Year 8: Catch-up

Let’s take a moment to remind ourselves about higher education. In Year 7, we would normally take you on a campus tour of the University of Manchester and start to ask you lots of questions about what you already know about higher education. We weren’t able to invite any Year 7s onto campus for a Gateways visit in 2021, so let’s run through what we would’ve talked to you about and shown you if you’d been able to visit the campus.  Firstly, we would’ve asked you the following questions and talked through the answers with you and your teachers.


What is higher education?

Higher education (or HE for short) is the continuation of learning after you’ve gained your further education qualifications at college or sixth form. Sound a little bit confusing? Don’t worry, it can be a lot to get your head around. You can study for a HE qualification at a University, at some further education (FE) colleges, and online (e.g. The Open University).

Find out more about higher education by clicking here

What is a degree?

A degree is qualification you study in a higher education setting. You normally study just one subject, sometimes two, and you do this for 3 to 5 years (maybe even longer if you study part-time). If you pass all your classes, at the end of your course, you graduate. There are lots more subjects you can study at degree level than you can in school.

You can do a degree in subjects you know already like English, Maths, Biology…. but also in subjects like Medicine or Law, which you need to study if you want to be a doctor or lawyer… or subjects like Archaeology, Politics, Art History, and Engineering, which you study to gain knowledge and skills that you can take into lots of different careers. At the University of Manchester we offer 400 different degree courses.

What are the differences between being in school and being in higher education?

Here are some of the answers Year 7s normally give us:

  • you don’t have to into University or college every day – you only go in when you have a class
  • you don’t have to wear a uniform in higher education
  • you only study one or two subjects (in school you’ll study 10 or 11 subjects)
  • you can live away from home when you study in higher education


Why do people go into higher education?

Most pupils tell us that they think students go into HE to study a subject they really like, to prepare for getting a certain job, and to enjoy students life.

Studying something you really enjoy in more detail:

A degree lasts for at least three years so it’s something you do because you really love or care about the subject you’re going to study. Degrees go into subject areas in much more detail than you would ever do in your GCSEs or A levels or BTECs, and for many students this is really interesting and fun to do. Imagine how great you feel when you graduate, knowing that you now know a lot more about a subject than most people in the UK!

Training and learning for a specific career:

If you pick a career that needs a specialist degree – for example, a doctor, nurse, vet, dentist, solicitor or teacher – you’ll have to complete a degree before you can start that career, and then you’ll probably have to do some additional training alongside working.

Enjoying student life:

Lots of people love the fact that studying a degree gives you opportunities to meet new people and have new experiences; especially when you go to places like the University of Manchester, where there are students from over 200 different countries. Even if you choose to study locally, you’ll find that studying a degree will often give you a chance to see your local area in a new light and meet people who went to different schools or colleges. In higher education, there are lots of new ways to meet people – in university accommodation, on your course, in student societies. We talk a lot more about various aspects of university what student life is like here.


So what does a Higher Education campus look like?

We couldn’t take you on a campus tour this year, but below is a video about the University of Manchester’s campus.

Not all higher education campuses look like the University of Manchester. We’re a huge university with nearly 40,000 students, but most universities and FE colleges are much smaller. They may be based in a city or the countryside and might only offer a handful of degree courses. If you decide to go into HE, the size or its location may help you decided if its the right place for you to study.

Now we’ve got you a bit caught up, you’re ready to take a look at our Year 8 pages. Click on the box below to go to our Year 8 home page, and find out about the topics you’ll cover on Gateways this year.

Year 8 home page

Find out more about student life, the range of subjects you can study at degree level and the benefits of higher education.

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Why Study?

Why not check out our Why Study? page to find out what our students really think about their courses and about student life.

Visit the University of Manchester's Why Study? page!