Bucks Employment Support

Bucks Employment Support

Supporting the Bucks community reach employment and learning goals

To learn more about the Building Future project, please click the image above to watch our video.

What is higher education?

Higher education (HE) is the third level of education after you leave school. It is an optional level of learning as once you reach 18 you no longer have to stay in formal education or training. It is up to you to decide if HE is something that you want to explore.

HE can take place at universities and further education colleges. You can also study at a HE level through The Open University, where you can study towards a degree on a part-time basis, through distance learning.

You can study at a range of levels from level 4-8. An HNC will give you a level 4 qualification and an HND, a level 5. A university undergraduate honours degree covers levels 4-6. A postgraduate degree covers level 7 and a PHD covers level 8. Find out more about the different types of higher-level courses.

Why do it?

University students in lectureHE gives you the chance to study a subject that you are interested in and can boost your future career prospects and earning potential.

Some careers require a degree for you to be able to practice them, such as Medicine or Teaching. There are other professions, like Law and Psychology, that require you to have an additional postgraduate qualification on top of your degree.

There are a few reasons that you may choose to go into HE:

  • You may require a degree to do the job that you want to do in the future
  • You may want to study a subject that really interests you or to broaden your knowledge in a certain area
  • You may not have a specific career in mind but you want to increase your career opportunities by having a degree level qualification.

Studying a HE qualification can also help you to develop key transferable skills and qualities that employers value, such as problem-solving and communication skills. Many jobs do not require a specific degree but do require you to have a degree level qualification.

Do your research!

Choosing whether HE is the right option for you is an opportunity to look at which careers interest you, what kind of person you are, what kind of life you want in the future.

Before making any decisions, it may be helpful to research the following areas to help you decide on your potential career direction:

  • Skills and entry requirements needed for the careers that you are interested in
  • Future options with your subjects/qualifications
  • Skills in demand – where the jobs are now and likely to be in the future.

Selecting the right course for you is a key career decision to make, and often a challenging one. There are tens of thousands of courses across the UK, and although two courses may have the same name, they could be taught in different ways and cover different material from one university to another.

Some professions approve or accredit related courses. If you are looking to pursue a career in a particular area, check your course is one of those approved by the relevant body. Every institution should be able to give you this information.

There can be intense competition for the most popular courses, and for graduate jobs in those sectors.

Getting started

I know what course or career I want to do in the future: 
You may already have decided on your future career, which can make choosing a HE level course easier. Make sure you check the qualifications needed for your chosen job as some want a specific degree at entry. A good place to start is to check your chosen career from the A-Z list on eCLIPS.

I don't have a clear idea yet of the course or career I want to do:
You might think you need to have made a decision about your future career before making your HE choices, but that does not have to be the case. Many employers are often looking for people who have a degree but are less concerned about the specific subject. That means potentially that any degree subject can lead on to a huge range of career opportunities.

It is a good idea however to check that your subject choice will not close down routes into job groups you might be interested in. Have a look into this by exploring the titles within each job group on eCLIPS

Ask yourself these questions:
What subjects do I enjoy studying?
Are there any subjects that I am particularly good at?
Would you like to study a familiar subject or a completely new subject?
What are the most employable degrees?

SEND Support

Progressing to university can be daunting for students but this should not be a barrier to participation. Universities can support students in many ways to help them realise the opportunities in academic and professional life.

Universities have staff to help during a student's time at university. This could be in the form of transition support, academic support advisors, or support for students with different needs. Each university will have their own student support services and it is important that you contact them to find out what support is available as part of your university and course research.

Disability and Inclusion services provide advice and assistance to applicants and students who may require adjustments or arrangements to enable them to fully participate in student life. These services are not just there for students who consider themselves to be disabled. They are there for any students who have ongoing physical conditions, mental health issues (such as depression or anxiety), specific learning difficulties, hearing or visual loss etc. We would always recommend students to discuss their individual needs with a university during the application process to find out what tailored support may be available.

Useful websites for SEND information:HE students

UCAS Individual Needs
Diversity and Ability
The Gov website: Disabled Students Allowance
Student Minds - Know Before You Go
Student Minds - Transition into University resource

Student Finance

The UK student finance system is designed to ensure that students can access higher education regardless of their financial background. The system provides a range of support, including tuition fee loans, maintenance loans, and grants to help students with different financial needs. In the UK, student finance is provided by the government through the Student Loans Company (SLC) to help students cover the costs of tuition fees, accommodation, and living expenses. 

Tuition Fees: The tuition fees are set by universities and vary depending on the course and the institution. In England, the maximum tuition fee for undergraduate courses is £9,250 per year. In Scotland, tuition fees for Scottish students are free. In Wales, the maximum tuition fee for undergraduate courses is also £9,250 per year, but there are grants available to help cover the cost.

