Your HE options

See all the different higher education routes below and find out the option that works for you.

What is Higher Education (HE)?

Higher Education applies to any form of education that results in a level 4 qualification or above. Basically, it’s continued study after you leave school/sixth form and offers a number of qualifications. See this handy diagram below:

HE levels

Undergraduate Degree

An undergraduate degree is an academic step up from A-levels (or their equivalent), typically completed at a university or other higher education institution. An honours degree is the most common and widely studied undergraduate qualification, with thousands of courses available across the UK. Studying for a Bachelors degree at university will give you an in-depth understanding of one or more subjects. It typically takes three to four years of full-time study to complete an honours degree, with many institutions including the option to spend a year in industry or study abroad. Some courses, such as medicine and architecture, are exceptions and run for much longer, while you can also choose to study a degree on a part-time basis. Obtaining a Bachelors degree broadens your horizons in the job market. The Department for Education’s (DfE) Graduate Labour Market statistics 2018 report shows that graduates have significantly higher rates of employment and earn on average nearly £10,000 more per year than non-graduates.

For more information, see Prospects website

Foundation Degree

A foundation degree is the academic equivalent of two-thirds of a Bachelors degree, a Higher National Diploma (HND) and Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE). Created in partnership between universities, higher education colleges and employers, these courses focus on developing in-demand skills. Therefore, foundation degrees provide a strong platform for candidates seeking employment – but also open doors for those looking to study a full undergraduate qualification further down the line. If you choose to study the qualification full time, it will typically take you two years to complete. The part time route usually lasts for around four years.

Note: A Foundation Degree is not the same thing as a Foundation year! Read up on Foundation years

Higher National Certificates and Diplomas (HNC/HND)

Both HNC and HND courses are undergraduate qualifications (like a degree), but they take less time to complete and are often designed to prepare you for a specific career.

What’s an HNC?

A full-time Higher National Certificate (HNC) takes one year to complete, or two years part-time. Many HNC courses cover the same subjects as an HND, but an HNC is one level below an HND (it’s generally equivalent to the first year at university).

What’s an HND?

A Higher National Diploma (HND) is a work-related course provided by higher and further education colleges in the UK. A full-time HND takes two years to complete, or three to four years part-time. Generally an HND is the equivalent to two years at university.

Higher Apprenticeships

Higher Apprenticeships are a great way to earn money and essential skills whilst learning and making connections in a particular industry. They offer a work-based learning programme and lead to the following nationally recognised qualifications:

Level 4 and 5 – equivalent to a higher education certificate, higher education diploma or a foundation degree.

Level 6 – equivalent to a bachelor degree.

A higher apprenticeship can take from one to five years to complete, and involve part-time study at a college, university, or training provider.

Get some great apprenticeship resources and find out where to look for them in this booklet from AccessHE.

Degree Apprenticeships

Degree apprenticeships work similar to Higher Apprenticeships, but combine working with studying part-time at a university. Apprentices are employed throughout the programme, and spend part of their time at university and the rest with their employer. They can take between three to six years to complete, depending on the course level. Degree apprenticeships are still quite new, so there are a limited number of vacancies and competition is high.

Thinking about doing a higher/degree apprenticeship? Find out what it’s like here.

Still deciding whether to go to Uni or do an apprenticeship?

Visit the Prospects website to weigh up your options.