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Five reasons to start university in early 2021

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Published: 17 November 2020

Were you considering starting university in September but missed out on the opportunity? Maybe you needed some more time to consider your options but now you feel ready to start your student journey? An alternative intake may just be what you’re looking for.

The academic year traditionally starts in August or September – here in the UK it has been that way for most of us since we started school aged four or five – so naturally, joining an alternative intake to start a degree will feel strange! At the University of Sunderland, we know the traditional route doesn’t work for everyone and so, along with our flexible teaching and learning opportunities, we are offering a range of courses that start in early 2021.

We understand that you may have concerns about your student experience compared to your peers who may have started in September – will there be a Freshers’ week? Will you get the same experience? Is there any disadvantage to starting a degree later in the academic year? To try and put your mind at ease we’ve compiled a list of reasons to start university in early 2021.

A nursing student practicing their cannulation skills

1. Different intake, same experience

One of the biggest concerns you may have when considering starting a course in early 2021 is whether you will get the same experience as those students who have started in September 2020, or are planning to start in September 2021. To reassure you, we caught up with some staff who teach on courses that start in early 2021, and a student who began their student journey in April 2020:

Professor Stephanie Atkinson, who teaches on our postgraduate Education courses, says, “For most masters courses, the modules are all at the same level and most can be studied in any order. Those that cannot are offered in each semester and so can be accessed when the student needs them. The overall course content for the October and March start is exactly the same and in one of your important core modules you will be in a smaller cohort and will therefore have more individual attention from your tutors. There is also a wide range of optional modules available because you are able to study alongside the October cohort, something which would not be able to be offered if only one intake were taking the options on their own, so the best of both worlds.” The flexibility of our masters courses that Professor Stephanie highlights is also good news for those students who have professional roles in education – many MA Education applicants opt for the March start simply because they tend to have more headspace for studying after the rush of the busy Autumn/Winter term.

Current student, Adam Bell, is studying BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing Practice and started his course in April 2020. He says, “I already have a degree and an MA, and the April start didn’t feel too dissimilar to the September start. It actually felt quite nice starting something in spring, as opposed to the traditional September start time.”

Senior Lecturer and Clinical Link Tutor, Claire Calladine, teaches on the BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing Practice course, and reassures us that there is no difference between the September intake and the April intake of the course. She says, “The course content is exactly the same and you’re offered the same clinical placements – the only real difference is the size of the cohort, as the April intake is usually smaller.”

And while we’re on the subject...

2. Smaller cohorts

While some students thrive from being in large groups and being surrounded by lots of like-minded people, others much prefer working in smaller groups.

There are lots of benefits of being part of a smaller cohort: more one-to-one contact time with your lecturers; more opportunities to bond with your classmates; classes have more of a community-feel, with better opportunities for participation, to name but a few. Alternative intakes tend to have smaller cohorts compared to traditional intakes, so if you’re someone who likes the sound of this more intimate style of teaching and learning, starting a course in January-April might be a good option for you.

3. Places on courses are less competitive 

For many universities there is a limit to how many people can be accepted onto certain courses. For example, we can only accept a maximum of 80 students onto our BSc (Hons) Paramedic Science and Out of Hospital Care course, per intake. However, our September intake is extremely popular and thus a lot more competitive, particularly as many of our applicants are fantastic – making admissions tutor Jacquie Lambie’s job very difficult! Jacquie says, “Entry onto the course is very competitive, especially for the September intake. Last year I shortlisted around 450 applications, so we closed our September intake while April remained open. Some people may only be able to accept a September place but if you are more flexible – perhaps you want to take six months out to earn some money before starting university, or to gain more care experience – then an April intake would be perfect for you.”

If becoming a paramedic is your dream, you may well have more chance of making it come true by applying for the less competitive April intake.

4. Perfect for international students 

For many countries in the Northern hemisphere, the traditional academic year runs from September, with July and August our summer months and our break between academic years. For countries in the Southern hemisphere however, the usual academic year can run from January, February, March and sometimes even further into the calendar year. For international students whose traditional academic year begins in these months, starting a degree course in the UK in the early months of the calendar year is perfect. Professor Stephanie Atkinson confirms this, saying, “For a number of our international applicants, March is near to the beginning of their academic year (January) so they are more likely to choose that intake over the October intake."

5. No need to wait until September!

If you’ve recently made the decision to start university and don’t want to wait until the traditional academic year begins in September, you might not have to! Here at Sunderland we have a range of courses that start in January-April – if the course you’re interested is available as an alternative intake then why not start in the new year? 

Our courses

We have a diverse range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses that start in January, February, March and April each year. Browse our courses to find out more.

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