Choosing a Course


Look at www.ucas.ac.uk


If you don’t know what courses you are interested in, log on to www.ucas.ac.uk/students/beforeyouapply/whattostudy and click on the Stamford test. Give your address as your school; don’t give a telephone but do give your email address. Do the test and print or save the results. Look at all the suggestions it makes and look particularly through the list for words you don’t know or didn’t expect. These are your next research topics.


If you think you know the course title(s), then go looking for data on the best universities for that course. Stick with UCAS for a little while, to find place names such as, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield Southampton, …. the Russell Group universities. Of these, Oxford, Cambridge, LSE and Warwick are probably too difficult to get into for most of us. Queen’s Belfast [QEB] has had problems, fast disappearing and it may be this is the time to apply there; London means University College, Imperial College and King’s College (among others)—in China, they are often called UCL, KCL and IC. To this list of cities add particularly Lancaster, Loughborough, Hull and St Andrews.

Next, go look at listings of university by subject choice, TimesOnline ,the good university guide, and Guardian websites do this. Be careful to remove the ones which are high in the table because of their research standingyou want teaching, probably. I’ve written at length about lists elsewhere. I do so every year.


Universities are different from each other. Some will give you teaching like you get in school, most will be more indirect and some (Oxbridge) will throw you at the subject and let you sink or swim—the style of teaching is your choice to make.


Look at the entry requirements. BBB at A2 means 300 UCAS points. Look at the tables for average points gained by the intake and gauge your appropriate level. Do NOT aim too high (well, not more than once). If you think you are Oxford or Cambridge material, go ask a teacher – they’ll tell you. There may be none this year, but that doesn’t stop you asking, does it?


If you are interested in Finance, Business, Accounting or Management, you have a big task finding a university. This is because apparently everyone in China wants to do these courses. The clever people look for joint subject courses, such as Maths and Management, Engineering and Business Administration, Chemistry and Finance, Logistics—and so on; have a look for yourself. The advantages are that fewer people apply, so your academic strengths stand out better and you get a better offer (much better).


If you are interested in Design, Architecture, Construction Management, Surveying, Product Design, Industrial Design et cetera, look widely again. Research the new words; wonder how this will apply back in China. Look at the length of the courses (Architecture is six years).


If you are looking at straight subjects (Maths, Physics, Chemistry) good luck; this is straightforward, but please also look at the joint honours courses, such as Chemistry & Computing and the slightly different courses, such as Chemical Engineering (and) Materials Science, Statistics, Actuarial Science, Information Management, things with Computing, with Technology, with and as above and with International added.


A sandwich course means you spend time out of university, often paid, and working towards your degree by collecting experience. A thin or thick sandwich depends on how long you spend ‘out’ of college, maybe two years of the four, usually one and rarely less. These can be wonderful ways of picking up useful experience (and job offers). They look expensive at first, but they often work out very much better value, because (i) you spend less and (ii) you gain more.


Talk to staff, to parents, to people in the business you are interested in. Find out how they got to their position, look how their industry or career has changed since they started. Look for the new fields (nanotechnology for one); look what would make a difference to bring back to China (waste technology, mining technology, planning skills); think about what you really want to do. Making money does not require a degree in business, although it helps – what business would you be in? What knowledge does that require? So why not study that, then?




This file is my copyright and I do not give you permission to electronically or physically share it with others. Point them to the page, don’t print it.


David Scoins

30 years in teaching, 25 years as sixth form tutor, 10 years as Housemaster

Centre Principal, Gaoxin No.1 High School, Xi’an, 2007/8

Centre Principal, Nanjing Foreign Language School, 2008/9

Director, Galaxy Education Investment, 2009 onwards.

Centre Principal, No2 Middle School, Qingdao, 2012-14

Retired, 2014 onwards

© David Scoins 2017