European Social Fund

Qualifications Explained

Here is a guide to explain the different levels of courses available.

Access to HE

The Access to Higher Education (HE) is a full level 3 qualification that is completed within 1 year. Successful completion of this qualification enables you to enter HE on a variety of programmes including Degrees and Foundation degrees. If you are 24+ you may be eligible for an Advanced Learning Loan to pay the fees for the course. If you successfully complete the access programme and complete a programme in HE you will have the amount outstanding for the Access programme written off on completion of your degree.

HNC & HND Programmes

HNCs usually take one year to complete and are a Level 4 qualification (equivalent to the first year of study on an Honours Degree). HNDs usually take two years to complete and as a Level 5 qualification equate to the first two years of Honours Degree study.

Foundation Degrees (FDA)

This is a Level 5 qualification, sitting below the Honours Degrees (at Level 6) and is at the same level as a HND. It is possible to ‘top-up’ your Foundation Degree to an Honours Degree through a period of further study. You can also use them to progress to further professional qualifications. This qualification is work-related which provides the specialist knowledge and skills needed within the relevant sector.

Top-up Degrees (BA/BSc)

Following the successful completion of a Foundation Degree or HND you may be entitled to continue your studies in order to achieve a full Honours Degree. These qualifications usually take between 1 and 2 years of study on a full-time basis.

Higher Apprenticeships

These are worked based programmes that are delivered at levels 4-6 dependent upon the framework you undertake. They combine full-time employment with higher education and you will gain a nationally recognised qualification equivalent to a HNC, HND or foundation degree. These allow you to earn while you learn and give you the opportunity to develop professional-level, job specific skills.

If you prefer to earn as you learn, you can study university qualifications with a Higher Apprenticeship.