Where you study depends to a large extent on your abilities, academic achievements and personal preferences. Here are some guidelines that might help you to decide:
- Do you have the academic qualifications for a degree or similar course? If so, you should consider this option very carefully. Although it is increasingly straightforward to pick up qualifications later, on a part time or evening basis, it is still easier to do this through full time study at a college. Don't miss out on student life!
- If you decide on a degree level course, is it better to take a course specifically related to marketing, or any degree course on a subject that interests you? There is no doubt that taking a degree in a non specialist subject leaves the options open for a while, but you may then need to spend another, extra, year obtaining some specific qualification.
- Sandwich courses offer a compromise between full time study and part time study combined with employment, because periods of study are sandwiched between periods of employment. Thick sandwich courses usually involve two years of study, one year of supervised work experience and a final year of study; thin sandwich courses usually alternate six month periods of work and study. Work experience is important to a future employer, and it is worth considering this type of course seriously.
- If you feel that your academic qualifications are not likely to fulfill the requirements of a degree level course, but you would still like to study full time, look at the vocational courses in art and design, business studies and other subjects.
- You may wish to take a course that involves a period of study abroad. Many courses are now linked to foreign institutions with exchanges organized through the ERASMUS program of the European Community. These often have an additional language component.
- If you decide on studying through part time or evening courses, the amount of support your employer will give can be very important. Find out what concessions are made for which course, and what arrangements there are for help with fees, time off for study and examinations, block release and day release.
- Whatever type of course you choose, you need to check carefully with the relevant professional association that the course is suitable for the career you want to take up. A useful reference book is British Qualifications, published annually by Cogan Page.
When you have your shortlist of colleges, you can then write to them for a copy of their course prospectus (see the specimen enquiry above). They are accustomed to this request, so simply send a note to the college, addressed to the Registrar or the Admissions Officer. It is advisable to enclose a self addressed and stamped gummed label (not envelope). In the case of the universities at Cambridge, London, Oxford and Wales, write to the individual college, not the university.
Individual Degree Course Guides for each subject area are also available, published for the Careers and Research Advisory Centre by Hobson's publishing (Bateman Street, Cambridge CB2 1LZ). Two general information leaflets are available from the Central Services Unit for Graduate Careers and Appointments Services (Crawford House, Precinct Centre and Manchester Ml 3 9EP) covering Marketing and Sales and Advertising and Public Relations.
It is more important than ever that your choice of course equips you for the real world of work. On the whole, universities as well as colleges are responding to industry needs and most courses in all disciplines are now designed to teach business related skills to their students in addition to the main course(s) of study.
Many of the institutions listed in the UCAS Handbook (University and College Admissions Service) and the ADAR Handbook highlight the industries in which you can expect to seek work following successful completion of the course. If you can, try to plan ahead and make your choice of course with your preferred occupation in mind. It is surprising how many students still start or even finish their two, three or four year course with no idea of what they want to do afterwards! Your school or college careers officer and local authority careers service can be of great help here.
Choosing a College
It is important to look at the college environment as well as the academic content of the syllabus. If you are already at work, do consult your employers and colleagues about their views on particular colleges and courses, and check the credentials of any private college before enrolling with them, to make sure that the qualifications they offer are acceptable to employers or professional associations.
It is worth having a look at any alternative prospectus that may be available from the Students' Union at the college. They are fun to read, and may provide an extra insight into life at the college, in the same way as talking to students on the course you are interested in. An opportunity to do this may arise if you make the effort to visit some of the colleges before making up your mind. Many colleges now organize formal Open Days, often for a specific group of courses at a time.
If you cannot afford to travel long distances to see a college, try to visit one near home, just to give yourself some idea of what a Department of Business Studies, or College of Art and Design, is like. You might decide that the atmosphere is just not for you.
Colleges providing courses
The rest of this chapter contains some of the information needed to find out which colleges offer the courses in which you are interested. Due to space limitations, this list can only be a sample selection, and your best complete reference source is the UCAS Handbook.
Many institutions offer courses for degrees in business studies or management studies. Most of them will have some marketing content. The UCAS Handbook will identify them for you, and you will then need to check carefully with the individual college prospectus to see whether the course suits you.
The following courses would also be of interest to people intending to take up a career in marketing, public relations or advertising.