Smart place to move to

8th September 1995 at 01:00
A Guide to the Clearing System: University Places 1995, By Howard Barlow Kogan Page #163;4.99. - 0 74941626 2.

University amp; College Entrance: The Official Guide UCAS #163;12. - 0 94824129 2.

The Times Good University Guide 1995-96, By John O'Leary and Tom Cannon Times Books #163;8.99. - 072300707 1.

Which University 1996, Hobsons #163;12.99. - 1806170412.

A Year Off . . . A Year On, By Suzanne Straw, Hobsons #163;7.99. - 1 86017016 1.

The Gap Year Guidebook 19967, Edited by Rosamund McDougall, Peridot Press #163;7.95. - 095197556 0.

The Good Gap and Sixth Form Guide, By Amanda Atha and Sarah Drummond Macmillan #163;9.99. - 0 333 60927 1.

Careers with an Arts Degree, By Philip Schofield, Hobsons #163;7.99. - 1 85324829 0

University places are still available for the coming academic year, but students will have to act quickly to find the one that suits them best. The temptation to panic and to take the first offer made to them should be resisted; after all, spending three years studying the wrong subject at the wrong university would bring nothing but misery.

A Guide to the Clearing System shows students how to negotiate clearing (including how to sell themselves to admissions tutors over the phone) and gives details of where to find up-to-date vacancy lists in national newspapers and databases. Only part of the book deals with the technicalities of the admissions process; there are brief (one-line) descriptive entries on the new universities and colleges of higher education, lists of institutions offering specific degree courses, and tables showing how many places were offered through clearing last year in each subject area (unsurprisingly, in medicine, only 95 vacancies out of more than 4,000 were filled this way). For some, the A-level grades gained this year will not be good enough for entry to a preferred course; information on careers suitable for non-graduates is included, as well as the addresses of a selection of crammers for those intending to re-take their examinations.

The choice open to students planning to enter higher education is bewildering; more then 200 institutions offer 35,000 degree and HND courses. The UCAS Official Guide lists all the available courses, together with expected entry requirements in terms of A-level and vocational qualifications. A weighty tome, this essential reference work is one to be consulted in the library rather than taken home. Attempting to answer the question of what is the "best" university, The Times Good University Guide offers its own league tables, giving a weighted ranking to colleges and considering such criteria as entry requirements, library spending, employment of graduates etc. It also provides rankings by subject in broad areas (for instance, humanities, social sciences, languages) using a mixture of assessment measures. In addition to these tables it has entries on individual institutions and advice on choosing an appropriate course.

Which University 1996 gives more space to information on each of the colleges within the UCAS system, including those which offer franchised degrees from linked universities. A brief history, with details of special courses, facilities, male-female ratios and information on the amount of accommodation available to first-years is provided for each. There are lists of institutions under such headings as "cheapest college accommodation" "research prowess" and "colleges with most male students". The contents are arranged alphabetically by the name of the town, rather than the college; useful if a student has a particular location in mind.

Not all school leavers intend to go straight on to higher education; for many this is the ideal chance to do something completely different for a year or so. A Year Off...A Year On offers advice and contact addresses for the myriad projects, placements and working holidays that are available. From au-pairing in America to working with the handicapped in the inner city, it covers an enormous range of activities. Most are open to all, but some options - Voluntary Service Overseas, for example - like applicants to have some relevant experience. Personal accounts of people who have taken part make for lively reading.

Similarly, The Gap Year Guidebook 19967 is packed with comments and ideas for those looking for short-term employment or adventure. Enterprising students report back from such activities as spending a year in an American high school, studying French at the Sorbonne, or taking a tennis coaching course preparatory to passing on their skills to schoolchildren. The variety of experiences include the salutary; occasional homesickness, culture shock or real distress appear, but most young people seem to gain from their break.

The Good Gap amp; Sixth Form College Guide also looks at opportunities for those finishing GCSE and for pre-university students; sixth form colleges, crammers, places to study art, cookery, languages etc are covered, together with expeditions and working holidays. Many of the courses listed are in the private sector, and could be expensive.

Finally, after completing university, what are the chances of employment?Careers with an Arts Degree looks at openings for those whose qualifications aren't necessarily vocationally relevant. Part of the book is devoted to ways of making direct use of a specific subject in a chosen field, such as museum work for history graduates or orchestral performance for musicians, while the rest is devoted to more general career fields (management, the financial sector, public service) and an overview of trends in arts graduate employment. The message seems to be one of cautious optimism; arts graduates have slightly higher rates of unemployment than those in other disciplines, but fewer employers specify a requirement for a particular subject when recruiting graduates than did so in the past.

There will be a guide to other resources for choosing universities next week.

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