning about the difference between colleges and universities in the UK, you might be curious about why you should even choose to study in the UK. From the excellent schools to the many specialisations to choose from, there are so many benefits to studying in the United Kingdom.

Here are some of the most popular reasons you may choose to pursue your degree in the United Kingdom:

1. Excellent quality of education

British universities are renowned worldwide and have an excellent academic rankings. After all, four of the top-ranked universities globally are located in the UK. This is a great number that shows a lot about the quality of education in the United Kingdom. 

United Kingdom universities carry out valuable research. After all, they have the esteemed Russell Group of universities located there. This research makes a critical difference in the world we live in.

2. Welcoming to International students

International students are feel welcomed. Furthermore, they always feel like they are among family when they study in the UK. Many student associations cater to international students. There are also many student discounts to enjoy. This is why many students choose it as a study destination.

Students from all over the globe go to study in the UK. This means you’ll be among great company if you choose to study there. It also means you’ll be very likely to find people from your home country. In this case, it’ll be easy for you to feel right at home! 

Read more: An easy guide to convert your UK master’s grades to other grading systems

3. Shorter degree programs

Programs in the UK are usually shorter than other degree programs in other countries. Master’s degrees typically take one year to be completed. This is opposed to the two years it takes to complete it in most other countries. You can save some significant time finishing your master’s degree in half the time. 

On the other hand, undergraduate courses also take three years to complete. This is opposed to four years in other countries. Two-year bachelor’s courses are also becoming more and more popular among students. Shorter degree programs mean you’ll graduate more quickly. This means you’ll spend less money on tuition. You’ll also spend less on other living expenses like accommodation and amenities. 

In conclusion, colleges are different from universities as they offer only further education rather than higher education courses. They also offer more vocational courses. These courses offer practical skills rather than academic courses and the higher education degrees that universities offer.

There are benefits to studying at each type of school. Universities typically have more options for courses and have a reputation for being more complex. On the other hand, in colleges, you’ll get a more personal experience as the professor-student ratio is typically lower.

Whatever is best for you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s best for another student. That means you should make your decision depending on what you’re after and what your priorities are. 

Still confused? Never fret! If you still don’t know whether you want to study at British Colleges or universities, reach out to the experts at UniApp!

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