By Isabel Freedman
Since looking at universities begins in earnest quite quickly after starting Sixth Form, I was fortunate enough to know what I wanted to study – History. It soon became apparent, however, that the History course at University A was not the same as the History course at University B, producing a whole new set of consideration concerning where I might want to study this particular subject. Of course, choosing a university is about more than ensuring the course is right; nonetheless, this is an important part of the selection process.
The breadth of the course was perhaps my top academic criteria as I flicked through various prospectuses to narrow down my choices. Whilst some universities offer ‘History’ courses that are extensive in scope (ranging from the late centuries BC to the early 21st-century), others offer a greater number of more specialised courses: ‘Medieval History’, ‘Modern History’, or ‘Ancient, Medieval and Modern History’. Similar variation applies to other courses, too, so be sure to check that the course you pick offers the scope and modules that will allow you to study the topics, within your chosen subject, that most excite you.
It is a good idea to consider the structure of the course alongside its breadth or specificity. A course which appears, from its overall description, extremely wide-ranging, might actually be structured in a way that makes it difficult to explore your full range of interests. The number of compulsory modules students must take, how soon they have to specialise or pick a ‘pathway’ within their degree, and whether modules can be ‘borrowed’ from other departments are all points to look out for (especially for those considering joint honours).
If there is little to differentiate some of your top-pick universities in terms of course content and structure, I would encourage research into the methods of teaching and assessment for your chosen course. Broadly speaking, most UK degrees involve a combination of lectures and smaller group work, perhaps even one-on-one classes. Most also combine exams and project-work. That said, different teaching and assessment methods are weighted differently, depending on which course you study and where. Though difficult to determine from your experiences at school, it is well-worth considering which environments you feel will best aid both your learning and your academic performance – and which you most enjoy!