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Shorter undergraduate courses

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Use the Search menu at the top of this page to see what courses are on offer for your subject.

What is a shorter undergraduate course?

Most undergraduate courses in the UK last for three or four years. There are, however, many shorter undergraduate courses that take just one or two years to complete.

UK universities and colleges might use these terms to describe the different levels of higher education:

Level 4 or Certificate (C) – one year of undergraduate study
Level 5 or Intermediate (I) – two years of study
Level 6 or Honours (H) – three or four years of study.

You will only be a Level 6 or Honours Level graduate if you do a full three- or four-year course – this is typically a bachelor’s degree (BA or BSc) programme. Find out more in Higher education – Courses and qualifications.

There are also two-year courses including Foundation degrees and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs), which are valued by employers in many industries. At the end of these you are considered a Level 5 or Level I graduate.

Other qualifications are the two-year Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE), and one-year Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE, after which you are considered a Level 4 or Level C graduate).

You can study for these qualifications at many further education institutions, such as colleges and private training centres, as well as at universities. Find out more in Further education – Courses and qualifications and Further education – Colleges and other institutions.

Why choose a shorter undergraduate course in the UK?

Shorter courses are ideal for people who want to get a qualification more quickly. They might also offer more flexibility because you can study part-time. (If you need a visa to study in the UK, check that you have a student visa status that allows you to study part-time. You may only be eligible for a full-time course, depending on your visa status).

Shorter courses are often career-focused, and might include practical experience as well as academic study. For example, many Foundation degrees and HNDs in business and management include work placements and are approved by professional bodies. This means you already have a practical skill set when you finish the course. (Again, check that your visa status allows you to do a work placement in a professional environment alongside your studies.)

For this reason, shorter courses can be good for employment prospects. According to research, six months after completing a Foundation degree course in the UK, 97.2% of graduates were in full-time employment (survey by HESA, 2011).

Other short courses and summer schools

If you’re not looking for an undergraduate qualification yet, there are many other options. A lot of institutions offer part-time or short courses that might take a few days, weeks or months to complete – ideal to build your skills or explore a subject that interests you.

For international students, one of the most popular options is to study at a UK summer school. These are offered by many UK universities and colleges, and typically take place over a few weeks during the summer holidays. You can choose which subjects you’re interested in, or take a ‘taster’ course designed to prepare you for further study in a particular subject – this could be a chance to see if you like a subject or an institution, to help you decide whether to apply to a full-time course.

It’s also a great way to experience UK student life! Alongside your studies, many summer schools arrange social events, day trips or weekend visits to other parts of the UK.

What short courses are offered in the UK?

Depending on the college or university you choose, there are undergraduate courses in a wide range of subjects. Business, administration and management; marketing and media; technology (IT, computer science, creative technology and electronics); art and design; music; health and social care; tourism; engineering… you can find courses in all these subjects and more. Read more in Subject profiles.

At summer school, many courses are designed to focus on a particular part of a wider subject – if you’re interested in history, for example, you might take a short course about Medieval Europe – or to develop a skill, such as writing or photography. Some courses include the study of UK culture or English language classes.

You will also find a huge range of short courses at English language centres – find out more in Learn English.

Are there scholarships for short courses?

Yes! For undergraduate scholarships, use the Search tool at the top of this page – click Scholarships then select the subject you will be studying.

For summer schools, ask around to find out about financial support for students in your country. Select your country at the top of this page or contact the British Council to find out more.

Ask your chosen school, college or university if they offer any scholarship programmes too. Click here to search for an institution by name.

Read more about scholarships in Scholarships and financial support.

What next?

If you’re on a one-year undergraduate course and want to continue studying, you can usually join a full honours degree in its second or third year, skipping the first. Some universities and colleges also offer the option of a ‘top-up’ degree, specifically designed for people who have done a Foundation degree or shorter undergraduate course and want to continue to Honours level.

Summer school courses don’t usually lead to a qualification, but they might count toward your undergraduate or postgraduate studies – if you’ll be continuing to study in the UK, ask your institution if the short course offers university credits.

Find out more

Visit UKCISA for more advice about studying in the UK, and UK Visas and Immigration for information about visas.

See Accommodation for advice about accommodation while you're studying in the UK. For more information, ask your chosen institution – many offer accommodation on campus, and others will help you find a homestay or shared accommodation with other students.

Read more about undergraduate and postgraduate study in Higher education, and see Why choose a UK education? to find out what UK schools, colleges and universities have to offer.