Further education at 16+

What are the course options at an FE College?

A range of different courses

  • GCSE or A levels : The GCSE offer at each college will vary but all English and maths will be offered to those who have not achieved a 4 yet.
  • Vocational Subjects: An example of these is Applied General Qualifications and these can be taken alongside other vocational courses or A levels. They are related to a broad subject area such as creative and media.
  • Vocational Courses: These include both courses that lead to broad subject areas such as Health and Social Care and also courses that are related to specific jobs such as plumbing.
  • Apprenticeships where a student is based predominantly or completely with a paying employer and is assessed either in that workplace by a visiting assessor or by attending a college for a day or week at a time
  • Courses that prepare people for Higher Education, such as Access Courses or the Art Foundation/Post- A level Art Course
  • Vocational Higher Education Level courses, such as Foundation Degrees, Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) and Certificates (HNCs)
  • Foundation Courses to develop maths, English, studyskills, confidence and employability. These courses can give students the chance to try out several different vocational areas
  • Learning for leisure: These courses are usually part-time and often in the evenings. They may involve learning more about a hobby or interest e.g. ceramics, art.
  • Courses aimed at overseas students such as English Language Courses or preparation courses for university

All young people must now stay in education or training until their 18th birthday. Many young people choose to go to Further Education College at 16 or 18 so they can develop their skills and qualifications before they progress into a job or higher education course, either at a college or a university.

Explore college websites to find out what they offer, and read on to see more details about the different courses and qualifications that colleges generally offer.

Take a look at Bath College

Academic Courses

A lot of students opt to study A levels after their GCSEs. Entry requirements are typically 5 GCSE grades 9 to 4. Some subjects may ask for additional grades. For example, to study Further Maths A level, you might be required to have achieved a grade 8 or 9 in your GCSE maths.

Students studying A levels typically select 3 subjects to study over two years. The subjects you can do will vary between colleges so make sure you check out what is being offered. In some colleges, where timetabling allows, students can take an A level alongside a vocational course like an Applied General Qualification. 

Some colleges and sixth forms offer the opportunity to study another academic course known as International Baccalaureate or IB for short.This course enables students to study a range of subjects and is assessed slightly differently to A levels. It is well respected by businesses and universities due to its reputation of being well rounded and demanding. To find out about IB watch students talking about their experience of the IB at Exeter College and read course content options here.

Vocational Courses

If you have a vocational area you are interested in – but would like to keep your career options open - then colleges offer courses that lead to a general vocational area, such as business, fashion, health and social care, art and design, engineering, etc. These courses are offered at a range of levels and enable a student to progress to employment, apprenticeships or university. Often these study programmes include work experience or work placements.

Find out more about vocational qualifications here.

Foundation Courses to develop skills

If you are not sure what you want to do, some colleges offer courses where you can try out a range of different subjects and then decide which one you want to continue with at the end of the year.

There are courses to help develop your maths, English, study skills, confidence and employability.


An apprenticeship is a full-time job with training. A college can provide the training and may be able to support students with finding an employer. Some apprenticeships are delivered entirely in the workplace through visits by an assessor. Some require the student to attend college once a week or for a week at a time. Apprenticeship frameworks include a qualification relevant to the job, some English, maths and other elements.

Find out more about apprenticeships here.


Traineeships are ideal for young people who want to get a job or apprenticeship but who lack the skills and experience that employers are looking for. Traineeships help young people get ready for the world of work and improve their chances of getting an apprenticeship or other job.

Find out more about traineeships here.

Access Courses - prep for a HE level course

This one year course is aimed at adults who have been out of education for at least two years and would like to go on to study a Higher Education course.

Most FE colleges require students to have already achieved grades A* – C (9 - 4 on new GCSE grades) in maths and English GCSE, as these qualifications are often required by universities. Some colleges may offer a Pre-Access year for students to achieve their maths and English GCSEs.

Access courses are offered in a range of different subject areas, such as medicine, social sciences, engineering, etc. Courses are designed to help students get onto specific university courses.

What's it like on an Access course?

Higher education in FE

Colleges offer a vocational Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) either full time or part time alongside a job or a Higher Apprenticeship. These courses can lead on to the second year of a full time degree or to career development in a job.

Some universities also offer higher education courses such as Foundation Degrees which are delivered at a college. Usually these are two years full time and focus on a specific job or profession. They can lead directly on to the final year of a degree course in the subject area.

These courses usually cost a lot less than studying at a university. They often have flexible entry requirements and may look at relevant work experience as well as academic qualifications.

Find out more about Foundation Degrees

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