Student Advice

Changing courses at university

Ben Maples  · Nov 13th 2023  · 5 min

Sometimes, the course you initially picked out just isn’t for you. Don’t worry; this happens to plenty of students.


Changing courses at university is a lot simpler than it may appear. While it can feel like a stressful and worrying time for most students, it can be fairly easy to change your course if you need to.

Of course, a university’s criteria or requirements for changing courses will vary depending on where you are attending and how you plan to change. Your admissions tutors will be able to guide you through the process.

In this article, we’ve got everything you need! We’ve got advice on how to change courses at university, as well as a few insights from Alice, who changed courses when she was at university.

How to change courses at university

Can I switch to another course at my university?

This will depend on the university you’re attending. For the most part, universities will likely allow you to switch without too much of a fuss, but some courses do not allow students to swap; meaning you will need to drop the course entirely before switching.

This is usually done by speaking to your tutor to find out the next steps. Most universities will have the same switching criteria or methods, but it's worth checking with your university beforehand to see if they do anything differently.

Is it hard to change courses at university?

On the whole, this should be fairly straightforward. The complexity depends on what course you are changing to and from, what year you are in and what kind of student finance you are receiving.

Generally, students find it fairly easy to change courses and universities try to make this process as easy as possible.

Alice says: My experience changing course ended up being pretty seamless. At first I was apprehensive about the process as I thought it would be difficult and maybe I wouldn't be accepted onto the new course I wanted to change to. However, after talking to my lecturers and mentors, they helped me through the process and I started my new course in the next academic year. I'd say the most important part was making sure I had done my research on my new course and making sure I was definitely making the right decision!

Some things you need to consider

Changing courses or transferring universities is a big decision. This is a decision that can often lead to a lot more change, so you want to make sure you’re changing for all the right reasons.

Do you need to switch courses?

You will need to tell the university why you’re looking to change courses. Make sure you have your reasons and can communicate them easily to the admissions team.

Alice says: It was when I looked at my future modules that I realised I wouldn’t be able to choose the modules I felt I needed for my later career. I decided to look at my career path and see which options were available and reevaluate what it was exactly I wanted to do and what course would be the best suited for this decision.

How to change courses at uni

Can you change modules?

Modules can be a tricky thing to change. The university usually sets these and many are mandatory. Some modules can be swapped, while others cannot. If the modules are causing you problems, check with the university and see if these can be swapped out. This may save you a lot of time and effort.

Additional work

Do you need to do any additional work before you can switch courses? Not all courses will allow you to start a course without doing any prior work, so you need to find out if you need to do any other work after you've switched.

How does credit transfer work?

Not all universities will necessarily operate credit transfer the same way. Also, not all courses will allow you to transfer credits if the courses are drastically different from each other. Transferring from maths to applied maths, for example, may be easier than switching from maths to English literature.

How is your student loan affected?

Changing courses will likely impact your student loan in some way. How much of your loan will be affected by the transfer, and how will the university make up any shortfall? Find out if you need to re-pay any of your loan at any point prior to the transfer before you make your decision.

Transferring to a different course at the same university or college

Transferring within your college or university tends to be a bit easier than transferring universities or colleges. Generally, there are a few points you will need to consider:

  • Do you meet the entry requirements?
  • If there are spaces available on the course.
  • When are you able to transfer?
  • Will the departments allow you to transfer?

After this, you will need to speak to your college or university’s admissions tutors and to the course leaders. After this, you can then work out whether it’s possible to transfer.

Alice says: If you're not enjoying your course, make sure you do your research! Take the time to really evaluate why you're not enjoying the course, what it is about the course that’s making you want to change. Weigh up your options and talk to the correct people who can give you all the information you need.

Will I need to sit an admissions test?

This will depend on where you are applying and what course you are changing to. Generally, if you are moving from something like English language to English literature, then you will not need to sit an admissions test.

However, if you are moving to a new area of study entirely, then the chances are that you will need to. These tests are designed to ensure that you are able to keep up with the coursework and with the level of study required in the subject.

How to change courses at university or college

Can I leave midway through my course?

You can indeed! You will need to meet with your personal tutor and explain to them why you want to leave and what the process involves.

After this, you need to speak to Student Finance. Student Finance will be able to tell you how to go about paying off the remaining balance of your student loan, transferring it to a new course, or forgiving the debt entirely.

Can I take a year out from study?

Yes, you can. Generally, this is called “deferral”, as you will be likely resuming your studies after your year out.

This is easy enough to sort out, just speak to your course tutor and the university to sort it out. Most universities will have differing ways of granting permission for this, so you will need to see the different criteria of your university before you proceed.

You will also need to inform Student Finance. Unfortunately, Student Finance will not allow you to benefit from any student finance or maintenance loans while you are away.

All in all, there are different ways to approach this. Give yourself the time to consider your options and make the right choice for you.

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