What does FE college offer?

  • Emma Finamore
  • Last updated 09 Jan 2020

A look at what FE college (further education college) has to offer school leavers, from the qualifications available to the working environment.


FE college (further education college) provides high-quality technical and professional education and training for young people, as well as adults. They prepare students with valuable skills for the workplace, helping to develop their career opportunities.

Last year there were more young adults in FE college than in university: 2.9 million compared with 2.4 million.

Further education includes any study after secondary education that is not part of higher education: an undergraduate or graduate degree. Courses range from basic English and maths programmes to Higher National Diplomas (HNDs).

FE colleges offer a much wider range of courses than at sixth form colleges or schools. Most do offer A-levels, the same as sixth form colleges and schools, but also have a huge number of other qualifications available in different subjects and at different levels.

Level 1 qualifications are fairly basic, building confidence and providing an introduction to a subject, industry or area of work. They include, for example, NVQ Level 1, BTEC Introductory Certificates and OCR Nationals which are roughly equivalent to GCSEs gained at grades D to G. You would need qualifications at this level before progressing to level 2.

Level 2 qualifications (eg. NVQ level 2 and BTEC First) give a deeper understanding of a subject or area of work and are roughly equivalent to GCSEs at grades A* to C. Many employers like young people to have a Level 2 qualification as a minimum.

Level 3 qualifications include A and AS-levels, NVQ Level 3, BTEC Nationals, Advanced and Progression Diplomas. This level is almost always required for entry to university and many employers will be looking for Level 3 in applicants for more technical or supervisory roles.

Levels 4 to 8 may also be available in your local college but are classed as 'higher' rather than 'further' education. They include Foundation degrees, HND/HNC courses, Honours degrees and postgraduate or professional qualifications at a high level.

Not all colleges, however, will offer the same variety of subjects and courses, so it’s very important to check carefully what is available locally.

FE college is a totally different world to school or sixth form college: you are expected to be responsible and take control of your own time-management, which can be great for those craving more independence.

The environment is also less formal: you’re likely to be on first name terms with most of the staff, whatever their age, and it’s unlikely there will be any dress code – definitely not a school uniform – which can be very appealing to some young people.


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