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Study Support

I am thinking of going back into education but I haven’t written an essay in years. Will I get any help?

If you have not studied for a while it may help to talk to your local education provider about introductory courses you can take to help you build your confidence and improve your study skills. Once you have started on a course you will find that tutors are used to helping students to complete assignments and you will not be alone in wanting a bit of extra help. Most providers also have study support teams that offer help in completing written work, either on a 1-1 basis or with small groups of students. And don’t forget not all courses require you to write an essay, some courses are delivered in a more practical way and you are assessed on the skills you have developed so make sure you chose a course that is right for you.

Our 'Advise Me' tool is a good place to find out about courses that might be right for you.

I have a disability which makes it hard to attend college regularly.  Will it still be possible to do a course? 

Yes, learning is open to everyone and providers will find ways to help you to complete a course. It is important to talk to the provider early and discuss what kind of help you might need. Most have a learning support team or disability support officer you can talk to before you start your course.

If the course you want to do is delivered face to face then you may be able to get a recording of any workshops or classes that you have missed and receive handouts or assignments by email. Alternatively, you could think about taking a distance learning course. This is where you study from home or work usually at a time to suit you. You could try a short distance learning course first to see if it suits you.

Read more about support for disabled learners.


What qualifications will I need to get in to a university?

Generally speaking most HE courses require you to have an advanced level (level 3) qualification. This might be A Levels, vocational courses such as a BTEC National Diploma. An Access to HE Diploma is particularly suited to mature students who wish to progress to university and need to gain the subject knowledge and the study skills needed. For some HE courses however, you may not need any formal qualifications before you apply. This is particularly the case if you have extensive work experience or have undertaken other relevant forms of learning. The Open University has an open entry policy and courses are available regardless of whether you have studied before or not. To find out about entry requirements you can use course profiles on the UCAS website or information on individual university websites. However, it is important to note that sometimes the information provided by universities does not necessarily relate to mature learners and it is therefore helpful to talk directly to universities if you want advice.

Our 'Advise Me' tool is a good place to find out about courses that might be right for you or read more about using your experience.

I have qualifications from overseas, will they be accepted in the UK?

It is becoming more common for people living in the UK to hold qualifications from other countries. If you are thinking about taking a course for which there are entry requirements you may need to know how yours compare to UK qualifications. Universities and large colleges may well have lots of experience in dealing with these queries and may have useful information online (often found in the international student section of their website), others may not have a process in place for assessing your application. It may be helpful therefore for you to get a ‘statement of comparability’ to show education providers (and employers) how your qualification relates to those in the UK. A statement of comparability can be provided by a national agency called NARIC.

Our section on Non UK qualifications provides more information on contacting NARIC or use our 'Advise Me' tool to find courses that might be right for you.

Decision making

I have been thinking about going to university but I don’t know what kind of course to do.  Where do I start?

Taking a HE course at a university or college is a big step and it is important to look at all the different options open to you. Most people have heard of a degree course (which takes 3 years full time and up to 6 years part time), but those are not the only programmes on offer. There are shorter courses such as the Certificate in HE (which may take a year or two) and courses that are focused on work based learning, like a Foundation Degree. There are also professional courses to choose from and some universities offer programmes, sometimes called modules, which run over just a few months. The type of course you do will depend on your own circumstances but also the reason for learning. If you want to learn for your own personal interests then find a course that covers the topics that you are interested in. If you want to learn to develop your career then you will need to be more focused on choosing a course that will give you a qualification that employers demand. Take time to research all your options before committing to your next step.

You will find more information about types of learning here or our useful links provide lots of ideas of useful websites to help you further.  

I want to do a course that will help me start a new career. Where can I get some advice?

One of the main reasons for learning is to help develop a new career. You may already know the career direction you want to go in or you may still be working that out, wherever you are up to there are people and places that can help you. For example, you can use the National Careers Service (they have online and face to face services) or you can speak to course advisers at your local college or adult learning centre about the types of courses they provide and the career prospects on completion. If you know the career you are interested in then you can look at job vacancies and contact recruitment agencies to find out what skills and qualifications employers are looking for. You can also use information provided by relevant professional bodies, they usually have detailed web pages that provide an insight into a particular field of work. In fact you may find there is a huge amount of information to weigh up so finding someone you can talk to about your situation will help.

Read more about careers advice

Costs of studying

I want to study but I am concerned about the cost.  Is there any help available?

Costs of studying vary enormously, there are many courses that are completely free and some courses that will cost several thousands of pounds each year. Fortunately, help is available. This may include reduced fees for individuals who meet certain criteria, grants that do not need to be paid back or loans to help you manage the costs. The help you are entitled to will depend on your own personal circumstances and the type of course you are taking. Finding out about the costs and the support on offer in advance of your application is important (particularly if you are receiving benefits) but there is plenty of information on line and most education providers have someone you can talk to. If you are working and you have a course in mind you may also want to talk to your employer about contributing to the cost, they may be willing to consider this if you can demonstrate that your studies will benefit the organisation.

Find out more about financial support or try our 'Advise Me' tool to find courses that might suit you.

I have seen a Part time course I am interested in but I have young children to look after.  Is there any help to pay for childcare?

Firstly, it's important to know that in England all children aged 3 to 4 can get 570 hours of free childcare a year (this works out around 15 hours per week during school term times). This is regardless of your circumstances (and whether you are studying or not). Some children aged 2 can also get free childcare but you need to be on certain benefits or meet other criteria. If you or your partner are working you may also be able to get financial help through Tax Credits.

If you do need to pay for childcare and you are studying then there is likely to be extra help to cover the costs. However, the financial help you are entitled to depends on the age of your children, your own age, your financial circumstances and the type of course you are hoping to take.

You can read more about the financial help on offer in childcare section.