Higher education is the name given to post-18 education and courses at levels 4-8. 

Most higher education students are over 18 and hold level 3 qualifications such as A levels, a BTEC Extended Diploma or an Access to Higher Education qualification. Higher education can be undertaken full or part-time in universities, further education colleges and higher education institutions. Courses may also be studied by distance learning.

Click on the options below to find out what you need to be able to access higher education.

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Take a look at our choosing a higher education course page.

There are around 80 subjects available, you can study subjects that you have taken at GCSE such as history, art or geography or new subjects such as law or economics. For some careers, there are subjects that are required for entry onto the course, such as chemistry if you want to study medicine, dentistry or pharmacy, so you should carefully research not only the career but the requirements for the higher education course too.

Find out more on our A-Levels page.

These are vocationally oriented qualifications that have been approved by Higher Education institutions for entry. These may be known by their awarding bodies such as City and Guilds, OCR or BTEC National and usually cover a broad area of work. Examples include Level BTEC National Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care or BTEC Level 3 National Diploma in Creative and Digital Media.

*A levels and Applied Generals can be studied individually or together as part of a Post 16 Study Programme.

Find out more on our Applied Generals page.

These are a fairly new type of qualification which has been designed with employers and industry. They started to be taught in colleges from September 2016. They can enable entry to university if they are studied in enough breadth and depth but are also able to be a ‘licence to practise’ in their sector. Examples include Level 3 Technical Level in IT Cyber Security and Security Administration or Level 3 Foundation Technical Level Entertainment Technology: Video Games Art and Mechanics.

Find out more on our Tech Levels page.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) centres on three core elements (Theory of Knowledge, Extended Essay, and a Project) studied alongside individual subjects (studies in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics and the arts. The IBD aims to broaden students’ educational experience and challenge them to apply their knowledge and skills.

Find out more on our International Baccalaureate page.

It is possible to undertake higher education as part of some career paths to gain work-related skills and knowledge. Many large companies and some sector groups provide support to undertake higher education qualifications. For example, the NHS may support staff who have worked as healthcare assistants to become nurses or a local authority may support staff who are taking on a role in staff management to gain qualifications in Management.

It is possible to enter higher education after undertaking an advanced apprenticeship as this is underpinned by an academic qualification at Level 3. You could take a Higher Apprenticeship at Level 4/5 and continue in the workplace with structured training in a wide range of areas such as Business Administration, Healthcare or ICT. If you want to study full time you could start a course such as a Foundation degree or HND.

Access to Higher Education Diploma courses are designed for people who want to study at university but who left school without the required qualifications. It is a route used by around 20,000 adults per year. The Access course is one-year full time and concentrates on the development of study skills and foundation studies in specific subjects. Access courses may be made up of the study of 3 subjects from a cluster offered by a learning provider or have a specific focus such as Access to Nursing or Access to Humanities.

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