Introduction to Higher Education - what is university?

Eleanor, Sport and Exercise Science Bsc

Hello, I’m Eleanor and I’m in my final year studying Sports Science with Management at Loughborough University. To many students, the prospect of Higher Education can seem very daunting, and there are many misconceptions about what University entails; for starters, the terminology used alone can be quite intimidating! Hopefully, this blog can clear a few things up!

‌‌Photo of Eleanor sitting on a picnic blanket in a park.

What is University?

University is an education establishment in which students of any age can apply to and attend. It’s a further line of study from that of A-Levels, BTECS and other college qualifications. Essentially, students study a specific degree course so, unlike A-Levels, BTECs or GCSEs where students may have previously studied multiple subjects, at university you tend to narrow this down to just one or two subject areas, for example, Geography or Mathematics with Economics. 

So, what is a degree and how long does it take to complete? 

A degree is a qualification that students achieve from completing an academic course at University. The length of time it takes to complete a degree can differ between courses and Universities. Although typically a bachelor’s degree lasts for 3 years!  

Are degrees needed for a career?  

Many organisations and businesses look for employees to have obtained a University degree. In most cases, the subject you study at university doesn’t necessarily connect or direct you to your future career. For example, I study Sport and Exercise Science and did my placement in Marketing!  

However, there are some future careers such as Veterinary Science, Medicine or Engineering that may require you to have an undergraduate degree in a specific degree subject, so if you have a future career in mind it is worth researching to see if a degree is necessary for that job. 

Photo of Eleanor in front of a Loughborough University banner during her placement year.

Benefits of HE?  

To me the benefits of studying a degree at University have been endless. From furthering my academic skills, to improving my career prospects, to undertaking a placement year, to the personal growth I have made whilst living away from home. These have all been invaluable! ‌

Career Prospects  

UK higher education qualifications are recognised and respected by employers and academics worldwide and having a degree makes you more attractive to employers, so you’ll have a greater choice of jobs and potentially earn more money.  

Independent living 

Before moving away from home to university, my parents would have described my ability to live independently as somewhat limited. Hence why moving to university has benefited me hugely in terms of learning lifelong skills such as budgeting and cooking – from personal experience, you can never go wrong with fajitas or a pasta bake! Although for students who don’t quite want to leave the comfort of having cooked food provided, there are Halls of residences on campus that do provide cater meals for students.  

At University, you will also be responsible for the cleaning and the upkeep of your room, bathroom, and any kitchen facilities you may share, as well as doing your own clothes washing. Whilst not the most exciting tasks, these skills are essential for future independent living.  

Eleanor and her three house mates sitting on a wall.

Meeting new people

One of the greatest things about university is that you get to meet new people from all over the world and students very quickly make new lifelong friends! My advice is to make sure you get involved from the start as some of the best ways to meet new people outside of your course or accommodation is to join clubs or societies

Trying new activities 

At university there are endless opportunities to join a sports club, society, or volunteer in projects such as dog walking or the homeless soup kitchens. It’s a great way of meeting new people with similar hobbies and interests. You can also join a new activity that you may have never done before, maybe something out of your usual comfort zone such as Lacrosse, Sky Diving or Mountaineering. During your first week at university there will usually be a fair in which you can sign up for taster sessions and get involved. 

Eleanor and her friends sitting at a table at the Athletic Union ball.

Opportunities and support 

Students can also to undertake a Placement, this is where students go work for a business or company for a year gaining vital experience and skills. The Careers Network can assist students with CV’s, applications and mock interviews for jobs and placements, giving students the best chance possible at securing their dream job and preparing for life in the real world!  

Image of a rainbow over the Loughborough University campus.

Still unsure whether University is for you? 

Deciding whether to go to university is a big decision so, if you are unsure, it is worth doing plenty of research. The UCAS webpage has approximately 50,000 courses for you to browse so read up on the course and ask yourself ‘is it for me?’, what modules will I study, and how am I assessed? Also, it’s just as important to research the University, its location, and find out about the student experience and extra-curricular opportunities available.  You can also visit the University on open days, where you can ask questions to students or staff, take a campus tour and see the facilities.  

REMEMBER, your decisions don’t have to be final and you can take time to consider your options. University isn’t for everyone so don’t be disheartened if you feel it’s not the path you wish to take.

If you’re still confused about that terminology, why not check out our Jargon Buster resource online!