How do I find out if a UK college is reputable?
May 26, 2016 6:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm wanting to go back to studying briefly for the sake of a planned change in career, but my understanding of the UK education system is limited, so I can't figure out if the college I'm looking at is reputable.

I've found this, with the big scary warning "if a UK university or college isn’t officially recognised, there’s no guarantee that your degree will count when you’re looking for a job", and the college I'm looking at is not listed there; but a different college I know is reputable is also not listed, so that can't be the only way.

For what it's worth, the college I'm looking at is this, and the course I'm looking at says it would provide "Hove College Diploma and OCN Level 4 Certificates", but that's Greek to me.

Even if you can just tell me if that particular college is a reputable place to study at, that would be great, but I'd like to be able to figure this kind of thing out by myself in case I end up wanting to go elsewhere instead. I'm just confused and not wanting to waste time and money.
posted by sailoreagle to Education (12 answers total)
UK here. If the web address doesn't end in I would be a bit circumspect.
posted by A189Nut at 6:38 AM on May 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

It seems this is a "private" college, so not particularly reputable I'm afraid. My understanding is that a lot of these private colleges exist for visa purposes rather than education, so I'd be wary of any education that they offer. The fact that they offer "OCN Level 4 Certificates" which seems to be the equivalent of a first year university course at best, doesn't strike me as particularly worthwhile.

You don't mention which courses you'd be interested in, so its hard to advise, perhaps if you could let us know what you were wanting to study we'd be better able to recommend somewhere?
posted by Middlemarch at 6:43 AM on May 26, 2016

Search here - the only application route to accredited UK universities: UCAS

And this is a good starting point for researching 'reputable' status:

Guardian university guide 2017
posted by Hugobaron at 6:50 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Firstly, yes, that college is accredited and can sponsor Tier 4 visas. if you want to check the Home Office's List of Approved Sponsors is here (pdf) (Hove College is listed under its franchise - 'British Study Centres').

That said, the fact that it's OK for sponsoring Visas is no guarantee at all of the quality of the education. I am struggling to think of anything it could offer an overseas student that could not be achieved in the student's own country. Given the expense and difficulty of visas and fees, it doesn't seem a great choice. Can you give us more details of what it is you want to do/achieve?
posted by AFII at 6:51 AM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are legitimate FE colleges in the UK that are not UCAS-routed. You best option for checking legitimacy vs private degree mill is HEFC.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:21 AM on May 26, 2016

EU national, currently living IN the UK and more specifically in Brighton, hence why I'm looking at education here. (I could do London as well, but rather not saddle myself with an overly-long commute if I can avoid it.)

I'm looking specifically at the digital design diploma, because I've been looking for a job in that field and got to the interview stage several times only to be then told "we went with a more recent graduate", "we decided on someone who has studied in the field", and such. (I have a BA and MA in a completely unrelated field, which appears to be unfortunately dead as a doornail as far as job-finding prospects go, hence the career change.)

I've been to one of the college's open days and it seems good, but... I'm wary. Hence this question.
posted by sailoreagle at 7:43 AM on May 26, 2016

OK, that makes sense. I don't know that field particularly well, but I'd strongly advise tapping any contacts you have, and asking them about qualifications, especially for recent hires. If companies are hiring recent graduates, then it's possible that no kind of diploma is going to make up for the absence of a relevant degree. That's not to say you shouldn't do it, just that it may be the first step in a process of getting to a different qualification, and you'll be better placed to make a decision if you know what the final goal is.
posted by AFII at 8:04 AM on May 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Have you looked at what local FE colleges have to offer?

This seems similar and is based at Brighton and Hove College:
posted by Middlemarch at 8:14 AM on May 26, 2016

I don't know about this particular college or program, but don't waste time and money on a qualification employers don't hold in high regard; find out what's worth the effort by talking to people. If the good schools are in London, commute to London. (I don't know how it is for digital design but Central Saint Martin's (as far as I know) has a great rep for arts and design generally. Look into other UAL colleges and programs, too.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:15 AM on May 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

(Just to add - someone who's younger and thus has time to clock lots of experience, e.g. for free, might be able to get away with a qualification with less of a wow factor; if you're not in that position and want to do a 180, it's good to make use of every advantage at your disposal.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:50 AM on May 26, 2016

There are plenty of UK private for profit colleges that offer short courses and degrees that are useful. The thing to remember is to actually look at who accepts your degree, what it will be useful for. You say a career change, so I would be looking at who is reputable as a teacher you could access at the level appropriate to you. A secondary source is to see if there are any societies of this career, as they may offer more suitable courses themselves.
posted by parmanparman at 3:54 PM on May 26, 2016

No, sorry it isn't reputable. Private universities in the UK aren't reputable in general, but this one looks particularly awful. I grew up in Brighton, went to school there, and still have loads of family and friends there, several of whom work in digital design. I have never heard of Hove College. I have just had a flick through their website and it looks like a visa mill, or at best an English Language school with a sideline (I see that they do also have an ESL school onsite). It certainly won't impress employers.

That this is their main boast: "Students on our programmes get real hands-on experience of creative design software on professional Apple Mac systems" and not seen as the absolute bare minimum for any design course, says a lot about their teaching standards. You will also notice there are no tutor profiles on their website which suggests that their tutors' CVs are less than impressive.

Most of their students went on to do other degrees rather than finding employment in the field, except for one who is the web editor for a local babywear shop and another who is an intern at an ad agency.

Finally, looking at the campus on google maps, it appears to be an unmarked house round the back of the cricket ground, which also does not inspire confidence.

I have several OCN level 3 certificates, which I got for "completing" a few evening Spanish classes. No exam or coursework, just got the certificate for turning up to more than 70% of the classes. They are useless, particularly since you already have a masters-level degree.

Is there a reason you aren't looking at University of Brighton? Which is very reputable for arts and design, and would give you a foundation or degree-level qualification rather than an OCN certificate. The tutors are also likely to have links with local alumni so their references may carry more weight (most people seem to stay in Brighton post-uni). If you want a lower-level course look at BHASVIC or Varndean.

And yes please talk to employers about their requirements. If they want an actual degree (rather than an A-level, foundation course, or just a better CV and more experience) it is better to find that out now and plan accordingly.
posted by tinkletown at 4:17 PM on May 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

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