Considering University

Do the research then make the decision.

Whether you are settled on going to university or you just want to check what it would even entail then this is the page for you.

We will be honest, it’s lengthy and detailed and will point you in the direction of specialist websites - that quite frankly know more about it then we do.

We do not expect you to know what you don’t know - but we are willing to share what we do... so here we go…

Picking your university

At a very basic level there are two broad set ups of universities when making your choice, campus universities and city universities. Campus universities are as the title suggests are closely linked with accomodation and learning facilities within walking distance of one another in one location. City universities can often be spread further out - with various buildings across “towns” or “cities”.

Other factors applicants will consider, are locality to home, course reputation, sporting prowess and graduation employability statistics.

This is ultimately a personal preference and if you don’t know now - make a visit. On arrival at any universities - regardless of ranking - you will know pretty soon whether you like the set up and the feel - sounds daft but don’t make decisions based on marketing videos and glossy pictures. Bear in mind this will be a place you visit daily and that’s not including those of you who will move out of home to live there. Make the trip. You can see when your prospective universities have open days by visiting:

What are Russell Group Universities?

We can not write this section without covering the ever illusive “Russell Group”.

There are currently 24 self selected universities in the Russell Group, underpinned by their commonality to be “research universities”.This title is not to be substituted for the “best universities” in the country as that can be cut in a number of ways as demonstrated by differing lists from student experience, employability, sports facilities, accommodation, etc. Scholars from even these universities have publicly claimed that the Russell Group brand is as a result of a very strong marketing campaign.

When reviewing your university options do not let Russell Group be the sole criteria to which you lead the decision upon. Below are a list of sites that will allow you compare on various factors:


University applications are centralised in the UK via a system called UCAS. If you are in full time education your school or college will support you through this process. In a nutshell, it is an online application form that has three main sections:

Your personal statement - a 47 line written statement that will articulate your desire you go to university, your reasoning and rationale for your A’ level choices as well as extra curricular activities you have completed to support your plight to university.

Your academic grades to date - you will be asked to provide the subjects and results of your GCSEs. This section will round off with your predicted A’ level grades which will be independently approved by your school or college before final submission.

Your university course selections -you will have 5 choices to make. These can be to five different universities highlighting the same course - all courses have a specific code so you can compare between two of the same at different institutions. Equally the applications can be five courses at the same universities. Bear in mind there are over 50,000 different UCAS codes for undergraduate courses and 395 institutions in the UK.

Once this form has been submitted universities will contact applicants directly through UCAS as to the outcome, which can be one of three results: rejected, conditional acceptance and unconditional acceptance. The two types of acceptance differ in that one requires “conditions” to be met, mainly academic grades and the other does not. It is important that you fully understand the eligibility criteria for courses at universities especially previously attained grade requirements (GCSEs) and mandatory subjects for courses. Whilst entry grades, given many do not have their final A’ Level results at the time of applying are a guideline the subjects and previously obtained results are typically rigid - with only five courses do not waste a space. Once the university responses are in, applicants will need to rank a first choice and second choice institution.

There is one final way to attend university which is not often discussed and that is clearing. Clearing is a word that has been historically and wrongly tarnished despite it being a real opportunity for students to attend university even if they have not completed a UCAS application. Clearing, is effectively a list of courses that are not at full capacity and thus available for students to apply. These spaces are available for a number of reasons, including, they were in the top two choices of other applicants and were not selected or they were spaces originally offered that have now been deferred. Historically, clearing has been viewed as the option for those “who do not hit the grades” which may still hold some validity - bearing in mind with a whole host of universities offering places, but one area underestimated is for those who supersede their expected grades and thus would like to see if a university they may not have previously applied due to their predicted grades is now available to them.

Making the move

Whilst 77% of last year’s university intake elected to live in university accommodation, the remaining stayed at home - a growing trend for a number of reasons - most notably the cost (but we will come onto that shortly!) 

“Packing up your room at home, waving at your parents from the window of a single bedroom in a brand new city and starting a new life” is how the movies depict the first day in the life of a university student but let’s go back a few steps.

