Different ways to study

Generally, courses can be divided into levels and types.  The table below shows the different levels of courses you can study at a further education college.  Nearly all the courses listed in our course finder will have entry requirements (what qualifications you already need in order to take the course) and a level or description to indicate what type of course it is.  

Types of courses can cover a wide range of descriptions, but here's a guide to the main types we offer:

  • Vocational - these tend to be more hands on, work-related and practical courses than you might have experienced at school.  Qualifications in this area could be BTECs or City and Guilds, but there are other types.  The subjects are usually broad, and cover industry sectors such as Business or Health & Social Care.
  • Vocational Technical Programmes - these tend to be even more practical and often train you for specific professions such as hairdressing, catering or joinery.
  • Advanced Level Courses - these are more academic programmes of study such as A-Levels which can often be studied in combination with a vocational course to boost your theoretical knowledge of a subject - and your UCAS points!
  • Apprenticeships - these are job roles with an employer where the apprentice learns on the job and the majority (or all) of the training happens in the workplace.  An assessor will usually visit you in the workplace and you may attend College for one day a week.
  • Foundation  - these are courses to develop your skills, confidence, and employability at a foundation level to help you move on to vocational courses.
  • Access to HE - these are courses that prepare people for study in higher education (university-level study).
  • Higher Education - these courses are university-level courses and can be degrees, foundation degrees, HNCs or HNDs.
  • Teacher Training - these courses train people who are qualified in specific subjects how to teach or tutor others.
  • Professional Qualifications and Training - these courses are often to help people in specific professions further their career and can be qualifications to join professional bodies, such as CIPD and AAT.
  • T Levels - a brand new qualification designed to give young people a head start in the world of work by giving them a technical qualification with a significant work placement component included.

To help you find what you need, we also divide courses into different categories.  You will see these when you use the course search. They are things like full-time, part-time, or distance learning.

Most courses are categorised as full-time or part-time (indicating the amount of time you will spend being taught) and some categories indicate other modes of study such as distance learning or higher education.  Even if a course is described as full-time, this does not mean you will be in College Monday - Friday, college is not like school and outside of taught or practical lessons, you will be expected to study independently.  Higher education is similar - you will spend time in lectures and seminars, but there will often be a large amount of research and independent study.

Use the course finder to search for a subject you're interested in, then use the filter or advanced search to narrow down the right type of course and level for you. 

More about levels

Entry level is pre-GCSE level; level one is the equivalent to GCSEs grade D to G/1-3; level two is the equivalent to GCSEs grade A* to C/4-9; and level three is equivalent to A-levels. Levels four and above are higher education qualifications or their equivalents.

Size - vocational qualifications use different descriptions to describe how much there is to learn and are usually either an award (smaller), certificate (medium) or diploma (larger). 

For example:

  • Level One NVQ Certificate in Beauty Therapy
  • Level Two Diploma in Bricklaying
  • Level Three BTEC Diploma in IT

The table below gives examples of vocational qualifications at the various levels and the equivalent academic qualifications.

Image. Qualifications table.jpg 

If you need help making sense of the qualifications you're interested in, our guidance staff are happy to help. To make an appointment or request a chat on the phone, call 0345 120 0044 or email [email protected]