The advantages of taking a gap year transcript

In this video staff and students at the University of Birmingham discuss the advantages of taking a gap year.

Title: The advantages of taking a gap year
Duration: 4.25 mins

Speaker Names (if given):

S1 Michael Collie, BBC presenter and former student

S2 Marcus Williams, Deputy Director of Student Recruitment

S3 Dr Julia Lodge, Admissions Tutor, Biological Sciences

S4 Dr Mike Ward, Senior Lecturer, Engineering

S5 Dr Austen Spruce, Admissions Tutor, Medical Science

S6 Alice Baines, BA English and African Studies


S1 Gap years. There are now more than 360 different gap year organisations in the country offering anything from UK-based conservational projects to overseas expeditions and to charity projects. Each year many students decide that a gap year is for them. At Birmingham about 12% of applicants take a gap year prior to joining the University. However, admissions tutors at different institutions do have a variety of views about gap years. If you’re in any doubt about whether you should take a gap year or whether the department to whom you’re applying accepts gap year students, please contact the University directly. Here’s what some of Birmingham’s academics think.

S2  Generally speaking I think if you talk to most academics they think that gap years used wisely – and the key is used wisely – are a very good thing. About 12% of our current intake take gap years. Now there may be a few admissions tutors that you talk to who are a little bit more sceptical about gap years; they tend to be in the sciences or perhaps in engineering or mathematics and they’re worried perhaps that if you spend a year out of the habit of learning that it may be more difficult to pick up of course once you join the University. If you’ve got any doubts whatsoever, give the admissions tutors a bell and they’ll be happy to tell you what their take on gap years are. A lot of students ask us ‘Well, when should I apply for my gap year? Should I apply for a university entry and tell you I want to defer for a year or should I apply for university entry whilst I’m on my gap year?’. In all honesty it doesn’t really matter; the decision’s entirely yours. However if you are going to apply and then defer for a year, do tell us on your UCAS form. Also it’s quite nice if you can put in a couple of lines about what you actually intend doing in your gap year. That’s really positive. It’s just quite interesting for the admission’s tutor to pick out when they’re looking through thousands of applications.

S3 I’m a big fan of gap years. I took one myself so I’m probably biased. I think that if you’ve got something you want to do in the year before you come to university, that you should do it – and a lot of students who want to study a biology degree actually want to go off and travel and perhaps work on a conservation project and of course that’s all very good, it will contribute towards your degree and your preparation for that and then when you come to us you’ll be ready for your studies. So if there’s something you really want to do then my advice is to go for it.

S4 Gap years can be very beneficial to a student. If the gap year is used constructively to work in industry, students often return to us in a very much more mature state. They have better time management skills, they can see the importance of the material that we’re delivering to them and they generally tend to perform very well, if not better, than they would without the gap year. So from my perspective and the perspective of many of my colleagues, a gap year can be a very good investment for many students.

S5 Students who take a gap year tend to be more mature when they start the programme and they do cope a little better with it but there isn’t that much of a difference between those who’ve taken a gap year and those who haven’t and therefore we don’t base admissions decisions on whether a student has taken a gap year or not.

S6 I took a gap year myself before coming to university and I’d recommend the experience to anybody, whether you know what you want to do after university or not. I didn’t know what I wanted to take at university or what I wanted to do afterwards and I took a gap year going to Kenya, working as a volunteer in a luxury tented camp teaching water skiing for six months, which was quite a unique experience. It’s helped obviously improve my CV. I had an amazing experience while I was out there and I think it really aided me both getting into university in the first place and applying for graduate jobs afterwards. My gap year taught me lots of skills that I was able to use at university and hopefully in life afterwards. Mainly I guess independence and self-reliance and also the degree of responsibility you’re given and you take on a voluntary placement and while you’re transporting yourself around the world is higher than you’ve ever experienced before. In terms of transferring those skills to university, my gap year’s given me loads of confidence. You can tell in the first week of university who’s taken a gap year and who hasn’t. It tends to be those who come forward and are more socially active that have had a bit more life experience and also those who are a bit more outspoken on their course and the lecturers love that.