How should one prepare for a degree course? What's the best way into public relations?

Q. My girlfriend, who is 28, is only now realising that she needs to study to develop herself further. She is not that well educated and wants to try to get a degree. What is there in the way of evening school for adults that will help someone to prepare for a university education?

A. There's a range of options to consider. A good start would be to get a feel for some of the degree courses available by logging on to the University College Admissions Service website ( This site also lists Access to Higher Education courses - these are a common route into university for mature students, as they are geared to those who haven't studied for a while. There are generally no entry requirements, although the tutor may recommend numeracy or literacy courses for some, and study can be part-time. Check with the university at which you intend to study that the access course you choose is acceptable.

Other possibilities include the Open University (, where the courses are modular and are delivered through distance learning (again, there are no entry requirements). An OU course could be used as a test to see whether your girlfriend is capable of working at degree level without a prior stepping-stone course, and she could continue if she enjoyed it.

She could also investigate whether any universities are offering a foundation year before the degree proper begins (though these are often full-time). Foundation degrees (also listed on the UCAS website), which link study with training in the workplace, would take three to four years part-time.

If your girlfriend has no formal qualifications, or has not achieved five GCSE A*-C levels, she will be entitled to a face-to-face advice session with an adviser (see If she would prefer some advice over the telephone instead, she could talk to a Lifelong Learning Adviser on 0800 100 333.

Up for promotion

Q. I'm just going into the sixth form, and am trying to find out what degree I would need to study for a career in PR or promotional work. Do I need a degree in public relations?

A. This largely depends on your other interests and how fixed you are on this career. There are several ways in, so take your choice.

PR people work in a vast range of areas, and inevitably come from varying backgrounds. Specialists (for example, those who have a science degree) have an obvious route in, though they will probably need to take an additional qualification (usually a year-long diploma course taken while working). If you are not a specialist but have an overriding interest in another subject, go ahead and take it at degree level. It's good to study a subject you are enthusiastic about, and you can take a professional qualification - or even a postgraduate degree - later. If you take that route, however, it's vital to fit in relevant work experience. It also takes time to qualify, as you are likely to work for a while after taking your degree and before taking your diploma.

However, if you are fixed on your career and have no particular interest in another subject, taking PR as a subject at degree level has advantages, not least that the right course will include a valuable work placement. You can then assure employers that you have both the academic and practical knowledge to enable you to hit the ground running. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations ( lists the accredited courses you should go for (they all include work placements) and has lots of information on all aspects of PR work and training.

Careers adviser: the learndirect advice service at

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to