students at university

Calling all current year 12 pupils

Amongst the understandable confusion of this year’s GCSEs and A levels being cancelled and teachers awarding predicted grades, we also need to spare a thought for those pupils who would be expecting to receive vital progression guidance over the forthcoming weeks on their next steps after sitting exams or completing college in 2021.

What’s next?

Certainly for current year 12 pupils, the summer term is when they would be more seriously contemplating their options for post-exams progression in 2021. There are many possibilities to consider and university is certainly not the only route available, so read on for a general overview of the different alternatives on offer.

University degree

By far the most popular route post A levels. Try to consider carefully if this is the right option for you. Ask yourself: Is a degree the only entry path into my career? Do I fully understand student loans and maintenance grants? Will I miss studying at a higher level if I don’t go? The current lockdown situation we find ourselves in provides the ideal opportunity to explore potential courses and different universities. In next week’s article we will provide tips on how to conduct this valuable research and how you can replace cancelled University Open Days.

Degree Apprenticeship

Growing in popularity in recent years, these provide a fantastic alternative to the traditional degree route. Applicants apply for structured positions within companies, usually working four days a week and spending one day a week either distance learning or attending  university for the theoretical content. Popular fields are STEM, medicine, finance and business.


Although you won’t achieve a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree with this option you will still gain a qualification at the end. As above, it will also be accomplished by focussing on practical skills within a working environment and topped up with theory at a college or uni. These will take less time to complete than the Degree Apprenticeship. Think technical, social media marketing, IT and administration.

School Leaver Programmes

These provide a direct route into employment as part of a structured programme within larger companies. Examples usually on offer include accountancy with Ernst & Young, retail with M&S, food production with Nestle, banking with RBS, and insurance with Allianz.

Gap Year

Inevitably there are pros and cons of taking a gap year and these will depend on what you plan to do with your time. Many grasp the opportunity to travel and there can be enormous potential for personal growth by visiting other countries and cultures. There will naturally be a cost implication but many choose to work for six months to fund their travels. There is also the option of a working gap year on an industrial placement scheme, with engineering being popular.


With Oxford and Cambridge appearing consistently within the top three world university rankings, competition for spaces is tough. Courses are academically rigorous but opportunities for extra-curricular activities abound. Think national level sports, debating, music and theatre, and of course Quidditch. If you are motivated, on course for top grades and fancy a university experience clothed in tradition then do not rule out applying to one of these two famous universities.