Qualifications Guide

A Levels

A Levels are studied after GCSEs and are academic qualifications and you tend to pick three or four subjects to focus on or you can select some A Level subjects and combine them with a vocational qualification. You will learn in a classroom with a specialist teacher for each subject and your progress will be assessed through writing essays and sitting exams. A Levels are a full time level 3 qualification and are often studied before going to university.

Vocational Courses

Practical and more hands-on, vocational study programmes are studied after GCSEs and will equip you with the skills and knowledge in one subject area. They include lots of different qualification types such as NVQs, BTECs, City & Guilds and UAL Diplomas and can be studied full time at entry level (introductory) to level three (the same as A Levels.)

The programmes include work experience and lots of contact with employers. When you finish you can progress to university, an apprenticeship or into work.

Apprenticeships

Similar to having a job, on an apprenticeship you’ll spend most of your time with an employer working as part of their team and some time at college, usually one day a week. You can go onto an apprenticeship after GCSEs, A Levels, a Vocational Study Programme or T Levels, depending on the level of apprenticeship and the skills and experience the employer is looking for. You can also go onto an apprenticeship as an adult.

GCSEs

You can study English and maths GCSEs at college either as part of a full time study programme if you need to improve your grades or on a part time or evening basis as an adult. GCSEs are a level 2 qualification.

T Levels

Introduced in 2020, these practical qualifications are studied after GCSEs and are similar to vocational study programmes, but include a longer work placement. This can be spent with one employer or with several employers. T Levels are only offered in a few subject areas.

Access to Higher Education (HE)

A one year, intense level 3 course for adults that helps you gain access to university. If you want a job that requires a degree, such as midwifery, nursing or teaching, these courses allow you to top up your existing qualifications to meet university entry requirements.

Higher National Certificate (HNC)

A practical and technical level 4 qualification that focusses on one subject area and takes between one and two years to complete, depending on whether studied full or part time. Studied by adults, either following a vocational study programme or when in work for career progression or a career change. When completed you can progress onto a Higher National Diploma (HND) or to the second year of an Honours degree course.

Higher National Diploma (HND)

A practical and technical level 5 qualification that focusses on one subject area and takes between two and four years to complete, depending on whether studied full or part time. Studied by adults either following a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or when in work for career progression or a career change. When completed you can progress onto the third year of an Honours degree course.

Foundation Degree

A practical and technical level 5 qualification that focusses on one subject area and takes between two and four years to complete, depending on whether studied full or part time. Studied by adults either following a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or when in work for career progression or a career change. When completed you can progress onto the third year of an Honours degree course.

Honours Degree

Usually lasting three years, Honour degrees are level 6 qualifications studied by adults after A Levels, a vocational study programme or T Levels. There are different types such as Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) and can be studied at college or university.

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