Connected Degrees Event

Exploring your options - a guide on the different ways that you can study for an undergraduate or postgraduate degree

For most people, earning a Bachelor's or Master's degree means studying full-time on campus for 3 years on an undergraduate course or 1 year for a postgraduate course.

But this approach doesn't suit everyone.

Maybe you can't get to campus and don't want to move to a new city. Maybe you're well set in your career. Maybe you have family commitments. Or maybe you don't meet the entry requirements for a degree course yet.

So what are the other ways to get a degree if studying full-time isn't for you?

From degree apprenticeships and work-based degrees that allow you to earn a salary while you study, to foundation years, which usually have lower entry requirements, there are several alternatives to the standard 3-year Bachelor's or 1-year Master's degree.

Degree apprenticeships

Want to earn a salary while you get your Bachelor's or Master's degree and not pay a single pound in tuition fees?

Degree apprenticeships blend part-time study with practical workplace experience. The Government and your employer cover your tuition fees and some of your other study costs.

The usual setup on a degree apprenticeship is you go to uni 1 day a week on day release and learn on the job with your employer for the other 4 days. During university holidays, you still spend around 20% of your time learning away from your working environment.

Most degree apprenticeships are in subjects where the skills and expertise you develop are in high demand.

To do a degree apprenticeship, you can apply for a role with a company that offers them or ask your employer to set one up with the University.

Work-based degrees

If you're already in employment, a work-based 'Learning at Work' course allows you to get a degree alongside your job, without going to university full-time.

You do most of your learning through work-based projects, which benefit your employer. You can also study modules on campus or by distance learning.

You study at a pace that's best for you and apply the knowledge and skills you gain straightaway in your job.

You can often claim recognition of prior learning (RPL) to put learning from training courses, employment, voluntary work, private study, and previous attendance at college and university towards your work-based degree. This cuts down the length of time you need to study for.

military services

The course is challenging but very rewarding, as you know you are working towards your future. I haven’t even had to forsake my salary in the process.

Katie Raine, Former Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, PgCert Occupational Health and Safety Management

Part-time degrees

Interested in getting a degree on campus but need to balance it with your other commitments?

Many postgraduate Master's courses are available to study part-time. There are a growing number of part-time undergraduate courses too.

Obviously, a part-time degree takes longer to complete – you can find out how long each of our part-time degrees take on the relevant course page. Also bear in mind you may need to attend campus during the day, which may need some planning to fit in around a job and other commitments.

You can usually still get tuition fee and maintenance loans on a part-time undergraduate degree, as long as you're studying at least 25% of a full-time course.

If you do a part-time Master's degree, you could still be eligible for a Government Postgraduate Master's Loan.

Foundation years

Don't meet the entry requirements for a Bachelor's degree or returning to study after a break? A foundation year course might be for you.

These let you get a taste for what university is like. You study a broad area in your chosen field, which can help you decide what subject to study at degree level. You also learn the core study skills you need for degree-level study.

After you complete your foundation year successfully you can do a full Bachelor's degree in a related subject.

Foundation years vs foundation degrees

Note that foundation years and foundation degrees aren't the same thing.

A foundation year prepares you for degree-level study while a foundation degree (FdA) is a qualification equivalent to 2 years of a 3-year Bachelor's degree.

HNDs (Higher National Diplomas)

Looking for a more practical route into higher education? An HND qualification is equivalent to a foundation degree (FdA) or 2 years of a 3-year Bachelor's degree.

Once you complete an HND, you can use your qualification to go straight into work. Or use your knowledge and skills to top-up your HND to a Bachelor's degree.

Top-up degrees

Top-up degrees allow you to 'top up' an existing qualification – typically an HND, foundation degree or diploma – to a full Bachelor's or Master's degree.

They usually last 1 year, full-time.

Distance learning degrees

Distance learning means you study online at a time that fits your schedule and commitments.

You learn using digital course material, streamed lectures and online forums, and live chats with your teachers and peers.

Distance learning has great benefits, such as:

  • You can usually decide when, where and how much you study
  • Lower tuition fees than courses on campus
  • You can study anywhere that you have an Internet connection