Taking your first steps into higher education
Taking your first steps into higher education

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Taking your first steps into higher education

4 What should I study?

So far in this first week of Taking your first steps into higher education, the focus has been on why you might be thinking about HE and the range of places that now provide university level opportunities. These are aspects that you should explore in more detail for yourself.

The focus of Taking your first steps into higher education is to help you make a well-informed choice about what to study. To get you thinking about this, watch the introduction video again, but this time pay particular attention to the part that introduces Weeks 4 and 5. Then come back here and watch the following short videos which include the other two authors of this course: John Butcher and Laura Hills. These videos outline some of the key features of the broad subject areas.

Download this video clip.Video player: he1s_1_wk1_part2_640x360.mp4
Skip transcript


John Butcher – Author
Hi there. My name’s John Butcher and I've been principally working on the arts and humanities material that you'll come across in Weeks 2 and 3. One of the approaches I've taken is to explore what it’s like to learn in the arts and humanities in higher education, to make sure that you can come to an informed decision about whether the arts are right for you.
In Week 2, we’ll be studying poetry to illustrate what it’s like to read literature at university, and we’ll be moving from personal responses to a more critical reading. And in Week 3, we’ll move onto art history, and look at some contemporary artworks from Turner Prize winners and explore the approaches taken to study in art history in higher education.
End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Download this video clip.Video player: he1s_1_wk1_part3_640x360.mp4
Skip transcript


Laura Hills - Author
Hello, my name is Laura Hills and I've been involved in developing the science, technology and maths materials for this course. The aim of this particular part of the course is to encourage you to think about any preconceptions you might have about science, technology and maths, and also to gain a better understanding of how we use these subjects in our everyday lives.
So Week 6 is about understanding what science, technology and maths are, both as subjects to study and in our everyday lives. You will also have the chance to explore some of the particular language these subjects use, to read scientific texts, and also to interpret diagrams and graphs.
Week 7 is about the role of water in our life. We rely on water to live, and the population of the world is determined by the existence of water in different parts of the world. Despite this, we tend to use water without even thinking about it, and so this week you'll be able to calculate your own water usage, and also to consider ways, including the use of technology, in which you can reduce that water consumption.
So we’ll be bringing together science, technology and maths in a way to better understand our impact on the world around us.
End transcript
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

A key aim of this course is to introduce the important differences, and to reflect on the overlaps, between learning in the arts, the social sciences and the sciences. So, this course will help you consider what fits best to your interests and aspirations.

Jonathan and John and Laura each outline what they see as the key features of the broad subject areas:

John ButcherArts and humanities
Jonathan HughesSocial sciences
Laura HillsScience, technology and maths

John, Jonathan and Laura talk about their subject areas in order to encourage you to see this as an area of study that you might be interested in. This means each subject area is presented really positively.

Once you have watched the video clips please do the following activity.

Activity 3 Which subject area?

Timing: Allow approximately 30 minutes.

This activity aims to get you thinking about what subjects you might prefer to study.

  1. For each broad subject area note down one thing that you remember and if that thing is a ‘plus point’ as far as you are concerned.

    For example you might write:

    Arts: gives me a chance to understand my responses to works of art

  1. Which subject area most connected with your current interests?
  1. Which subject area tends to provide definite answers?
  1. Which subject area tends to raise questions you find most interesting?
  1. Is creativity important to you?


This activity has given you a very brief overview of the three broad subject areas. These overviews have been deliberately biased in order to stimulate their thinking. The rest of this course looks at each of the three broad areas in a little more detail and gives a range of opportunities to engage with the sort of study that you can expect to come across at university.

Skip Your course resources

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371