What, where, how to study

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This section of NE Career Engine will help you think about the type of study or course that will best suit your ambitions, interest and circumstances.


NE Career Engine helps adults start their journey to higher education level study (Level 4 and above) but adults start that journey in all sorts of different ways.

You might feel ready to start a higher education level course straight away or you might prefer to start with a course which will specifically prepare you for degree level study? You might want to get back into learning through a topic related to your interests or you might want to brush up on your basic skills like IT, literacy or numeracy?

Whatever your starting point you will find a variety of types of courses (i.e. qualifications), subjects, flexible ways to study, ways to learn and places to go.

Courses take place in the work-place, at local colleges, some training providers and universities or can be studied by distance learning.

If you are already in work, before you start you might want to ask the following questions:

  • Will my employer support me in studying a specific course that fits with my job role?
  • What other support will my employer provide? For example time off for study.
  • How will my new qualification benefit my career?

If you are in a union you could find out whether there are any courses on offer to you through Unionlearn.

Choosing the right course and way to study to suit your needs means you need to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve from the course. This can sometimes mean knowing not just the next step but the step after that. For example, if you are starting with an Access to Higher Education Diploma you also need to check that this qualification will get you onto the degree you want to study.

To get free advice for adults through the National Careers Service

Checking entry criteria

Part of the process of choosing the right course for you is making sure that you meet the required entry criteria.  You will need to do some research to find out the criteria for the course you would like to study. 

Universities and colleges all set their own entry criteria and are often very flexible depending on your experience and qualifications.  For mature applicants, entry routes into higher education can include an Access Course, an exploratory essay, a taster module, a Foundation Year, previous work experience, a BTEC level 3 qualification, Advanced Apprenticeship or ‘A’ levels. It is always worth contacting the university/college to ask for advice.

If English is not your first language you may have to demonstrate your English Language proficiency with a test. 

Qualifications from outside the UK

If you have qualifications awarded in another country, you'll need to find out whether they are recognised in the UK. See the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) website for more on comparing overseas qualifications with those gained in the UK.

Before deciding what, where and how to study look at the options shown in this section and then use the Top Tips and Useful Links to help you decide your own way forward.

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