Way back when you select your top two universities, for those who are choosing to move out for university you will likely be asked to select your chosen accommodation for your first choice. There are various university accommodation types:

  • Room on a shared floor/flat/house - The university you have selected will likely have accommodation blocks or buildings that will have a series of single dormitory rooms. Some will have sinks in some will not. All will have a bed, a desk and a cupboard. You will likely share a kitchen, toilet and shower facilities with the others on your floor, your flat or your house. The communal areas including all the facilities will be typically benefit from a weekly or biweekly cleaner.  
  • En Suite Room - Again typically on a floor, in a flat or an university named house, but this time with fully encompassing bathroom complete with toilet, sink and shower.
  • Private rental housing - You can opt to move away to university but not select the university provided accommodation but rather rent privately. There will be agencies  in the town you are moving to that will be able to help. Some landlords will offer “all bills included” to students renters others will be expect that the tenants (you as the student) to set up and pay for bills i.e. internet, utilities etc.
  • Family housing - For those who are starting university with dependants some institutions have family accommodation you should seek this out with your individual universities.

Worth noting that most university accommodations will offer the room rates with all bills included, you will still be expected to pay for a TV license should you wish to access online catch up TV from any device on the premises. It does vary by city as how private student rentals work in the second, third (and any subsequent) years you are away from home. Some landlords will offer all bills included others will expect tenants to pay bills that include, internet, utilities and apply for your own exemption to council tax. (As full time students you do not need to pay council tax).

How long are you at university for?

University degrees can vary in length some can start with a foundational course most are three years. Some such as medicine and architecture are much longer, 5 and 7 years respectively so important to check during your early days research.

You can also adopt for a “sandwich” degree whereby you will spend the third year in a work placement or in some cases at another university abroad. Most universities will accommodate for a “year in placement” even if the course isn’t currently packaged in that way. You will be allocated a supervisor once you start your course and this is the best person to discuss this matter with.

Repaying Fees

Right this is a huge question and often one that has a skewed answer depending on who you speak with.

Going to university is not a cheap option and one that should not be taken lightly - however the funding options and repayments should not be the sole reason you decide against it.

The Student Finance company are the sole provider for student loans in UK. They will offer two main types of loans for students one for your tuition and one for maintenance. The tuition loan maximum available is the well known, £9,250 per annum fee to attend university. This is paid on your behalf direct to the university. You will not receive nor see this money. The second type of loan all are entitled to from the SLC is that for your maintenance. The maximum maintenance loan for living at home is £7,529 (2019/2020), living universities outside of London is £8,994 (2019/2020) and for those universities inside of London, £11.672 (2019/2020). Should you opt for a year studying abroad you can borrow £10,242 (2019/2020) during this year.

This is money you will receive direct into your bank account three times a year - normally in three equal installments. This money is to support you with rent, travel and books - however you can spend it on what you like and there are no restrictions - apart from of course your logic, rationale and maturity - oh and your parents and carers!

If you take out student loans and decide to leave university early you will need to repay elements of your loan back depending on the date to which you leave. Each university operates slightly differently here so you will need to speak to them directly. Generally speaking the following table applies for tuition fees:

Date Percentage of tuition fees you'll have to repay
From the first day of the first term 25%
From the first day of the second term 50%
From the first day of the third term 100%


There are also three other types of finance that some students will be eligible for to help with university life:

  1. Grants
  2. Bursaries
  3. Scholarships

To assess your eligibility criteria for these types of finance please visit the government website here

Repaying your student loan

For students who started university in 2018, they are requested to repay their loans in the April after their graduation year, should they be earning at least £25,000 per year basic. For every penny above £25,000 you earn you will pay 9% of your salary back towards your student loan.

Whilst you may have done the calculations on how much you borrowed from the SLC, there is interest applied to these loans, the current interest rate stands at a maximum of 6.3%. 3% of this is consider the Retail price Index applied to the loan. An additional rate is applied depending on your income, reaching a maximum of a further 3%, See the table below for some examples on the interest rates applied:

Income  Interest rate
£25,000 RPI only = 3.3%
£35,000 RPI plus 1.5% = 4.8%
£45,000 RPI plus 3% = 6.3%


Once you have finished university you will be shown what you have borrowed. With the Student Loan Company (SLC) provided annual updates thereafter on repayments.

There is a myth that if you move abroad you do not need to repay your student loan this is not true and could result in a higher interest repayments should you not notify the SLC. For more information on repaying your student loan should you move overseas visit the SLC website here

Student loans do not feature on your credit history (providing you did not default on payments with a pre 1998 student loan). Whilst some lenders for a mortgage will ask about your student loan it is seen as more of a tax then a debt, averages suggest those with a plan 2 student loan see about £4,000-£6,000 difference in their borrowing amounts.

Consideration Workshops

As one of the five options available to young people after the classroom HireHigher delivers consideration workshops & webinars for young people - just get in touch!