Sixth Form/University College IOM (Key Stage 5)

Use this section to understand what you should consider during sixth form or whilst at the University College Isle of Man and the options available ahead.

The change between Key Stage 4 and 5 is considerable and requires more effort and drive to be successful. Yes you have fewer subjects, and hopefully ones that you enjoy more, but each has an abundant workload to manage and deal with.

In addition, students should be considering during this time what to do upon completion of A Levels, Inter Baccalaureate (IB) or University College Isle of Man course. For those planning on going to university, be mindful of the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) application process. This involves choosing a subject course and three establishment choices in order of preference to take that course. Submissions usually have to be made mid January in the year you plan to join the course, mid October in the year prior for Oxford or Cambridge. 

Like the planning undertaken during Key Stage 4, students should consider further the types of roles they wish to undertake in engineering. This may have a bearing on which qualifications you work towards. 

So what options are available after sixth form/University College Isle of Man towards a career in Engineering?

Students have three options, the first two being academically based:

(1)  Degree at the University College Isle of Man or an off island university, say, in the UK. Before deciding on this route, students should work backwards from the roles they would like to undertake in engineering, establishing the types of qualifications that such roles require. Ascertain the education establishments that offer those qualifications and what the course entry requirements are in terms of A Level, BTEC or Inter Baccalaureate subjects and grades as performed during Key Stage 4 (see further suggestions to consider via the Key Stage 4 section still relevant here using the link here).

When considering degrees, students should assess if they would benefit more as regards employability from their course being the Bachelor (first) degree course, or an integrated course covering both undergraduate level and advanced degree level leading to the degree of Masters. (This integration is a recent development and means on successfully completing the course you gain a Masters and not a Bachelor degree). Having said this, you can take a Bachelors degree and then continue at the same or a different University to gain a Masters which gives you both qualifications, unlike the integrated Masters course.

In addition, students should also assess whether the course they are considering is full-time or a 'Thick' or 'Thin' sandwich. Such courses offer the opportunity for employment during the course to gain invaluable work experience in an engineering environment. Not all universities offer sandwich courses and they tend to be of longer duration (4 years typically) but such courses often increase the employ-ability of the student. The differences are:

  • Thick sandwich: undertake a one-year placement in the third year and then return for the final year of study.
  • Thin sandwich: undertake one six-month placement at the beginning of the second year and one six-month placement at the end of the third year and then return for the final year of study.

Consider also the degree type: mechanical engineering tends to cover most aspects of the other degrees, just not to the same level of detail and so offers the graduate probably the widest sphere of employability. Other engineering degrees such as aeronautical, bio-medical, chemical, electrical, electronic, environmental, industrial and production for example tend to be more specifically aimed at a particular field of employment. There are hundreds of engineering related degrees so do some research!

Finally, research what the current course students say about the establishments you're considering. Don't only rely on the establishment's website. Seek student feedback on the course, accommodation, tutor availability and in particular look for employ-ability statistics - what % of graduates gained employment after 12 months. The higher the % the better. Use the link here for one university league table you may wish to consider.

Once you've worked your way through all that, students should try to visit the education establishments they are considering applying for (UCAS allows you to apply for three) to see the set up, accommodation, etc. Whilst this will take some time and money, it does give you the opportunity to see at first hand what the facilities are like and to ask questions about the course. Most secondary schools arrange a trip for sixth form students to see some universities in the UK. Even if those visited are not the universities you are considering, it is a cost effective way of seeing something of student life so is generally beneficial. 

Some universities are on campus (all in one location), whilst others have buildings scattered around a town or city. This may influence your decision so bring it into the mix, along with transport links to and from the island.

Digesting all the facts, you can then complete your UCAS application, stating the course you are applying for and the three preferred establishments to deliver that course in order of preference. UCAS will respond to you after the closing date for applications, and you will receive notification of your offers; conditional or unconditional (subjects and grades needed to be achieved or none, respectively) and how that relates to your preferences. 

Lancaster University campus

(2) Other qualifications at University College Isle of Man. Again, as per (1) above students should work backwards from the role they would like to undertake in engineering in order to select the qualification most suited to that career.

 (3) Seek and secure a job in the sector. Employment post Key Stage 5 is rare in the sector and is more likely in the support areas in companies (use link here for more information on support areas). If you had a good work experience placement in Year 10 or at any other time, this could put you in a good position for employment after your existing studies have been satisfactorily completed.

Regarding the three options above - do not make your decision based on what your friends are doing, or what your relatives and teachers or tutors say you should do. By all means listen to them, take on board what they say and consider it, but make the decision based on the information you have researched or gained say from work experience

You can only make an informed decision about the best next step for you by establishing the facts. 

Astute class submarine


"The scientist explains that which exists. The engineer creates that which never was."

Theodore von Karman (Hungarian-American mathematician, aerospace engineer and physicist who was active primarily in the fields of aeronautics and astronautics. He is responsible for many key advances in aerodynamics, notably his work on supersonic and hypersonic airflow characterisation. He is regarded as the outstanding aerodynamic theoretician of the twentieth century).