Choosing A University

How to choose a good university
Choosing a university and a course from the thousands of potential combinations available is very much like trying to find your way through a maze without a map.
How can you ensure that the selections that you make are the right ones for you? Choosing the best university means finding the one that’s right for your needs and requirements.

Each student is different so- choose the best university… FOR YOU!
By paying attention to the following aspects, you will improve your chances of successfully negotiating the maze and finding the best match in a university, where you can have an enjoyable and successful university life.

Factors to consider when finding your best match
The universities that currently exist in the UK have their origins in two distinct traditions.
Types of Universities

  • Charter Universities
    Charter Universities were established as universities by Royal Charter and have very strong academic traditions. Thus, the courses at these universities tend to have a theoretical and academic approach, and generally the universities place great emphasis on their research activities (in addition to their undergraduate teaching)
  • Statute Universities
    • Statute Universities developed in response to demands by local industry for specialised training courses for their employees.
    • Gradually they expanded and developed to offer high level academic courses, eventually teaching up to degree level.
    • These institutions became polytechnics and finally, in 1992, were given the right to award their own degrees and call themselves universities.
    • As their development was in the running of technical training, their courses tend to be more practical in approach, and generally they concentrate their resources on quality undergraduate teaching.

Scottish universities

The educational system in Scotland is different from that found in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Students have only one year in the 6th Form and therefore degree courses at Scottish universities are one year longer.
  • However, with good A Levels you can apply for advanced entry (credit transfer) to the second year of many courses, thus reducing the programme to 3 years, as in English, Welsh and Northern Irish universities.
  • The same division between statute and charter universities exists in Scotland.

Campus Universities
  • Located in their own separate areas of the towns and cities or close by.
  • They contain the facilities for every aspect of university life: academic, residential, social, sporting, etc.
  • Campuses can be located in the very heart of the cities or on green field sites short distances from the city centres.
  • There is a strong feeling of living in a university community.

Compact City Universities
Although not situated in single separate locations, these universities are in clearly distinguishable precincts within towns and cities and are easily recognisable as universities.

All aspects of university life are readily accessible nearby to each other and to the facilities of the city and its community. The feeling of living in a university community is preserved but with ordinary city life easily available too.

City Universities 
The growth of these universities has been dictated by the space available within the cities so that the various departments and facilities are dispersed across the cities.

Whilst a distinct university community is sometimes more difficult to engender, many students enjoy the sense of normality of life in a big city.

Collegiate Universities
Cambridge, Durham, Lancaster, Oxford and York

Here each student is a member of a college as well as of the university and life is centred on the college.

With their high level of social and sporting activities, the collegiate universities offer much the strongest opportunity for community living of UK universities.

London Universities
Most universities in London, do not have campuses and are examples of city type universities, where facilities and departments are dispersed across the city.

However some universities in or near London- Brunel, Queen Mary, Roehampton, Royal Holloway, have campuses and therefore, offer the atmosphere of a university community and security of a campus with the attractions and facilities of London, close by.

  • Course Style
    Whilst all UK degrees are ‘honours’ degrees, they are taught in a variety of ways and styles.
    You must pay careful heed to this and choose the style of teaching that suits you best.

    For example, does the course offer:

    • a theoretical approach?
    • a practical approach?
    • project work?
    • sandwich/work experience options?
    • continuous assessment?
    • assessment based on final exams only?
    • management/business options?
    • opportunities to learn new languages?

    It is also important when choosing your degree, to find out how much flexibility it gives you.
    For example, choosing a degree but being able to change to a related degree, when your knowledge of the subject, or your interest and skills become clearer, as you progress through the degree.
  • Course Content
    UK universities are self-governing, thus they themselves mainly decide what they will teach and how they will approach a particular subject.

    Course content very much depends on the specialist expertise of the lecturing staff employed.

    So, don’t expect that all courses with the same title will offer exactly the same content.
  • Accreditation
    To practice your chosen profession in Malaysia, be sure that the degree course you follow is accredited locally.

    This is especially important for those of you interested in Law, Engineering, Medicine, Architecture, Dentistry, Pharmacy, etc.
  • Location
    Many Malaysians are interested in studying in London, a huge cosmopolitan city with a very distinctive lifestyle of its own, that very few other cities in the world can rival.

    However, this is not the only city in the UK and the other numerous large towns and cities can offer you an equally exciting city life experience.

    • Remember that both fees and living costs are likely to be higher in London than elsewhere, and you may have to travel some distance between your accommodation and the university.
    • Most universities in London, do not have campuses.
    • Their departments, accommodation and support facilities are dispersed throughout the city.
    • There are however some exceptions.
    • For example, Brunel, Queen Mary, Roehampton, Royal Holloway are campus type universities in or near London and offer the attractions associated with a campus- living in a university community, security, convenience and lower costs, as well as the attractions of London close by.
  • Entry Standards
    Lower entry requirements at a particular university does not mean that this course is substandard compared to others that ask for higher grades.

    You could take advantage of the lower entry standards of some of the less competitive courses and universities by having these as a safety net for yourself when applying.

    Entry standards are often related to the course style, so you need to assess both factors hand-in-hand.
  • Costs
    Fees, costs and recommended living allowances vary significantly between universities.
    • The implications of this are very important for you to consider carefully.
    • Please refer to the costs and fees section of the MABECS homepage for more details on this.

    You should also consider the financial benefits of a sandwich course.
  • Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) exercise
    • The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) is an independent body entrusted with monitoring, and advising on, standards and quality in UK higher education.
  • Research Excellence Framework (REF) ratings
    • The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The latest REF ratings were published in December 2014.
  • League Tables
    Be very wary of using this kind of information as a basis for your choice of university and course.

    The criteria used for compiling these league tables are often unconnected and inconsequential.

    They are not done according to strictly objective and scientific techniques, so use them with a great deal of care – if at all.