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Further education at 16+

What are the course options at an FE College?

A range of different courses

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.

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.

Vocational Courses

FE colleges offer a big range of  vocational courses and qualifications. Find out more about different types of qualifications.

Broad subject based courses

If you have a vocational area you are interested in – but would like to keep your career options open - then colleges offer qualifications called Applied General Qualifications - BTECs and Diplomas in subjects such as business, fashion, health and social care and art and design. These courses are offered at a range of levels and enable a student to progress to employment, apprenticeships or university. 

T levels

These are two year level 3 qualifications that are gradually being introduced into FE Colleges over the next few years. They are intended to develop skills and knowledge for a specific job sector such as construction, design and development, education and childcare. They include three months work experience and can lead on to university or apprenticeships.

Specific job related courses

If you know exactly what job you want to do you can do a practical course to train you to do this job such as hairdressing, catering and carpentry. These can lead on to further courses, jobs and apprenticeships.

Foundation learning courses 

FE colleges offer a range of entry level courses that can provide extra support, help to build your confidence and help you develop your maths, English and employability skills. They can also offer additional support if you have any barriers to learning or progression. These maybe available until you are 24 years old depending on your situation.

Here is an example of a college's foundation learning programmes.


FE colleges work with employers to train apprentices. A college often provides the 'off the job'  technical training for an employer. A college may advertise an employer's apprenticeship vacancies on their website. Each college may offer different types of apprenticeships.

Find out more about apprenticeships.


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 offer young people the opportunity to gain work experience and get ready for the world of work.

Find out more about traineeships.

Art Foundation Courses

The Art Foundation Course is a popular course at FE college. These are aimed at students who have completed Art or other creative A levels or BTEC Art and Design. Specialisms such as drawing, painting, textiles, printmaking, and graphics maybe covered by the course. This broad curriculum enables you to develop your creative skills,  helps you prepare a portfolio and make informed decisions about what subject you may want to study at university.

This course is usually free if you start it before you are 19 years old. 

Access to HE Courses  

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 9 - 4 GCSE grades in Maths and English GCSE before they start the course. 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 and can lead on to degrees in teaching, nursing, social work, psychology and engineering.

Is Access to HE for you? 

What's it like on an Access course?

Higher education in FE

Some FE Colleges offer HE vocational courses such as the BTEC Higher National Certificate HNC or Higher National Diploma HND courses. These are either full time or part time alongside a job or as part of a Higher Apprenticeship. They can be studied in a broad range of areas from photography to health and social care or business. 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 FE 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.

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