Posted by: Gillian | August 17, 2010

Finding a university place when all seems lost

For many reasons, getting in to a university for a Bachelors or a Masters at the traditional ages can go wrong.  If you have dutifully gone through a system, this can seem like the end of the world but it need not be the end of a dream.  There are other ways of getting in to an equally creditable course.  It depends on what you want in the medium term and on how adventurous you are – or can persuade yourself to be once you have read the results.  This post is primarily for the current cohort of UK A-level and graduate students but many of the principles apply world wide.

Stay at home at 18

Just because you are not ‘going away’ to university, it does not mean you cannot go to university.  Yes, your social life will be different from the one you envisaged but you can still sign up for a degree and give your cv a definite boost with ‘BA in progress’ or ‘taking courses at X’.  For those who need the discipline and/or the reassurance of the UK, there is the UK Open University which has strict schedules or, for earth sciences and environmental studies, there is Birkbeck College, University of London.  If you can be sociable online and do not need to meet people face to face, you can be far more adventurous and sign up for highly reputable courses anywhere in the world – and many of them only require a matriculation fee and then course-by-course (=module-by-module) payment.

In the US  the curriculum is far broader than it would be in the UK.  If you have a really good set of GCSE, AS and A level results, you may find this quite useful because a good credit evaluation service such as ECE should be able to advise you how to turn those grades into university credit e.g. by using elective credit or exempting you from one or two years of foundation courses in specific subjects.  There are several online universities that are highly reputable as well as flexible (and plenty that are neither).  In the US, look for regional accreditation rather than national.  If in doubt, contact me but Excelsior College is regionally accredited (Middle States) and is well known for liberal arts, health sciences, business (IACBE accredited) and IT (ABET).  I confess I teach at Excelsior but they do not even know I’m writing this and I’m perfectly willing to agree other courses are good.  For would-be media students, have a look at Full Sail in Florida which has some excellent programmes.

Or try Australia or Canada.  In Australia,  RMIT and Curtin both offer fully online courses.  Alternatively, if you were hoping for a gap year with relatives, you could combine the two and do an ‘online dependent’ course so you get to meet some other students.  In Canada, try CVU – but make sure you stay with the main English-language route unless you really need the ‘second language’ international link.  In both cases, see later in the post for credit transfer!

B*****, where else?

If getting rejected makes you really riled and/or you have lots of university-level creativity, you can head to Europe on favourable EU terms for courses in English.  Try Tartu in Estonia.  Excellent communications systems, easy flights, lovely people and enviable education. Or be more conventional and head to the excellent English-language courses in Holland.  In France, try Grenoble.  In all cases, ask the admissions offices about finance as there are under-used EU grants and various other arrangements.  If you want courses in Europe but are not bothered about the language barrier, just contact me.

Masters students

The UK media have not really played on it but potential Masters students are also having a tough time of it.  You really need to think what you want from the degree because ‘Masters’ means so many different things.  If you want an academic degree that moves easily into a PhD, then look at European online degrees.   Tartu (as above), Holland, the highly respected UOC (Barcelona)…  There are many options.  Do check the UNESCO list of universities to be sure the degrees are recognised.  If in doubt, contact me.

If you want a Masters that may work well in the US, you need advice.  Fulbright scholarships are available but are not easy to obtain and their academic cycle is not the same as that of most universities so you may well end up with a spare 15 months.  You could try online degrees but, frankly, if you want current translation into the academic PhD route, there are very few of them where people do not wince if you are then trying to return to UK – or move on in US academe.

If you want a Masters that plays well internationally, you have a large choice but just need to look at your budget creatively and think about that in relation to your willingness to travel.  If you are a technologist,why not try Dunarea de Jos in Galati, Romania?  Yes, it’s a long journey but the education is superb.  Or try India.  University of  Delhi Masters courses are excellent.


Think BIG and think international.  University rejection may seem like the end of the world and you may want to disappear from the race entirely for the moment.  That’s not a problem as there are many ways back (ask me when ready) but if you ignore the conventional routes and are prepared to do a few sums, life online/overseas may be just what you need….


Kaplan has just announced (17 August) it is offering for-profit courses in London as external University of London degrees.  Note that you still have to attend – in London.  Also, there is no Government funding but that ‘might’ be a good thing if rumoured tax changes go ahead for State education.  There is a funding scheme.  The choice of subjects is narrow and if you are heading for a business Bachelors at 18 (rather than older, with experience, needing a degree), you might want to think hard about whether or not a vanilla business degree is really for you when businesses may prefer to teach you business themselves.


  1. Good post, Gillian!
    Your suggestions are timely and contemporary. I myself am familiar with the person who is working in the University of Tartu. She has graduated master studies online in one of the Australian Universities. Now she is a very valued professional on online studies.

    • Hi, Aleksander. I’m still happily amazed at the true international nature of learning – as opposed to paper collection. I know Tartu is very much on the positive side…. Keep i touch.

  2. […] the original post here:  Finding a university place when all seems lost « Gillian's … By admin | category: Autonomous University of BARCELONA | tags: bachelors, degrees, […]

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