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Moving into higher education



Independent learning

Students in higher education are expected to develop in to independent learners. This may mean that you have to make changes to the way that you study. Being an independent learner involves:

  • Studying outside of class For every hour that you have a timetabled class expect to spend three hours in private study.
  • Managing your own time You’ll have to find a balance between study, family, paid work and any other commitments. Attendance at classes and adequate private study is needed if you want to pass the course so make sure you’re not taking on too much.
  • Reading widely Read books and articles that are not on the reading list and use the information you find to expand your knowledge and help you with assessments.
  • Writing your own notes Not all of the information you need for your course will necessarily be found on hand-outs or in the course text books. You should expect to write notes in lessons, and take notes from any books you read.
  • Finding out, not expecting to be told At UHI students are treated like the adults that they are, so staff won’t necessarily remind you of any deadlines or nag you if you haven’t handed things in on time. All the information you need will be in your course handbook.
  • Learning, not being taught.


How is my course organised?


HNC and HND courses

Over 65% of our students are currently studying for higher national awards (HNC and HND). The UHI policy is to seek to join up our awards wherever possible with direct entry from an HNC into the second year and from an HND into the third year of related degree. In some cases HNC and HND courses provide years one and two of degree courses.

How it works

  • HN programmes are made up of elements called units. Each unit is usually worth between one and three credits.
  • Students require 12 credits to achieve an HNC. HNC courses are usually made up of around 10 units.
  • Students require 30 credits to achieve an HND. HND courses are usually made up of around 22 units.
  • Some units are core, and must be taken; others are optional.

Length of study

  • HNC – one year full time
  • HND – two years full time


CertHE, DipHE, BA, BSc, BEng and Honours degrees

UHI undergraduate degrees cover a wide range of subjects. Students who do not wish to commit themselves to three or four years of study at the outset may enrol for a certificate or diploma in higher education (CertHE or DipHE) as an alternative.

How it works

  • An academic year consists of two semesters.
  • Full-time students usually study four modules per semester; eight modules per year.
  • Some modules are core, and must be taken; others are optional.
  • Some courses offer module streams that can help you build a specialism in your subject area.
  • Others offer a free elective - a module from outwith your subject area.
  • Most include a module devoted to developing an independent project.

Length of study

  • CertHE – one year full time
  • DipHE – two years full time
  • BA/BSc – three years full time
  • Honours – four years full time


How much study is expected?

Full-time courses
Whether HN or degree level, should take around 1200 hours per year to complete. This includes any teaching and assessment time (contact hours) as well as time spent in private study and preparing for assessments. Although contact hours can be low, signing up for a full-time course really does mean full-time study; you should expect to spend between 35 and 40 hours per week on your full-time course.

Structured part-time courses
Usually involve half the number of modules or units as full time courses, so should take around 600 hours per year to complete. If you are studying a structured part time course expect to spend around 18 hours per week on your course.

Unstructured part-time courses
Do not have a fixed number of modules or units per year as they allow students the flexibility to study at their own rate. If you are studying on an unstructured part time course you should expect to spend 6-10 hours per week on each HN unit or degree module that you are studying.

Most of the time you spend on your course will be spent in private study. This will involve activities such as:

  • Writing up notes from lectures, practicals and seminars
  • Reading in preparation for lectures, practicals and seminars
  • Preparing for assessments (exam revision and essay and report writing)

Because of this split between contact hours and study hours, many UHI students have enough time to work while they study. These students might have jobs during normal working hours and study on days off and during the evenings and weekends. Splitting your time between work and study in this way requires a lot of organisation and discipline. You have to be prepared so you know when work on your course will be at its most intense, such as in the run up to an assessment. You also have to motivate yourself to study when you may be tired after a day at work. Combining study and paid work makes for a busy life, but the rewards are all worth it!