Further Education

  • Last updated 18 Aug 2016


Everyone always yaps on about university, but it isn’t the only option for young adults. With the job market continuing to splutter, it’s very easy to be downbeat about career prospects in the UK. Either you get a degree or you’re unemployed right? Well, it’s a common misconception that you need a degree to pursue the so-called ‘top’ careers.

So what are the options?

University is a good option, but if you want to avoid student debts or you don’t have the qualifications, then you can do what is known as a Foundation Degree, an HND or HNC, a BTEC, an NVQ, a City & Guilds qualification, or you could just jump straight into an apprenticeship programme.

Foundation Degrees

Foundation degrees are a step towards the world of work or a bachelor’s degree. They combine academic study with work-based learning to give participants a variety of skills that are useful in a variety of jobs.

There are truly gigantic amounts of foundation degrees to choose from, covering anything from agriculture and building technology to graphic design and sports coaching. They are usually designed in partnership with universities, colleges and employers to ensure that they are relevant to particular occupations.


HNDs (Higher National Diploma) and HNCs (Higher National Certificate) are work-related courses provided by over 400 higher education and further education colleges in a wide array of subjects. 

The HND takes two years to complete as a full-time discipline or three to four years if it’s done part-time whilst working. The HNC is at a lower level to the HND, but it still focuses on largely the same subject areas, taking one year full-time or two years part-time. All of the courses focus on delivering the skills required for a particular occupation, whether you want to be an accountant, animator or a music producer.

BTEC, City & Guilds & OCR Nationals

A BTEC (Business, Technology & Education Council) is another work-related qualification. There are three tiers to the qualification, beginning with the ‘Award’, then the ‘Certificate’ and finally the ‘Diploma’. These bad boys are often interwoven with apprenticeships or general occupations. However, they can be taken on their own, either full-time or part-time.

City & Guilds as well as ‘OCR Nationals’ deliver a similar qualification and can also be taken in a variety of subjects, including business, health and social care, media, IT, public services, science, sports and art and design. Entry onto these courses usually requires GCSEs between grades D and G for Level 1 and Level 2 courses, and grades A* to C to study the Level  3 qualification.


An NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) is what’s commonly referred to as a ‘competence-based’ qualification. Students are assessed ‘on-the-job’, where an NVQ assessor measures an individual’s performance when undertaking a particular process or task.

Employers often introduce these courses and offer them to people who are already working; however, they can also be taken as a way of securing a job. The Scottish equivalent of an NVQ is an SVQ (Scottish Vocational Qualification).

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