Facilitating subjects are the subjects most commonly required or preferred by universities to get on to a range of degree courses. They help you keep your options open when choosing a degree, and many of the top universities will ask you to have at least one A-level in a facilitating subject when you apply.
What are facilitating subjects?
The Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities, defines facilitating subjects as:
- English literature
- Modern languages – e.g. French, German, Spanish etc
- Classical languages – e.g. Latin, Ancient Greek
- Maths and further maths
Why these subjects?
These are all subjects that universities require students to have in order to be accepted on to many degree courses. For example, lots of science degrees require students to have two or sometimes three A-levels in maths, physics, chemistry or biology.
Lots of specialist courses at A-level and beyond also take a large part of their content or structure from facilitating subjects. For instance, engineering includes elements of maths and physics, and communication and culture includes skills from English and media studies – so choosing a facilitating subject will prepare you for a range of courses.
Does this mean I shouldn’t study non-facilitating subjects?
Nope. There are lots of other subjects, which are excellent at preparing you for university. The only difference is that they aren’t usually required by universities to get onto a particular course.
For example, psychology and economics are considered useful subjects for lots of courses, but you don’t actually need them to get on to a psychology or an economics degree.
If you already know what you would like to study at uni or you’re passionate about a particular subject, then you should make your choices based on this and based on what you need to get on to your chosen course.
When you’re looking at a university prospectus, check to see what other subjects are down as useful for the degree too. You don’t necessarily need them, but it’s a hint that they could be helpful in getting you that offer.
If you’re worried or in doubt about your choices, always discuss with your school before you commit to them.
Note: If you would like to study music or art at university you should definitely study these subjects at A-level.
Are there any facilitating subjects to avoid?
The Russell Group advises that critical thinking, citizenship studies and general studies should only be taken as ‘extras’, as many universities will not accept them as one of the three subjects that your offer will be based on.
A few universities provide lists of ‘preferred’ or ‘non-preferred’ subjects for students. But don’t be put off by these phrases. What they usually mean is that they are happy for you to do one or two A-levels that aren't on the preferred list as long as they are taken with one or two subjects that are recommended or required for the course.
Here are some examples of preferred subject lists for different universities:
In a nutshell: "Facilitating subjects don’t cover everything, but choosing one or two helps keep your options open for a range of courses and careers."
How should I choose what subjects to study?
Find out more about the benefits of studying different subjects in our Why Study series.
If you're currently deciding what subjects to study for your GCSEs, we know it can be tough. We've put together some handy tips and advice on choosing GCSE subjects to help you. Thinking about your future career goals can help you choose, so have a look at our career zones to see the different options out there.
What if university isn't for me?
There are many different paths to your chosen career and university is just one of them. For some other ideas, have a look at our five practical alternatives to going to university.
One option which is becoming more and more popular is doing an apprenticeship. The benefit of this is that you can earn while you learn, and get some valuable on the job training while studying for a qualification.
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