Information, advice and guidance
Which are the best sources of online information for you and your students?
We hope that you find our free Advancing Access resources useful. As we are not the only provider of higher education advice and information, we thought that we would present you with a summary of some of the best other sources of information which are available for you and your students. We hope that you will be able to use these online sites in conjunction with Advancing Access as we think their content will nicely complement the resources on our website.
1. Which? University: https://university.which.co.uk
This website offers a wide range of resources for students, teachers and careers advisers. One of the most useful tools available is the course search which allows students to enter their predicted (or achieved) grades and to see a list of subjects offered at different universities with those entry grades. The A-level explorer is another useful search engine where students select their current A-level subjects and are given a selection of relevant degrees they could study. Within these suggestions, users can see the popular careers sought by graduates, the average graduate salary for their chosen subject and the percentage of students in work or further study after graduating. By clicking on the full guide, users are taken to student testimonials, they can also see the necessary subjects required for a course, a brief application checklist (indicating if students need to attend interviews, present a portfolio, sit an entry test and when the admissions date is) as well as advice about writing a tailored personal statement. Users can also access the longer term career paths for studying a given subject, what employers like about those who have studied it, other related subjects to explore, example course modules and the average teaching hours per week. There is also the option for those not studying A-levels to use the explorer and there is an accompanying page on BTECs.
Which? University also has university-specific pages reachable through their where to study tab, allowing users to search by name or city. This information tells users what student life is like in the selected city alongside tips and things to do from university students. These pages include league table rankings, the courses that are offered at each institution and a student budget calculator to estimate living costs.
Their get advice tab includes information, advice, videos and articles on the following topics:
> A-level choices
> Career prospects
> Choosing a course
> Clearing and results day
> Apprenticeships advice and guidance
> GCSE choices and university
> Personal statements
> Preparing for university
> Student accommodation
> Student life
> UCAS application
> University open days
> Advice for parents
The teachers page provides free resources and advice (including guides, downloads and classroom activities) on a range of topics such as: developing your skills as an adviser, apprenticeships advice and resources, UCAS reference writing (including BTEC, vocational and IB students), higher education options explained, help your student get into university and explain finance and funding to students. Classroom resources and activities are available to suit a wide range of different age groups. All guides are free to download and users can sign up to receive expert tips and advice via email.
There are two calendars on the site containing important dates for Key Stage 5 students:
2. UCAS: https://www.ucas.com
UCAS provides an extensive body of materials for its users who are finishing their GCSEs or nationals. In the further education strand, UCAS offers information on different study options and qualifications, including advice on A-levels, BTEC diplomas and NVQs. Each section includes information about the recent changes to the qualifications, how they are taught, studied and assessed, who the qualifications are for, the subjects and grades required for study, how long they take to complete and what’s next.
One of the most helpful tools on UCAS can be found in their careers section. Not only can users take a ‘careers quiz’ to find career ideas, there is also an explore jobs section which provides a list of job families. Users can select a job family, a skill and/or a subject and a spread of job industries is generated. Within these job roles, there are further details on what the job entails, the related skills for the role, the possible academic and vocational routes, the essential qualifications for the job, other related subjects and external links for more information. This tool provides practical information on the numerous ways one can achieve their desired career as well as a platform for users to consider their future options. This section also includes advice on how to get into work, the changing career landscape, what employers are looking for and how to write a CV. Via the UCAS progress search, users can search and apply for any post-16 course, including A-levels, Diplomas, Apprenticeships and more, in a specific city or area. UCAS progress is used for admissions to schools, colleges and work places for these post-16 programmes. There are further details on the application process, how to write a UCAS progress personal statement and what happens when offers are made.
The alternatives section includes apprenticeships/traineeships and internships for post-16 study where users can hear from previous students and view the career prospects, details about the job and the qualification you receive. Users can also search for available apprenticeships nationwide. Within this section, there is also information on degree apprenticeships, gap years with deferred entry and studying overseas for the duration of an undergraduate degree.
As one would expect, UCAS has plenty of material on studying undergraduate degrees at universities, colleges and conservatoires. Users can search for courses, find out when and how to apply, understand UCAS tariff points, receive advice on writing personal statements as well as having results day and clearing explained. UCAS has a range of subject guides and information on what the different undergraduate courses involve and how to get onto them, including videos from current students. These pages also include key statistics for the course, including entry requirements, a list of universities that offer this course and similar courses as well as apprenticeships that are available in this subject.
