Universities and university colleges
The UK boasts some of the best and most prestigious universities in the world.
A wide variety of undergraduate, taught postgraduate and research degrees are offered, in addition to access or HND courses. The type of university you choose will depend on what you wish to study and the type of campus life you want.
Before the 19th Century there were only six universities in the UK. These were Oxford, Cambridge, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews.
- good reputations
- beautiful old and new buildings
- wide range of courses.
A number of universities were established in the 19th and early 20th Centuries as the industrial revolution led to a demand for highly skilled people. They were often founded in industrial centres, such as Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle. They are sometimes referred to as the Modern or Civic Universities.
- well-established libraries
- longstanding academic specialities
- accommodation close to campus (often enough for all first-years)
- internationally recognised for their high standard of education – so entry requirements can be high.
New universities were established in the 1960s because of the large number of baby-boomers (children born after World War 2) entering the higher education system.
- Well-planned sites, with most of the living and teaching facilities on-campus. However, due to expansion, some have now had to establish satellite campuses.
Former polytechnic universities
In 1992, UK polytechnics became universities. These universities
- were established to provide qualified people for the industries situated in their region
- originally focused on vocational and professional subjects
- also often offer diploma courses
- can have split campuses as a result of expansion.
University colleges offer degree programmes and are regarded as equivalent in status to other universities.
Specialist colleges offer a range of courses in one discipline, for example agriculture, music, design or medicine. Some only offer postgraduate programmes. They are usually small. Life at these colleges can be very good, as students tend to gather in the same places.
Many institutions now have dedicated research centres. These centres are often world-leaders in their particular branch of research, attracting students from many countries.
Old universities – these tend to have teaching facilities and student accommodation close together. Students usually socialise in a particular part of the city and there is a strong sense of community.
City universities – can have campuses on the city outskirts, so have the space to provide sports facilities and accommodation. They are often close enough to the city centre for students to enjoy city life.
Growing universities – often have satellite campuses away from the main campus. Sometimes these are within walking distance and still share central facilities (such as administrative buildings and Students’ Union buildings). In some cases satellite campuses have separate facilities, as the distance between campuses is too great. Very often, different courses run at different sites, so you may not have to travel between them.
Collegiate universities – at universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, students are members of colleges within the university. These colleges are the centre of social and academic life. Academic staff often live in college, and students and staff enjoy easy relationships. These colleges are secure, settled environments.
Universities outside of cities – institutions in small towns in rural areas often have a very strong student community. They are usually distant from the nearest city so you should be sure that you would enjoy rural life.