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Higher Education College Courses

If you’re due to graduate from sixth form and would like to continue with your studies, you may be wondering whether to apply for a degree at a HE college or university.

There are a few key differences between these two institutions and it is essential to understand them before you submit your UCAS form.

Time Management

The main difference between higher education colleges and universities is the degree to which you’ll be responsible for your studies.

At university, you’ll be expected to undertake a considerable amount of individual study by reading up on your subject when you’re not in lectures.

It's anticipated that you'll take full responsibility for your studies and won’t rely heavily on the teaching staff.

While your tutors and lecturers will be there to help you when you need it, the emphasis will be on helping you to learn to understand your chosen subject for yourself.

This means that, unless you excel at independent study and effective time management, university study will pose a challenge.

Individual Support and Attention

HE colleges tend to make the teaching of their undergraduates their top priority while large universities tend to devote much of their time and resources to their research work.

Colleges therefore adopt a more student-centred approach to their education.

At a HE college, you'll be likely to benefit from a greater number of classes and lectures and your class sizes will be small in comparison to those of a university.

This means that you’ll receive more contact time with your tutor and classmates and since your tutor will get to know you on an individual basis, he or she will be able to provide you with personalised help and support.

You’ll also be presented with countless opportunities to offer your thoughts, ask questions and engage with your fellow students.

If, however, you enjoy being hidden amongst a crowd of students and like to be the silent observer of the classroom, you will revel in the anonymity that lectures and classes at large universities grant you.


At university, you will be given long time periods to complete your assignments.

If you’re studious, this can be advantageous. However, if you’re prone to falling behind with your studies, it will be all too easy for you to fall into the habit of leaving your assignments until the last minute or worse still, forgetting about them altogether.

At college, you’ll be provided with regular reminders with regards to your assignment deadlines and will have less chance of failing your degree based on the non-submission of your coursework.

Flexibility and Cost

If you’re unable to afford the cost of going to university full-time and need to study at an institution that offers a flexible schedule so you can earn while you learn, you may find HE colleges to be better adapted to your needs.

If the cost of attending university exceeds your budget altogether, HE colleges may be a more cost-effective alternative.


Large universities tend to be better recognised than small HE colleges.

This is because large universities have a greater number of global alumni and their research facilities often appear in the news.

You may therefore find that attendance at a university is better able to enhance your career prospects.

That said, you're likely to receive more detailed and valuable careers advice from HE college tutors who know you well and are hence able to provide meaningful and personalised guidance on your next steps following graduation.