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Prospectuses & websites

All universities and colleges publish prospectuses – both the traditional (usually glossy) paper versions and electronic versions on their websites. These are your primary sources.

Each college within the federal universities (eg London, Cambridge) has its own prospectus. So too do many individual university departments and faculties; these give lists of teaching staff and their research interests (which can be illuminating) and outline how they teach their subject.

The university website or prospectus is essential to find out more about the place – its departments, the structure and assessment of the courses, typical offers made, the attitude to study abroad, possible combinations of subjects, the accommodation, facilities − in fact almost everything you are interested in.

They will also tell you if you are likely to be acceptable – whether you have the right subjects, at the right level and at the right grades or points for the course you want; they may express a view about mature students, gap years, repeat A-levels etc.

Don’t rely on secondary sources. If you have any doubt at all, check direct with admissions tutors.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that prospectuses are first and foremost designed to sell the university to you. Use them to try to identify the university’s ethos; see what the strengths are (eg sport, religion); these may or may not match yours. They are an essential read before any interview.

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Visits & open days

Don’t even think of spending three years at a place you haven’t visited. You may find you hate it on sight and it’s too late to discover that when you start in freshers’ week.

All universities and colleges, and most departments, hold open days for prospective students – see the university descriptions for the ones we know about. These give you the opportunity to see the campus and town as well as any facilities that are particularly relevant to your choice of course (computer centre, studios etc). And, of course, you can meet staff and students. If you can’t fit in the open days, at least go and snoop around to make sure you feel you can fit in. Preferably visit before you apply; certainly before you accept.

Some universities offer special days for people who have applied to them or been offered a place. Either open days or applicants’ days – when they’re offered, go!

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Higher education fairs

These are like markets – with university staff as stallholders hawking their wares. They last for a day or two and are useful for picking up prospectuses and talking to a range of university staff, all under one roof. They are run nationally and regionally so you should find one near you (it is not worth travelling far for one). 50 or so are run by UCAS under the label of UCAS Conventions; check its website for your nearest.

Higher education fairs are fine in themselves, but are no substitute for visiting the university itself.

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Students’ unions

Most students’ unions (SUs) have their own websites. These can be useful to see how the union is run, what it does for students and what is going on. Many have special sections for prospective students. The SU may also have an alternative prospectus. Many SUs are pleased to talk directly to sixth formers who take the trouble to contact them (contact points are in our university descriptions).

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Featured Universities

Canterbury Christ Church University
Canterbury Christ Church University

Location: Canterbury

Students: 19105

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Liverpool University

Location: Liverpool

Students: 21875

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