The UCAS personal statement tool allows users to draft their statement. They can view writing tips, answer relevant questions and track their character count. Under the open days and events section, users can access virtual tours of university campuses, UCAS events for exploring higher education (an opportunity to speak to them and other professional bodies) as well as a page which lists university open days for undergraduate and conservatoire courses. There is a page labelled ‘after applying’ which details how to track an application, when applicants are likely to hear back from the universities, interview tips and the different offers made by universities. There is information on student life too – including what to expect from student accommodation and the different housing options available for undergraduate students. The pages on finance and support contain the different measures of funding that are available and offered by universities, including bursaries, help with travel and accommodation costs and educational grants, local support services and information for parents and carers regarding post-16 education and training.
3. Bright Knowledge: https://www.brightknowledge.org/
Bright Knowledge, connected to Brightside (an online mentoring platform for young people) presents a guide to careers, education and student life. Bright Knowledge is known for its plethora of articles which feature the latest updates and advice in relation to further education and careers. For example, in February there were articles on how Brexit will effect Erasmus funding (an EU student-exchange programme), the approval of the 400th new apprenticeship subject and advice on moving from A-levels to university. Some are targeted more specifically at students themselves, including ‘setting goals’, ‘a Fresher’s week survival guide’, ‘the student experience – what to know before you go!’ and many more. Bright Knowledge also has categories on careers, health and wellbeing, money and housing, education, independent living and study skills. Each category has sub-categories on related topics, advice and articles. For instance, within study skills, there are sub-categories on ‘exams and revision’, ‘independent study’, ‘time management and motivation’, ‘speaking and communication’ and further sections on ‘exams and revision’, with articles on ‘how to use practice exam papers’, ‘making a revision schedule’, ‘three ways to get more out of your revision’, ‘how your brain tricks you into thinking cramming works’, ‘dealing with exam stress’, ‘tips to improve your exam technique’ etc.
A similar approach is presented for the different subject areas. There are sub-categories on studying a certain subject, careers using/in this subject, understanding the subject and other related fields. Underneath these sections sits a latest news section and the ‘top articles’ in the subject area. For instance, within business and finance, there are articles on the skills needed to make it into finance, to become a manager, and career profiles offering an explanation of jobs such as, Chief Financial Officer, assurance and forensic associate etc. Every page is slightly different and tailored to the selected subject.
4. Unistats: https://unistats.ac.uk
Unistats is primarily a comparison site which contains data for all universities and in the UK. This website allows users to compare higher education courses (considering earnings data and student satisfaction rates etc.) between different institutions. Using the course assistant, users are able to refine a search through subject, qualification type, study mode (part-time, full time, etc.) and location and characteristics (i.e. sandwich courses, foundation years, year abroad). By saving entries, users are shown an alphabetical list of relevant courses at different universities. Users can then compare which courses they are interested in (or have ‘shortlisted’) from any university and see their statistics side-by-side. These statistics include:
> Student satisfaction – an overall percentage taken from the National Student Survey.
> Employment and accreditation – the average salary six months after the course, the average for all courses in the subject across the UK, average earnings for the subject at the institution after three years, the percentage of students who go to work and/or further study, types of employment.
> Continuation and degree results - what students are doing one year after starting the course (i.e. if they have left or are continuing their university studies either in the course they enrolled on or if they are completing a different award). This page also shows the degree classification results, indicating the percentage of students who achieved a first, an upper second class degree, etc.
> Entry information – this section does not specify what grades students achieved but shows the percentage of students who entered the course after studying A-levels, an access course, a foundation course, or a different higher education qualification. Users are also able to view the actual UCAS tariff scores of students who were formerly enrolled on the course.
When clicking on a specific university course, there are links to the official university page with further details on course information and fees. Users can also find a video guide for using Unistats here.
We hope that by bringing this information to the forefront, more teachers and advisers will know where to look when seeking certain information and in turn, be better able to direct their students to the relevant online platforms. Keep your eye on our blog too for the details of any new online information services, which we will aim to bring you details of as they launch. The Office for Students, for example, are planning a new national online information resource to be launched this year. Wondering why we haven’t mentioned the Russell Group’s excellent Informed Choices guide? This popular guide is soon to be replaced by a new interactive website – we’ll bring you more details about this soon!
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