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What to expect from a degree

University will be a big change for many students who have just completed their A-Levels or BTEC courses; and even though you had a selected amount of independent learning along the way, with coursework and exam revision, your university course won’t be like anything that you have done before. What should you expect from a degree?

Your degree will be split up into seminar hours, lectures, and/or tutorial sessions, but university level requires studying independently and developing your academic knowledge alongside what you learn in the classroom.


They are smaller sessions and are generally more interactive due to the smaller number of students attending. The tutor may lead or facilitate the session and students are usually expected to join in the discussion with opinions, ideas and comments about the subject in hand. It is best to do the recommended reading and prep before hand. Students may need to give presentations about topics in the module.


The teacher may be a member of staff or a guest speaker, talking to a large number of students at a big venue, in a usually, formal session. With lectures, they usually require less individual input from students, and the Lecturer will talk as you take notes for future reference.


Even smaller than seminars, they will have less students and feel intimate. Some tutorials are even one-to-one sessions with your teacher! The focus is narrower than in lectures or seminars, and may be based around a specific topic or a piece of coursework you have done. You should book tutorials when you want to discuss a subject with your tutor or need clarification on something on the course.

Practical sessions:

Practicals at university usually mean something which is more hands on rather than theory based learning. It could be creating a piece, such as, art, or chemistry lab supervised by your tutor. A note to consider, even if a module seems theory-based it can be considered as a practical one, like Journalism, Screenwriting, Graphic Design etc.

Your university degree will be made up of several factors, which also include, working on assignments, preparation, reading, revising and even work placements. The same course at a different university can be made up on entirely different studying schedules, therefore, comparing courses is the best idea to guarantee you are applying to a course you want to study. Think about whether you want to spend more time in lectures, or planning your essays, and how much recommended reading is required for the course. You can check the actual contact hours and break down of the course in a prospectus, contact the university, or attend an open day.

What your actual teaching hours will be like are down to the subject area and course that you are attending, for example, Performing arts or Law. Certain degrees have more practical sessions, whilst others may have back-to-back teaching like Classics. If you have less face time throughout your course, maybe even less than 8 hours a week, it doesn’t mean that you will have less work to do – you will have to substitute the hours with independent learning. Universities expect students to spend a full working week – at least 35 hours – studying, after you have subtracted lecture/face time hours.

All students will have an allocated Personal Tutor, they may teach you during the course but it isn’t guaranteed. Your personal tutor is your first port of call for any concerns or anxieties you might have about your degree, studies or teachers. They won’t be able to read your mind, so if you do need help: ask!

Your institution usually hold support sessions and workshops to aid students in their journey of learning, and this can be from how to structure an essay, to research tips for your final year dissertation. Check out your university library, IT suite or rooms on campus for extra curricular material that you can do alongside your degree.

Lastly, never forget your fellow students and classmates! They’re going through the same thing as you, and their input in class can spark ideas in your mind and help you with studying later on. Your classmates will be with you every step of the way, and the majority of the time, become good friends because you share common interests.

University will be different from any academic adventure you have embarked on previously, and it is okay to feel overwhelmed by the startling differences to start with, however, remember that everything seems better and simpler once you have time to take all the changes in.