What other further education is there besides university?

At times, it feels like every man and his dog is going to university to study everything from dog-walking to astrophysics. But seriously, if you feel like university isn’t the right place for you, then don’t feel pressured to go. It’s a lot of money to invest if you’re not sure on the place or the course! There are plenty of other options to go into further education, to help you gain qualifications without having to pay for a degree. Career Camel gives you a full low-down on what else you can do.


NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) are one of the most popular further education qualifications because they are taken alongside employment, so people can learn while they earn. They are based on ‘national occupational standards’ – basically, a statement of performance explaining what competent people in that occupation are expected to be able to do. The aim of an NVQ is to test one’s abilities in the workplace by completing work-related tasks. These tasks will cover the best practice of your occupation, possible future adaptations and how to fully achieve competent performance, all the time. Your abilities can be assessed in a variety of ways, including a portfolio (evidence of work you’ve completed) or observation (an assessor watches you work and ensures you’ve completed the tasks). There are a high number of different subjects available, from hairdressing to

NVQs do not have to be completed in a certain amount of time and can be taken both by full-time employees, or college students who are doing a part-time placement. There are no age limits or entry requirements, and qualifications can suit both beginners and those looking to increase their skill set. SVQs are the same as NVQs, but run in Scotland only, and IVQs (International Vocational Qualifications) are similar but equip you for the international marketplace specifically.


This qualification stands for Business and Technology Education Council and are vocational, work-related courses intended to fit the needs of employers. They are more of a practical approach to learning and can be taken at all levels, from GCSE to degree equivalent. The BTEC can be taken at different sizes – the first is the Award, then the Certificate, then the Diploma, and they are graded as Pass, Merit or Distinction. There are a number of different levels, which include:

– Entry (a basic introduction to an industry)
– Introductory (Level 1)
Nationals (Level 3; specialist qualifications)
Foundation Diploma in Art and Design (Level 3)
Higher Nationals (Level 5)
Development/Professional Development qualifications (Levels 4-8)
BTEC Short Courses (all levels)
WorkSkills (entry-Level 2)

BTECs usually take one or two years to complete, and a Level 2 BTEC Diploma is equivalent to four A*-C grade GCSEs. Subjects you can study include applied science, art and design, hair and beauty, travel and tourism, health and social care, media and sport, among others.

Technical Levels

Also known as Tech Levels, young people can take these to equip them for a specialist occupation, such as engineering or computing. It is a qualification equivalent to an A Level, and if a student takes one or more Tech Levels along with a Maths qualification at A Level (or equivalent) and an extended project, they achieve the Technical Baccalaureate. These qualifications often allow entry to employment or an apprenticeship which would normally require you to pass an exam first.

Core, Essential and Functional Skills

Formerly the qualifications for Key Skills, these are basically the same qualification with different names (Functional Skills in the UK, Core Skills in Scotland and Essential Skills in Wales). The qualification covers the essential skills required for employment – literacy, numeracy, communication and information technology. They also cover things like teamwork and problem solving.

Advanced General Qualifications

These are like more advanced versions of the Skills qualifications above – continuing general education at a higher level through applied learning. You will be equipped with transferable skills and knowledge and can fulfil entry requirements for a number of higher education courses, apprenticeships or employment.

Foundation degree

A vocational qualification in higher education, the Foundation degree gives one a basic knowledge in a subject to enable them to go on to employment which they may not need a full degree for, or further study. It is similar in level to the associate’s degree in the US, but is below the level of an Honours degree in the UK. Foundation degrees usually take one or two years to complete, and students can normally “top-up” to an honours degree by studying for another one or two years.

Higher National Diploma

Sometimes shortened to HND, the Diploma is equivalent to the second year of a three-year university course, and can be used to enter university at an advanced level. They are more vocational than typical academic degrees so help gain better knowledge and skill-based experience than in academia. Students can usually “top-up” their Diploma by entering onto the third year of a degree course. Before taking the HND, students can take the BTEC Higher National Certificate (HNC) qualification, which is roughly equivalent to one year of university. HNC students can then “top-up” to the HND.

Home and Distance Learning

With it’s popularity always on the rise, minaly thanks to improvements in technology, on-line courses are now a great option for everyone to consider. You can now find home or distance learning courses in almost anything and can achieve a variety of qualitications. To find out more, browse our courses catalogue to see and enquire about a selection of courses available on-line.

You have plenty of options so get researching to find the right qualification for you!

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