Evaluating a University

How do I evaluate a university course and what questions should I ask at a university open day?

Due to recent increases in student tuition fees, all university students are now effectively buyers in this marketplace, committing themselves to making a significant investment in their future through university study. As such it is very important that they should make very careful consideration as to the course that they wish to study and where will give them the best possible chance of a return on their investment when it comes to employment and a career. Some tips for how to evaluate the suitability of a university course are as follows:

The first point it to make sure that you first and foremost choose the right course and not the university followed by course.

You are investing a great deal of time and money in your course of study so it is far more important that your course of study leads to your preferred career path, than it is to choose to attend a university, with course preference coming second, just because it is close to mates and has a good social scene.

Consider how you might keep the costs down:

Can you attend a university that is close enough to live at home?

What will the travel cost you, to get to and from your preferred university choice if you prefer to study away from home?

Visit the university before applying

You will not be able to get a feel for both the course and the university as a whole including the accommodation unless you visit. A prospectus is a good way to start your research, but you really do need to go and see for yourself to take in the atmosphere at an Open day.

Higher Education Shows and Events

These are an excellent way to meet representatives from lots of universities in the same place, so saving time on research. A bit of research online will assist you with finding a suitable event.

League table and groups of universities

These are useful for reference and help to relate one university to another for your chosen faculty of study but they should only be one of the factors you consider, in addition to those below. After all enjoyment of the course, the location of the university and employment prospects are the most important things.

Open days

These are an opportunity for you to get to know the university and the course. These should be booked in advance and most universities allow you to do this online. Prepare a check list of questions in advance to make sure you leave feeling that you are fully in the picture about both the course and the university. This should include:

  • What facilities does the university have /rWhat are the university dining arrangements if cooking is not your strength?
  • What is the accommodation like and what is the policy for accommodating first year students ? If this is your first time away from home it is far better to be allocated a room in a hall of residence where you will meet lots of other Fresher’s.
  • What is the atmosphere like? Does the city centre have an active student scene? You will be living there for at least 3 years so it is important to make sure that you like the location and will feel at home there. Campus style universities and those that are collegiate, located round about town have a very different feel and it is important that you feel at home in the environment you choose.
  • How do students travel to and from lectures? Are there good bus routes and is there secure ‘parking’ for bikes? Think twice about taking a car to university, at least in the first year. Parking can often be difficult and cars are very expensive to run.
  • For your chosen course, what is the contact teaching/lecture time each week and how does the system of tutorials work?
  • How is the course assessed – how much is project work as opposed to exams?
  • How many students gain places on your chosen course each year?
  • Is there an opportunity to spend time in industry or getting relevant work experience?
  • If possible, ask current students what they think about the course and what they like/dislike about it.
  • What percentage of last year’s graduates gained employment on leaving the course and what types of career have they gone into.
  • What careers advice is available to students and do they assist with CV writing and interview coaching?


For advice on career planning and choosing the right university course, please contact us.