Further education at 16+
Eleven good reasons to choose a FE College course
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1. Lots of Choice
Most colleges offer a wide range of courses and qualifications, often called 'study programmes'.
Study programmes include a main subject, tutorial support and, where required, additional English and maths.
Study programmes can include:
- vocational courses that are related to a broad subject area such as business;
- courses which prepare students for a specific job, such as hairdressing;
- academic study like GCSEs and A Levels - which may be offered on their own or in combination with another course. Most colleges offer lots of apprenticeships and other programmes to develop work readiness, such as Traineeships.
Video showing example of what a college offers - Truro and Penwith
As well as general courses, colleges often have a specialist area
It is definitely worth visiting a few colleges for Open Days as their facilities, campuses and specialist areas will vary.
For example, Wiltshire College has a site at Lackham which offers courses in Animal Science and Management, Equine Management, Agriculture and Motor Sports Engineering. Whereas, Bridgwater College offers Fish Husbandry and Management and an Access to Nuclear Apprenticeship Course.
Some colleges specialise in certain subjects such as agriculture, boat building, etc.
See this video about Aeronautical Engineering at City of Bristol College
3. There is a starting point for everybody
Even if you have few qualifications
Lots of people are successful at college, and go on to get top jobs, even if they did not get great qualifications at school. Although, many courses have set entry requirements, there is a starting point for all students, even if they have few qualifications. Most colleges offer study programmes from entry level (where no previous qualifications are required) through to degree level study. An interest in the subject you want to take can be as important as your qualifications. For example, a passion for cooking and food could be your passport to a place on a catering course!
4. Progression through different qualifications
At a FE College students can progress from foundation or entry level courses all the way up to degree level and professional qualifications. (see all qualification levels in a table).
Each qualification level will have different entry requirements. In most subject areas, you can move from one level to the next level and work your way up (including to higher education level).
All full time courses require students to continue learning maths and English towards a qualification such as a GCSE or Functional Skills qualification, if they do not have an existing GCSE or equivalent at A*-C grade (or 4-9 in the new grading system!). Whilst this is a government requirement, it is also important for future employment opportunities and for application to most Higher Education (i.e. degree) courses.
5. Practical Learning
Depending on what course you are doing you may be:
- learning in a classroom;
- out visiting an employer;
- training in realistic work environments such as, engineering workshops, industry standard training restaurants, hair and beauty salons, high tech recording studios, media suites, live performance venues, fitness suites, etc.
As courses like beauty therapy and catering are job related you will be expected to wear a uniform and order your own kit before starting college.
Customer Service is a key part of many industry-related study programmes to ensure all students leave job ready.
There are still exams and written assignments at college but there are also courses that include practical assessments where you will be assessed in a realistic work environment.
6. Employability Skills
Most FE courses also give students the opportunity to develop their employability skills through; work experience, attending careers fairs, visiting employers, pitching an idea to a Dragon's Den, or getting help starting their own business. Many colleges have restaurants or hair salons which are open to the public so that students can experience a real work environment with tutor supervision.
You might also be invited to take part in World Skills where you compete against other colleges across the UK for a chance to represent the UK in a World Skills event.
7. Help and Support
Colleges are proud of being diverse, inclusive and safe places to learn and there are lots of people who can help and support you in the college.
- Many colleges have taster days, enrolment events, induction weeks and freshers’ activities to welcome you onto full time study programmes
- Your course tutor will ensure they get to know you through group tutorials or one to one sessions, offering support and ensuring you are on track with your work and learning
- The Learning Support Team can help you if you have learning needs or a disability. Often, colleges will invite new students for needs assessments to ensure they know what requirements you have and can plan how to help you in a college environment. Examples of learning support in FE may include: Education Healthcare Plans, support in the classroom, one to one help, or exam concessions. Contact your chosen college for more advice on meeting your specific needs.
- Financial Support – if you are on a low income you may be able to get help with the costs associated with coming to college such as free meals, travel or childcare. Contact the college for more information.
- Some colleges have other support staff such as a mentor, counselling service and a college nurse or healthcare assistant to provide confidential support if you need it.
- The Careers Advice team in the college can help you decide which direction you want to go in at the end of your course. They can help you develop your CV, practice your interview skills and apply for jobs and Apprenticeships at the end of your course.
Most colleges also provide support for students hoping to progress to Higher Education; supporting students in making university applications through UCAS and researching their degree level options
8. Great Facilities
Most colleges have great facilities, such as:
Library or Resources Centre
Wi-Fi throughout the campus, pcs, multimedia resources, magazines, books and access to elibrary and elearning resources, from home or college, to help you study.
Most FE colleges have Virtual Learning Environments for students to access on campus and remotely.
Food and refreshments
Meet and eat in the friendly atmosphere of various college coffee shops or restaurants.
Student Common Room
For students to relax and socialise. It may have a coffee shop, pool table, table football, music, television, etc.
Depending on what courses the college offers you may have access to a theatre, gym, sports facilities, gardens, cheap haircuts, beauty treatments, etc!
9. Different from school.
- A full time college course may be only 3 days a week – this can come as a surprise if you have just come from school. Depending on whether you need to re-sit or upskill in maths or English, your timetable may even appear different to someone in the same class as you!
- You might call your teacher by their first name. FE colleges are adult learning environments and help to prepare students for university or work.
- Each course will have a different timetable, which may include evenings. If you are studying catering or hospitality, your college may expect students to support evening events, for example.
- You will also be expected to do some independent study in the Learning Resource Centre or at home.
10. Lots of Other Activities
Sign up to get involved in lots of activities such as; the college sports teams and academies, clubs such as film or knitting, volunteer with Duke of Edinburgh and National Citizen Service, stand for election in the Student Union, etc. Most colleges shape their extra-curricular offer according to their students’ views and interests and actively encourage students to start their own clubs and societies. If a college does not currently run a club that reflects your interest, there may be support for you to set it up – that looks great on a CV or university application!
11. Increase your earning power
The more you earn is linked to the more you learn so getting a qualification through a FE College will increase your earning power.
Government data shows that 3 years after achieving a further education qualification, average earnings of an advanced apprenticeship in engineering increased from £24,800 1 year after study to £30,300 3 years after study.
The government research also shows that the average earnings of a person who achieves a Level 2 Apprenticeship is 11% higher 3 to 5 years after qualifying than someone who starts the qualification but does not achieve it.
A new drive to ensure everyone has maths and English at GCSE or above, also means that employers are increasingly including this in their entry requirements for their jobs.