Guidance for comparing courses
Discover Uni lets you compare official data from the UK higher education courses you are interested in, so that you can make an informed decision about choosing the best option for you.
Once you have searched for and saved your courses on Discover Uni, you will be able to compare them using the course comparison tool. The tool allows you to compare the information of up to seven courses at a time.
This guide will help you compare courses using the data we provide as part of your research and decision making. It covers some important things you need to consider:
- The course data presents a snapshot at a point in time, your experience may be different.
- Students surveyed will have had much of their time at university affected by lockdowns and other restrictions on student life due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- It is important to take time to understand the course, or subject area data and how it fits alongside the other information available about the courses and universities or colleges you are interested in. Such as the modules and options offered by different courses and which appeal to you.
Read on for our guidance on how to ensure you get the best out of our comparison tool. You can also take a look at our video to see how our new course comparison tool works.
To get started, here are our top tips:
- Some data is specifically for that course, while other data is for that and other similar courses in the same subject area and institution, which will still give a good indication of students' views.
- Surveys reflect a point in time. It is possible that some students would respond differently on a different day. It can provide a useful part of the picture, but not the whole. You should treat the information presented as a useful guide, but your experience and/ or requirements may differ from previous students.
- Try to bear in mind when comparing courses whether the data you are looking at is from one or two years. Data over two years means it is from a greater number of students, but it is also from students from different year groups.
- Every cohort of students recruited to a course is different, and this can influence the survey data. There can be lots of reasons for an individual having a particular view and it may not be based on criteria that matter to everyone.
- Take time to understand the course data and how it fits alongside the other information available about the courses and universities or colleges you are interested in.
- Treat the information presented as a useful guide, but remember - your experience and requirements may differ from previous students.
When comparing two or more courses, there are some key questions you can ask yourself about the data:
Is the data I am looking at for a course or a subject?
There are two main levels of data on Discover Uni: course level data and subject level data.
- Wherever possible we always try to show data for the specific courses you are comparing. Our policy is to publish data based on at least 10 students and, in the case of survey data, from at least half of the students on a course. When this is not possible for a specific course, for example, if there aren’t enough students on a Spanish course, we’ll show you the results for all the students who are studying languages at that institution instead. We always carefully label the data to make sure you can tell when we are showing subject area data rather than course data.
- TIP: Some data is specifically for that course, while some data is for that and other similar courses in the same subject area which will still give a good indication of students’ views. Data over two years means it is from a greater number of students, but it is also from students in different year groups.
What year, or years, does the data relate to?
- The data you will see is from one or from two cohorts of students, which means some data may be for a single year group of students or be data from two year groups of students. This will always be clear from the way the data is labelled. We show data for two years when there are not enough students in one year of data for us to publish it.
The National Student Survey results we are displaying is only from one year. This data is from the most recent student survey. We are only using the data from the one year of this survey because it avoids you seeing data for one year for some courses and comparing it with data for two years for other courses. This may unfairly disadvantage courses affected by the pandemic.
Our Earnings, Employment and Graduate Perceptions data is taken from the most recent graduate survey. We aim to publish data from only one year, but we may combine data from the previous survey when there are not enough students in one year of data for us to publish it. This will always be clearly labelled where the data is displayed.
The ‘Entry information’ and ‘After 1 year’ data we show is either taken from one academic year or combined over two years. This will always be clearly labelled where the data is displayed. We show data for two years when there are not enough students in one year of data for us to publish it.
- TIP: Try to bear in mind when comparing courses whether all the data you are comparing is from one year or for two years. Data over two years means it is from a greater number of students, but it is also from students in different year groups.
How many students or graduates is this data based on?
- Courses have different numbers of students studying on them. Each piece of data on the Discover Uni site is labelled with the number of people it is based on. Some courses are larger, and some are smaller. Our policy is to only ever publish data based on at least 10 students. This is so that individuals’ responses cannot be recognised.
- Look carefully at how many students a figure has been based on. When thinking about what the data can tell you about a course, more people mean it is likely to give a clearer picture of the experience of the students. Also consider the percentage of students who responded to the survey. Again, the higher the percentage of students on a course taking part in the survey, the more likely it is to give a clearer picture of students’ experience.
- When data is based on only a small number of survey responses, as with any information from a small number of people, it’s a useful guide, but should be treated cautiously.
- TIP: Every cohort of students recruited to a course is different and this can influence the survey data. There can be lots of reasons for an individual having a particular view and it may not be based on the criteria that matter to everyone.
Does the data represent all the students on the course or subject area?
The National Students Survey (NSS) and Graduate Outcomes (GO) data on the course page and comparison page are based on survey responses. Surveys are one of the best ways to get information from a lot of people but by their nature, they do not capture the views of every person on the course. To publish data from the NSS and GO surveys we must receive at least 10 student responses per course and from at least half of the students on a course. This is to ensure it is representative of the students on the course.
However, like all surveys, there is always a chance that the data we show does not represent the views or outcomes of all the students on the course or subject you are interested in. There are three reasons for this:
- The proportion of students completing the survey: if everyone on the course replied to the survey, we can be very sure that the information is complete and represents the views of all the students undertaking it, however this is not always the case. We do not know what the people who did not respond to the survey think, this creates uncertainty. Every time we present survey data, we also tell you how many people responded. You can use this information to help make up your mind about how complete the data is. The higher the response rate, the more representative the results will be.
- Views can change: we do not know how much of each person’s response is determined by things that can change – like their mood or the weather. We therefore don’t know whether the people replying to the survey would give the same answers if we asked them the survey questions a second time. We can’t ask people to do the same survey twice, so the best way around this kind of uncertainty is to ask a lot of people. This should cancel out differences.
- Impact of the pandemic: you can find information about the potential impact of the pandemic in our ‘about our data’ section.
TIP: as with any information from a small number of people, the survey data on Discover Uni should be treated cautiously when based on only a small number of responses.
Does the data include people like me?
- The data we use to present the figures on Discover Uni is taken from specific cohorts of students in a given year. These students may or may not be similar to you. They may value different aspects of their courses than you would or place less emphasis on outcomes you think are important. This means, for example, their survey responses may be different from the responses you would have given if you had taken the same course. You may also have specific needs or interests that are not represented in the data we hold for a course.
- TIP: Surveys reflect a point in time – it is possible that some respondents would respond differently on a different day, it can provide a useful part of the picture, but not the whole. Take time to understand the course data and how it fits alongside the other information available about the courses and universities or colleges you are interested in. You should treat the information presented as a useful guide, but your experience and/or requirements may differ from previous students.
What factors might impact the data?
- Sometimes external events can have an effect on the data, for example the recent global pandemic or an economic recession. Such events may affect the outcomes and/student experience for some courses or subjects more than others.
- Some survey data is from students who will have had much of their time at university affected by lockdowns and other restrictions on student life due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which may have had an effect on their responses. Most institutions, courses and students were affected by the pandemic and some institutions and subjects will have been impacted more severely than others. For example, students’ experience in subjects involving use of labs or studios, placements and fieldwork may have been affected more strongly.