Year 12 Higher Education / University Research (strategies in a pandemic world)

09th April 2020

Hand holding a globeThese are changing and unusual times. Many of the usual strategies we would use to research and find opportunities are harder to apply or difficult to comprehend and get our heads around. This guide is intended to help and give you a starting point; used alongside our main handout at:

Higher Education courses at a university, college or distance learning

There is a wide range of courses and options available within higher education from courses lasting one year through to those lasting six; as well as full time and part-time options, face-to-face and distance learning.

One of the most common is a degree lasting three to four years taken at a university or college, which many people will probably have heard of. A basic introduction to these can be found here:

Whichever qualification you decide upon, make sure that the path you choose is going to get you where you wish to head. If you require the course to be accredited or recognised for further training, such as post-graduate training, make sure you check this carefully.

For example, some training routes to become a Psychologist require the degree to be BPS recognised and give you GBM.(

If you are unsure whether you will need accreditation, now is a good time to contact your careers adviser via school, college or the National Careers Service.

You may also wish to investigate whether there are alternative ways to enter the career you are pursuing, such as apprenticeships (see our guide at: Many roles, such as solicitors, architects and nurses, can now be reached by either university or an apprenticeship!


Useful tools, alongside, are those such as:

It is worth being aware that some courses are exam based and others more practical; there really is nearly something for everyone (subject to grades), with a wide variety of entry criteria and possibilities.

If you have questions about grading for GCSEs and A-levels with regards how it may work this year, it is worth speaking to your school or college in the first instance. However, these links may also help:


If you wish to work within the areas related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Architecture, Maths and some areas of Modern Foreign Languages, you need to make sure you have the correct course to get there (whether via university or an apprenticeship).

For many other areas, these can be entered from less specific courses and transferring skills (e.g. studying History for a degree can get you into a wide range of occupations from law through to business). It is vital to understand the difference between which degrees are essential, desirable or useful for certain post-graduate jobs or training.

To enter higher education you need to ensure you have the appropriate and, where required, specific level 3 qualifications (such as A-levels, IB, IBCP, BTEC or UCA diplomas to name a few). If you haven’t or have a subject mix which doesn’t work for what you wish to do, don’t panic as there may still be a way forward via a foundation year or similar.

In this instance, it is worth making contact with your careers adviser at school or college who can explore this with you (as there are often different possibilities depending on your situation).


Traditionally the summer is when students in year 12 begin to research open days and ensure that their work experience is in place for the courses that require it. For some courses, such as those covering veterinary, dentistry and medicine, it is essential. For others, such as (but not limited to) engineering, finance and the sciences, it is highly desirable.

However, due to the current circumstances such work experience is far more challenging to arrange, requiring students to think outside of the box whilst also staying safe.

For veterinary, some areas such as farm work are still potentially accessible. For areas of health science, finding a role as perhaps a community or NHS volunteer may be possible (depending on the area you live in and any potential age restrictions).

For those wishing to work whilst things are challenging, this list of opportunities from a national perspective is helpful: as are the guides found at: and

There is an expectation in most schools and colleges that you should continue your studies during term time, which will lead to the grades but also the skills required for your next steps. If you do decide to work at this time it is important to be mindful of the relevant employment legislation:

To do

Regardless of where you are at, starting to do some research into your options is helpful. Many students start this over the Easter holidays and continue into the summer.

  1. Begin to research course options and choices, as well as different ways to search online (including the different sorts of league tables) using our handout at: which contains a wealth of information.
  2. Finding work experience and attending insight events and open public lectures as well as open days in the Easter and summer holidays is an important part of preparing for university and college applications. This may be more challenging this year, so follow some of the steps outlined above (regards work experience) and in addition take to the internet (as follows below).

Note: All being well, there may be some (limited) time to add further face-to-face work experience to your applications, once the isolation period lifts and before UCAS applications will need to be sent. It is worthwhile contacting employers to set this up now for the latter part of the summer holidays (even if arrangements remain pending). Our guide here can help you do this:


  • Lastly, research to find out whether there are any entrance tests you will need to sit or prepare for. Be ready to apply in due time and by the advertised deadlines on

What if…

We don’t have a crystal ball to look at what the future might hold, nor can we be one hundred percent certain that admissions processes will continue as we expect. It is therefore prudent to remain watchful of what UCAS and universities are telling us with regards the admissions cycle.

Before the pandemic broke upon our shores there was already scrutiny with regards possible changes to the admissions process. Whether the current climate will accelerate things or maintain the status quo, there has been no mention. I would encourage all students to however remain vigilant of the published deadlines.

If the pandemic persists as we enter the traditional admissions cycle (including entrance tests) and we remain in a position of lockdown and isolation, be prepared to be interviewed over a video link or similar if social distancing remains in place.

The guides here can help you prepare for this if needed (as can your careers adviser in school, college or via CXK or the National Careers Service):

Look after yourselves

Over the next few months things may seem volatile. If you are trying to make decisions your head and heart may not be in the right place. Be mindful of how you are feeling and if you require support, whether with career or your personal situation reach out for support.

For some of you, launching into the tasks outlined above will help you keep focus and a sense of purpose. Some of you won’t be in a headspace to complete any of the above or only some; this is OK. Looking after your mental health is more important than overwhelming yourself. When you are ready seek out support or start to take steps which are right for you.

Check out the government and NHS websites for useful points of contact. As well as local hubs of support such as: and

Many schools are still running a remote careers service so, if you need support contact your school and arrange a virtual careers guidance session with your independent careers adviser by phone or email with them.

Otherwise contact the National Careers Service for support.

Best wishes and good luck for the future,


Careers Adviser & Area Manager for CXK’s Young People’s Service

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Guide to Higher Education

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