Studying for a Degree in a College

18th July 2019

Nick is currently studying Graphic Design at Sheffield College, Hillsborough Campus. He is about to start his fifth year, having spent two years completing his level 3 qualifications and two years studying for his degree-level qualification. Nick’s graphic design work has been recognised by local employers and he has recently been offered a full-time role in Chesterfield alongside his studies.

Two years ago, I was weighing up my options for my future career path. Being creative was always part of growing up and having developed a deep passion for graphic design, I wanted to explore it in greater depth. When it came to higher education, I looked into the options of both university and college. I did my research by asking current and past students about their experiences and why they chose to stay on at college. Some said that they started their degree at a university and later switched to college as they preferred the more intimate learning style and environment there.

At first, I was anxious about the idea of staying at college because I felt it was time to become an ‘adult’ and gain independence – was going to college instead of university going to provide me with what I desired? On reflection, for me, it was a fantastic choice! Classes became more relaxed as I progressed onto higher education from further education, even though I was studying at the same institution. Simple things such as having a varied timetable and using the specialised facilities made the whole experience feel warming. For entry onto the higher education course, I needed to attend an interview and also achieve at least a merit on my Level 3 BTEC qualifications. I felt that the entry process was more personal compared to my older brother and sister’s experiences. They achieved their grades at college and were then offered a place through UCAS without any human contact, whereas I had an interview that gave me the opportunity to meet the course leader.

There are only ten people on my course, six of whom were on my further education course. When it comes to showcasing my portfolio to local employers, I’m with a small group, so I feel that it’s easier to be recognised rather than being on a university course of over a hundred people. According to my Level 3 lecturer, 93% of people who complete my degree at The Sheffield College are in employment straight after finishing the course, so this automatically enhanced my appetite for studying a higher education course at college.

One of my peers was from the Orkney Islands, which is in the middle of nowhere above Scotland! For this reason, it’s a fair assumption you would need to find accommodation near college to make completing a degree feasible. She moved into Sheffield Hallam University student flats and felt at home right away. It’s a great feeling to know that you can be included in classic university ‘student life’ without going to university, but at the same time attending higher education. As well as being able to live in university halls of residence, I am also able to use the facilities at both Sheffield universities, such as the library and – the best part! – attend freshers and varsity events.

The final aspect that’s different to attending university is the price. This wasn’t the deciding factor for me, although the course fees being £6,500 per year is certainly a bonus. I also receive the same amount of maintenance loan as a university student.

I feel that comparing higher education at a university to higher education at a college would be unfair, as both types of institutions can provide excellent services to their students. My experiences at college have suited me well and I’d certainly not change them, even if I had the chance to. I’d recommend to anyone making their higher education choice, do your research into all your options, as a degree in a college may suit you better!

Categories: Student Ambassadors.

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