University open days: When are they, how can I book tickets and what are the best questions to ask?

Everything you need to know as the deadline approaches

Matilda Martin
Friday 14 July 2017 11:18
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Students at university in Oxford
Students at university in Oxford

It’s that time of year again. You’ve finished your GCSEs and now you’re panicking about what universities to apply for as you enter your penultimate year of school. It’s daunting, but one of the best things you can do to prepare is actually visit the universities and go to their open days. Attending open days can help you make an informed decision about where and what to study.

How to prepare?

Ask friends, family and your school about which universities they would suggest for you. That way, you can start deciding in which direction to head. You want to have some idea of what type of university experience you’re looking for so that you can choose the open days you want to experience most.

Considerations may include:

  • Location: whether you want to be in a city or a small campus university  
  • Degree: which universities offer the best degrees for your area of interest 
  • Entry requirements: decide if your predicted grades are likely to meet the university standards 

What should you be looking to get out of an open day?

Open days give you the opportunity to check out university accommodation, visit the student union, take a tour of the library (which will become your second home – sorry), explore the sports facilities, meet prospective students, and talk with current students and staff about courses and university life. Most importantly, it also allows you to get a feel for the university. You will then be better equipped to refine your top picks when the Ucas application process starts.

What to expect:

Advisers and talks will be available throughout the day to answer any queries you might have about topics such as:

  • Which degrees are available
  • Student finance – i.e. scholarships and bursaries
  • Admissions
  • Student life
  • Support for disabled students
  • Careers post-university
  • Study abroad opportunities

What questions should you ask?

Open days also give you the chance to ask any burning questions you might have. Don’t shy away – the professors and students are there to help and are happy to tell you what you want to know.

Top questions to ask:

  • What degrees are available for the subjects you are interested in?
  • How many contact hours a week do you have with professors and tutors? 
  • What size are tutorial groups and how regularly do you have tutorials?
  • What is the mode of assessment for the course (i.e. continual, end of year exam, in class tests, coursework essays)? 
  • What sport facilities are available to the students?
  • Are work placements or study abroad schemes on offer? Where are they, what are the requirements to apply, are they paid, how do they affect tuition fees, do they prolong your degree?
  • What are the pros and cons of taking a joint or combined course in subjects you are interested in? 

How to book tickets

The vast majority of university open days are free, but require you to book a ticket. Check out their websites so you can book your ticket(s) online. Be quick, as some have impending deadlines.

What do you need to do to prepare for an open day?

When it gets to the actual open day, plan your day in advance to get the most from the time available. Make sure you have considered some of the questions above – and any others you might have – so that you know who and what to ask. It is worth printing out the list of questions so that you can have them to hand and are less likely to forget to ask them.

What should you do about travel and accommodation?

It is important to consider looking at your travel and accommodation options well in advance. If you are travelling far to get to the university, it is worth staying one or two nights so that you can acquaint yourself with both the campus (on the open day) and the village/town/city where the university is situated the next day. Having this extra time to explore will undeniably give you more of a feel for where you will be studying.

Below is a list of the UK's top 10 universities that you can search through. Be sure to make a note of clashes and locations so you can plan well in advance which university open days to attend. Additionally, if the universities are in close proximity to one another, you may be able to do two in one day.

Times Higher Education Top 10:

University – Open Day Date(s) (2017)

University of Oxford – 15 September

University of Cambridge – see website for specific college open days

Imperial College London – 16 September

University College London (UCL) – 9 September

London School of Economics and Political Science – No further open days

University of Edinburgh – 23 September, 7 October

Kings College London – 9 September

University of Manchester – 30 September, 14 October

University of Bristol – 9 September

University of Warwick – 23 September, 21 October

The rest:

University of Glasgow – 30 August, 21 October

Durham University – 23 September

University of Sheffield – 9 September, 21 October

University of St Andrews – 27 September, 4/18/25 October, 1 November

Queen Mary University of London – 7 October

University of Southampton – 9/ 10 September, 14 October

University of Exeter – 2 September, 25 October

University of York – 16/17 September

University of Birmingham – 9 September, 14 October

University of Leeds – 9 September, 7 October

Lancaster University – 2 September

University of Nottingham – 15/16 September

University of Sussex – 9 September, 7 October

University of Liverpool – 23 September, 21 October

University of East Anglia – 9 September, 21 October

University of Leicester – 16 September, 21 October

Royal Holloway, University of London – 30 September, 14 October

University of Dundee – 28 August, 23 September

Cardiff University – 16 September, 21 October

University of Aberdeen – 26 August, 21 October

Newcastle University – 16 September

University of Reading – 30 September, 7 October

University of Bath – 16 September

Goldsmiths, University of London – 7 October, 8 November

Loughborough University – 22/23 September

Oxford Brookes University – 7/21 October 4 November

University of Portsmouth – 7 October, 4 November, 2 December

University of Strathclyde – 5 September, 7 October

University of Hertfordshire – 20 September, 15 October, 18 November

University of Hull – 7/21 October, 18 November

Liverpool John Moores University – 7/21 October, 8 November

Middlesex University – 7 October, 25 November

Ulster University –

Jordanstown: 5 September

Coleraine: 23 September

Magee: 30 September

University of Bedfordshire –

Luton campus: 20 September

Bedford campus: 14 October

Milton Keynes: 18 October

Bournemouth University – 13 September

University of Bradford – 7 October

University of Central Lancashire – 8 October, 18 November

Coventry University – 7/28 October, 25 November

De Montfort University – 16 September, 14 October, 11 November

Edinburgh Napier University – 14 October

Glasgow Caledonian University – 1 September, 7 October

University of Greenwich – 7 October

Kingston University – 7 October, 4/15 November

Leeds Beckett University – 7,28 October, 25 November

University of Lincoln – 23 September, 7/21 October, 11/25 November, 13 December

London Metropolitan University – 19/24 August, 2 September, 14 October, 25 November

Manchester Metropolitan University – 14/21 October

Northumbria University – 30 September, 28 October, 25 November

University of Roehampton – 7 October, 18 November

University of Salford – 7/28 October

Teesside University – 11/21 October, 18 November

University of West England (UWE)–

Bristol Campuses and Glouchester Campus: 30 September, 4 November

City Campus including Bower Ashton, Spike Island, and Arnolfini: 18 November

Glenside Campus: 18 November

University of West Scotland –

Ayr: 30 September, 4 October

Dumfries: 6 September, 4 November

Hamilton: 20 September, 28 October

Paisley: 27 September, 7 October

University of Westminster – 14 October, 8 November, 6 December

Robert Gordon University – 2 September, 11 October

Sheffield Hallam University – 1/22 October

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