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What is Higher education in a further education college?

Many Further Education colleges now offer Higher Education programmes. These may include HNCs, HNDs or degrees.

HNCs and HNDs

Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) are work-related, or vocational, higher education qualifications. They are Level 5 qualifications (you can see all qualifications in a table by Level here). These are studied part time alongside a relevant job and often by mature learners. HNCs and HNDs focus on 'learning by doing' and give skills that can be used in a particular job. They are highly valued by employers and can also count towards membership of professional bodies and other employer organisations. HNCs and HNDs are available in a wide range of subject areas, from Agriculture to Engineering.

Two year Foundation degree (Fdg)

A Foundation Degree is a degree level qualification combining work place learning with a programme of academic study. The content is designed in association with employers, with the aim to equip students with the relevant skills, knowledge and understanding to achieve academic results whilst also improving their workplace performance. Sometimes employers will ‘sponsor’ or pay for employees to undertake these qualifications. It is often a requirement of some Foundation Degrees that the applicant already has relevant employment, however academic entry requirements from previous study can be set by individual colleges.

Some FE Colleges can award their own degrees, some rely on partner universities (a student would be taught at the college but would receive their qualification from a University), and some colleges have achieved the status of College of FE and HE in recognition of a large and high quality HE provision.

'A Foundation Degree is the equivalent of two thirds of a full honours degree and is a fully flexible qualification allowing students to study part-time or full-time to fit their lifestyle.’ UCAS.com

Foundation degrees are available in a whole range of subjects e.g Animal Management, Action on Addiction, Games and Animation Production, etc. Check with a college to find out what they offer or look on the UCAS site.

A ‘top up’ year to a full Honours Degree

Top up qualifications are for students who have successfully completed a Foundation Degree and want to continue their studies in order to achieve a full Honours Degree qualification. Not all FE colleges will offer ‘top up’ years in the same subject as the Foundation degree, but a search on UCAS, the higher education admission site, will display all available top ups.

Honours degree programmes (BA/BSc etc)

Many FE colleges now offer full Honours Degrees. The entry requirements and application procedure is found on the UCAS website as with university-run degree courses. Degrees in FE colleges are sometimes validated or franchised by a university or maybe offered directly by the college. Where the degree is validated by a university, the student is often able to access the facilities and benefits of that university, such as the libraries or Student Union.

Examples of full bachelor’s degrees available in FE Colleges via full time degree courses or post-Foundation Degree top up include lots of subjects; from Applied Computing to Graphic Design, Musical Theatre to Public and Environmental Health.

HE in FE college - vocationally focused and can be cheaper

HE courses in FE colleges are always vocationally related. They are likely to be cheaper than a University degree with fees for Foundation Degrees averaging about £7500 per year.

Some colleges also offer accommodation for students and may offer specific facilities such as a common room or study centre for HE students. HE provision like this often appeals to students who want to stay close to home to study or find the idea of continuing to study at the FE College they have already attended, appealing.

Many FE colleges with HE provision will also provide ‘student experience’ activities for those who wish to join in, such as Fresher’s Fair, parties and trips.

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