Changing Course at University

There are several important issues to consider before changing the course you are on at university.

Why are you changing course?

If you have decided to change course on the basis that '"you aren't doing well academically"' in your current course you probably ought to reconsider your decision, be honest with yourself, how much of the problem will be solved by changing course, how much of the problem is due to your mismanagement of your studies. If you are genuinely having problems with the course don't jump straight into a course switch, speak to your tutor about your problems and there may be a means to sort them out without such drastic (and potentially not very effective) measures. It is also possible that if your achievement level is low that you may not be allowed onto the new course.

If you have decided to change because '"you don’t enjoy your current course"' then you should be absolutely certain that you will enjoy the course you are moving to. You should also be aware that changing course has significant negative consequences, you have to be certain that the change is worth it.

If you have decided to change course because you feel that it would be better for career reasons you need to do your research, is it actually a better career move? Remember that changing course normally (except between certain very similar courses or during the first couple of weeks of the course) means that you will be at university for more time, amounting more debt and putting off getting your dream job. Even if a different course would be better for your career the best move could still be to finish your current degree and then to train on the job.

Problems with Changing Course

  • You’ll probably have to restart from year one (unless the courses share a significant amount of common ground in year one)
  • You’ll leave uni with more debt
  • It will be longer till you get a job
  • You can't be certain that your new course will be better than your old one
  • Your university or one of the departments involved may look unfavourably upon course changes and there may be a stigma attached to a failed attempt to change courses which might have issues in the event of a failed year etc. (If you genuinely feel that changing courses is the right thing to do this shouldn’t put you off too much)

Only if you are absolutely certain that all the problems above either don’t apply or are a price worth paying should you make the move.

How to Change Course

The exact method will vary significantly from university to university but there are some common pointers you should follow.

  • Consult with your tutor and if appropriate your department administrator.
  • Act as quickly as possible: If you are going to change course then the later you leave it the greater the magnitude of the problems you’ll face.
  • Be prepared to change your mind if following consultation with your tutor etc. new solutions present themselves.
  • You will almost certainly have to defend your decision both to your tutor and to the head of teaching for your desired new course. Be ready to do so and if you are unable seriously consider why you are making the change.
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