Maintenance Loan: Students can apply for a Maintenance Loan to cover their living expenses while they study. The amount of the loan depends on the student's household income, where they study, and whether they live at home or away from home. For example, in England, the maximum Maintenance Loan for students living away from home outside of London is £9,488 per year.

Grants: There are several grants available to help students with specific needs, such as disabled students' allowance, parents' learning allowance, and adult dependants' grant.

Repayment: Students don't start repaying their loans until they have graduated and are earning over a certain threshold. The current threshold is £27,295 per year, and the repayment rate is 9% of the income over this threshold. The loan is written off after 30 years.

Application: Students can apply for student finance online through the government portal. The application process is straightforward, and students can track the progress of their application online.

We spoke to Zoë, a second-year Commercial Photography student at the Arts University Bournemouth about managing on a student budget:                                                       

When moving to university, budgeting and money management was obviously something I needed to make sure I understood and worked out properly. In my first year, after a few months of supplementing with savings, I realised pretty quickly that getting a part-time job is what I needed to allow me to keep up with the social life I wanted. So I got a weekend job in a cafe near my accommodation. Because it was so local and I didn’t need to pay for travel costs, this was a great way for me to build up the money I needed for my social life whilst I had my student loan and Maintenance loan to cover the cost of rent. 

In my second year, it's quite similar in that my student loan covers most of my rent (I am lucky enough to have help with food money from my parents), however, I have once again got a part-time job at the weekends working in a hotel restaurant in town. Because I need to factor in travel time and costs this is taken out of my budgeting.

For me, living in Bournemouth is quite an expensive town for students, however by using my student discount and taking advantage of cheaper student nights out (which most clubs/ bars will have at least once a week) I am able to make the costs of living easier to manage. I usually do a big food shop every couple of weeks and grab a few other bits when I need them. I meal plan when I can to make sure I’m only buying the food that I need and not paying extra when I don’t need to be. When I need to save money, sometimes a night in and catching up on some studies is the best thing to do, as nights out can get very expensive, and this is no secret as to why students struggle with money. I have to pick and choose what I do and when is best to go out to ensure that I am not excessively spending money socialising. This is not easy I’ll be honest, but it saves you in the long run for sure! 

Overall, moving to University was a daunting but amazing time for me and managing the cost of living on top of studies and a social life can be tricky, but I find as long as I stay sensible with money and prioritise things to save as well as budgeting and planning, it is really not as difficult as I thought it would be.

Find out more about universities, colleges and courses

Before making a final decision on your application, research universities, colleges and courses using sources that are independent and unbiased.

UCAS is an independent charity providing information, advice, and admissions services. They are there to help people figure out what the next step in their education might be, and to support them when they take that step. You will hear a lot about UCAS from your 6th form/college and they will be able to support you thought the application process.

Discover Uni is an excellent source of information and guidance on HE. It also allows you to search for and compare information and data for undergraduate courses.

It includes information and guidance about HE, including: Graduates

  • What higher education is and different ways to study
  • Deciding whether to go into HE
  • Student finance
  • Support with how to choose a course.

It also has information about courses, such as:

  • Student views from the National Student Survey (NSS)
  • Employment outcomes and earnings from the Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, the Graduate Outcomes survey and the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) dataset
  • Information on professional accreditations, the number of students who continue on the course and entry qualifications held by previous entrants
  • Links to detailed information on providers’ course pages about course content and delivery, and fees and funding.

Find out more about the UCAS application process and how to write a good personal statement in our webinar from Sarah-Beth Lockwood at The University of Hertfordshire:

Other useful websites

The Uni Guide A level Explorer
The Uni Guide what to study, where to go and how to get there
The Complete University Guide your future, your choice
Prospects what can I do with my degree?

If you are in the UK on a visa or part of a family with limited leave to remain:


Legal Help

If you are a UK national, you need to have been resident in the UK for three years before applying for a student loan. For more information, click here

Are you a care leaver and thinking about HE? Propel can help you make the leap from care to independent life at university or college. 

Funding boost to support young people into planning careers

Over fifty students will receive a £5,000 planning bursary, covering up to 50% of university fees, to support a career in planning. The new scheme, launched on 12 May 2023, increases the size of the bursary from £2,000 to £5,000, covering up to 50% of the cost of the student’s university fees. It is aimed at disadvantaged students including those who struggled financially, with care responsibilities, or those with disabilities, helping to boost diversity in the planning sector.

Upcoming Events

University Application

Portsmouth University are holding a series of live sessions from March to July 2023 to help you apply to university. This would be useful regardless of whether you are considering Portsmouth as an option.

Click here for more information and to sign up.

Virtual Work Experience

PWC are holding a Virtual Insight Programme for students in Years 11 and 12 to give you some experience in Business, Accounting and Technology. Click here for more information and how to apply by 10th March 2023.

Need some help with the words and expressions used within HE? See our higher education jargon buster.

Got a question? Click here to start webchat with a Careers Adviser