Why gaining experience is important

To help you consider your options, here we are profiling two counties: Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. These two counties are home to three universities:

  • University of Derby, based in Derby
  • University of Nottingham, based in Nottingham
  • Nottingham Trent University, based in Nottingham

These universities offer lots of opportunities to gain experience ahead of your application, especially in Year 12 and 13. To help you find out more, we have included details on a range of further engagement opportunities, including university summer schools, volunteering and work experience.


Course requirements

Universities make a limited number of offers for places on their courses and the competition is often strong. Many courses will have particular entry requirements, usually including specific subjects and minimum grades at post-16. Some courses may have further entry requirements, such as aptitude tests (e.g. BMat, LMat) or work experience in a professional environment (e.g. medicine).

Clearly, it is important to be aware of any entry requirements and ensure that you have these in place before you apply. If you are considering studying at a university in Nottingham or Derby, you can use the websites below to search courses and course requirements.

University of Derby A-Z Courses

University of Nottingham A-Z Courses

Nottingham Trent University A-Z Courses


Local summer schools

A summer school is a course that is run by a university for a week or two during the summer school holidays. These are often residential, with pupils staying in student accommodation on campus. They typically offer intensive tuition in a certain subject, combined with extracurricular activities.

There are many benefits to attending summer schools, including:

  • gaining experience of campus life
  • working out whether the host university might be the right one for you
  • studying a subject beyond the school curriculum
  • meeting new peers and making new friends
  • strengthening your UCAS application.

Another major benefit of summer schools is that they can create a connection between you and the university. For example, you may get to know some of the teaching staff for your course. As well as this, under certain circumstances, universities may give preference to applicants that have attended one of their summer schools.

You can find a range of summer school opportunities online and each university will usually run their own schemes. We have included links below for summer schools at universities in Nottingham or Derby. 

University of Derby Summer School

University of Derby HE Can Summer School

University of Nottingham Summer School

University of Nottingham Sutton Trust Summer School

Nottingham Trent University Summer Courses


Local volunteering and work experience

As noted above, certain courses such as medicine and law may have specific entry requirements such as aptitude tests and work experience. Other vocational courses such as fashion or music are likely to want to see that the subject plays a role in your life outside school.

There are many benefits to undertaking extra-curricular activities, including:

  • engaging with your subject outside school
  • showing your motivation and resilience
  • demonstrating transferable skills, e.g. leadership and communication
  • showing that you have made an informed choice

You can find a range of volunteering and work experience opportunities online and each university will usually run their own schemes. We have included links below for opportunities in Nottingham and Derby, including those organised by the universities and more widely.

University Hospital North Midlands Work Experience

Nottinghamshire NHS Volunteering

RSPCA Nottinghamshire Volunteering

RSPCA Derbyshire Volunteering