So how should you go about researching a university – and course – and what questions should you ask?

By | February 12, 2014

Guest blog by Margaret Alipoor, Director of Studies – Undergraduate Programmes at Bradford University School of Management

Margaret-AlipoorI was recently asked by the Telegraph for my views on how students should research their course or university.  Look out for their supplement covering this and the wider topic of how to choose a university.

So how should you go about researching a university – and course – and what questions should you ask?

1.      Drill into the website to find personality of a course

Last year I helped my daughter go through this process and it struck me how similar universities and courses can look online, if you don’t drill behind the first few pages.  Most university websites are packed with insights and detail – but you often have to look for it.

I do think that stories of students and what is happening at the university are important.  They aren’t just ‘marketing’, they can give you a sense of the personality and strengths of your course.


Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

At Bradford University School of Management we have recruited a team of student ambassadors who are happy to answer questions and explain what it is like from a student perspective.  It is really worth doing this when you have an idea of what you would like to know more about.

2.      Trust your instincts

I am a great believer in a student’s gut instinct.  Wherever you choose, you want to feel comfortable.  Yes, university is all about being challenged and outside your comfort zone – to some extent – but it is really important that the course is what you enjoy and need for your career.

Do get into the detail of the course

–        Who are the academics who will be teaching you?

–        Can you research them – have they got blogs or are they on Twitter?  What is their passion – is it what you want?  (Have a look at our Dr David Spicer’s blogs to see what you can find out about your academics)

–        Look at the modules and what will be taught each year.  Is the balance right for you?  Does it cover the content that you wanted?  Does it excite you?

This detail can be difficult to find on some websites so it is worth emailing the university or course director and asking if they have them and to point you in the direction.

Have a look at a few of our own student blogs which will help you understand the personality of a course and university and how much the students have enjoyed their studies.



–        Jacoub Sleibi was featured in the Financial Times – this is his blog on how his research is being used by the Palestinian Monetary Authority

–        Areej Nasser, a brand manager with Johnson & Johnson in Dubai, talks about her MBA in this blog and how she wanted to be taught by world class professors – and how her MBA boosted her career

–        Mahmoona Begum wrote her blog on being a mature student – she started her BSc in Accounting and Finance at the age of 25

3.      Understand the School or department in relation to the university

League tables don’t necessarily give you an accurate picture.  It is easy to look at the headlines of league tables for a university, but you also want to look at the departments or Schools – often there are pockets of world class excellence in a department, not reflected in the university as a whole.

As an example, Bradford University School of Management is ranked by the FT in the world’s top business schools – but you would not get a sense of that from the Ucas undergraduate information.

What this means for students is access to top academics, international business speakers visiting the school and a really fantastic alumni network.

4.      Check out the learning support

If you are worried about certain aspects of learning – perhaps that is maths, or English is not your first language – you can check out how much support you will get from the university.  We are recognised here for our effective learning team and they can help with everything from study skills to writing an essay.  For some students this may be important.

My colleague, Dr Deborah Allcock, gives lots of tips in this blog on making the most of university – from planning your studies to managing your finances.

Image courtesy of anankkml /

Image courtesy of anankkml /

5.      Open days are the most important part of your research

I am passionate about the importance of Open Days, if you can possibly make them.  I think this should be the most critical part of your research.

But don’t just bowl up on the day and drift around.  Make sure you have done your online research, chatted to your careers advisers and come armed with questions and a sense of what you want to find.

Again, trust your instinct on your visit – how do you feel when you walk in?  Is it for you?  Do you feel comfortable there, can you see yourself studying and enjoying it?  Attend the mini-lectures, chat to academics, try and have a coffee with some of the students.  Get behind the gloss of the Open Day.

6.      The value of placements and internships

You want to look at how good the course is at finding you placements – not just in the UK but also overseas.  Does your course have a year in industry?

You might think that extending your degree to four years, rather than the typical three, will be tedious.  But we see it time and again, that taking a year out to work not only increases the success rate of getting a job after your degree (you are  three times more likely to get a job)) – and the type of job – but most students also get a significantly better degree than expected before.  This is because they can see the relevance of what they are learning and come back more motivated and with better understanding.

Lorraine Lucas, who heads up our careers and placements office, shared her 10 top tips on winning a placement/internship here – and covers the statistics of how a placement can help your career.

So those are my tips on how to research a university or course.  If you have recently been through this process, have you got any tips to share with others – and anything that worked particularly well or left you disappointed?  And if you are researching now, good luck – and do look out for the Telegraph supplement on this subject which should be out in March.