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Self Development

Right Move…Wrong Direction – changing your degree course

What do you do if you suddenly find you are not happy with the course you are doing or the university you are at? It's a very real possibility, as millions of people go into higher education each year, but around one in five decides the path they have chosen is not for them after all.

If you have just started your degree, try to be absolutely certain that it is the course which you are unhappy with. Going to university is a major upheaval and you may be homesick, stressed or finding it difficult to adapt to new surroundings and people. It's no good jacking in your History degree to take up French only to discover you are having the same problems. If you need confidential advice, contact your student counselling service.

Also try not to have too high expectations. It's true that for a lot of people, university is the best time of their life, but don't expect the most amazing time, all the time. Give yourself a while to settle into college life as much as possible and then assess whether or not you are still having difficulties. You will experience ups and downs wherever you are, so the key is finding the right balance and avoiding a hasty decision.

Having said that, don't be afraid to admit you have made the wrong choice. If you think you could be happier elsewhere or studying something else, then make some enquiries about your options - it is how you are going to be spending the next three to five years of your life after all. Don't be afraid that such a decision will reflect badly on you either, or that other universities will be less inclined to offer you a place, as they are more than used to dealing with transferring students.

Once you've recognised that you are unhappy with your course, the next step is to discover why. Make a list of your reasons, whether it's the structure of the course, the way it's assessed, certain modules or the university itself. This will help you avoid the same sort of problems again. Next you need to decide if you wish to transfer to another course at the same university or to move institutions. You may even feel you want to take a year out and re-apply.

You may find it helpful talking to your tutor or to the academic affairs officer who can help with practical advice and other suitable courses. There are also financial implications to changing your course so speak to a student advisor if possible. If you transfer within twelve months of the start of the course, your Local Education Authority (LEA) will transfer your grant for tuition fees and your loan to cover the whole length of your new course. But if you miss the deadline, although the LEA is still obliged to transfer the grant, they may not cover the whole of your new course (especially if it is set to take longer than your original one).

Your university will also have deadlines for students wishing to change subjects. It is generally easier to transfer within the first few weeks of your degree, but don't worry if you are still unsure of your decision, as you will still be able to apply for a move later in the year; Exeter University asks that students apply by July 15 of the first year.

Of course, even if you do meet the deadline, success is not guaranteed. An application will depend on many things including whether you have the right qualifications, whether the academic staff feel you have clear academic reasons for changing to their course and whether or not there is a vacancy.

You will need to obtain approval from both your existing course and the new one, and written permission from your LEA. After September 2003, permission from both institutions will no longer be necessary. If you have decided to move to another university, you will need to re-apply through UCAS, but this is pretty straightforward, as procedures remain the same as the first time around.

If you are having doubts about your course, contact your student advice centre or check out the university website as each institution will have their own procedures.






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