What, where, how to study

Higher education in further education colleges

Higher education (HE) is not all about moving away from home or studying at a university. Going to a local further education (FE) college for an HE course is an option worth considering for a number of reasons.

What are the benefits?

  • FE colleges offer more vocationally-related HE qualifications and this can mean a good chance of employment after the course or, for students currently employed, possible career progression. 
  • Colleges often offer HE courses that are shorter than Honours Degrees, such as Foundation Degrees and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs). These normally take two years full time, with the option to study for an extra year to gain a full Honours Degree. You can sometimes do a Higher National Certificate (HNC) which is often studied part time and is a stepping stone to an HND. 
  • The entry requirements for some HE courses within a college might be more flexible than studying a degree at university.
  • HE courses in FE colleges often have smaller class sizes so there can be closer interaction with tutors and more study support. 
  • HE courses in FE colleges are often offered part time so they can fit around work or family commitments. 
  • Where universities charge up to £9,250 per year in tuition fees, many HE courses at FE colleges cost less.

What types of HE courses are offered in FE colleges?

FE colleges offer most types of HE courses but the variety will differ according to each institution – Foundation Degrees, HND/HNCs, Honours Degrees, Degree Apprenticeships, professional qualifications and even some postgraduate courses. In addition, FE colleges offer courses to prepare people for HE level study, such Access to HE Diploma and foundation year programmes.

Choosing an HE course in an FE college

  • It’s worth shopping around as tuition fees are set by individual FE colleges so can vary widely.
  • Most FE colleges also offer English and maths GCSE courses and a number of options for pre-HE study if you need to prepare to apply for HE level qualifications.
  • You can search for courses on the UCAS website, which is also where you apply for most full-time programmes.

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