If you really want to know how well a uni will prepare you for your career, you have a couple of options. You could attempt to master reading tea leaves and use them to see the future; but a more reliable method is looking at how well graduates from that uni do when they leave. When you're looking at potential unis, look at how many grads get jobs, but also be sure to look at what jobs they get. If they're being snapped up by big companies, the uni could be doing something right.
Nice to meet you
Take Bucks New University, for example, which has grads working for Google, BMW, Sony, Cath Kidston, John Lewis and Puma among others. Psychology and Criminology
grads work for Thames Valley Police (HQ) and the National Probation Service, so they're obviously picking up some handy skills.
One of the ways that unis like Bucks New University can help you land a job with employers like these is by connecting you with industry while you study. Every institution claims to do this, but if you speak to students or ask questions at open days you'll find out just how connected they really are.
Billy Coulson earned a BA (Hons) in Advertising Management and Digital Communications from Bucks New Uni and now works for the Williams F1 team. He knows that making the right connections at uni was a huge help. “My time at Bucks offered great networking opportunities and frequent guest speakers from the industry,” he says. “There's no doubt that my course was a solid business grounding.”
Are you experienced?
Once you leave uni and start looking for work, naturally employers will be interested in your academic qualifications. But they'll be just as interested in what else you did as a student, and what kind of work experience you might have that will help you hit the ground running.
Once again, the right uni can help with this. Johnny Berwick is Community Rugby Coach at London Irish, and says his time studying for a BA (Hons) in Sports Management and Rugby Studies at Bucks wasn't just about the course. “By helping me to connect with the community and network with the right people, Bucks helped me gain valuable experience and a foot into the industry.”
Those who can, teach
The benefits of experience apply to the teaching staff, too. Find out whether the unis you're interested in have experts teaching students – if lecturers just read a book about your subject, once, chances are they won't be as effective as those who are still active in their field.
Rachel Pritchard gained a BA (Hons) in Public Relations and Marketing Communications from Bucks and now works for a top PR Agency. She says that having the right lecturers really helped set her on the path to a great career. “They often still work in the industry themselves so they bring you on board with some of their own clients. I got involved in market research, ran an event for 250 people and started my own business - all with the support of my lecturers.”
Big names, big opportunities
A uni doesn't need its name in lights on every corner to be a world leader. Bucks New Uni's profile may be more modest than some institutions, for example, but Ganesh Singaram who has worked with Pharrell Williams and Kanye West was on campus recently, drawn by the high standard of their music production course. It's sponsored by Sennheiser, a leading music tech firm, which speaks volumes for the quality of the programme
Louis Brown works for Island Records, and knows that his BA (Hons) in Music Management and Artist Development from Bucks played a big part in getting him there. “My degree has helped me enormously,” he says. “A lot of industry experts recognise Bucks as being great for producing talent within music.”
The real deal
Don't forget to check out other ways that a prospective uni can support you. Bucks New Uni's 'Big Deal' means that all Students Union activities are free to students, for example – it's the only arrangement like it in the UK.
No university can hand everything to you on a plate, of course: you'll need to bring your own ambition with you. But find somewhere that can put you in touch with the right people, offers the right facilities and has graduates employed in the kinds of places you'd like to end up, and you'll be off to a good start. That cup of tea can just be for drinking.