What is Further Education (FE)?
Further Education usually means courses taken at a College, either at the end of Year 11 or later.
Colleges offer a whole range of different courses and study programmes from those that do not need any specific GCSE grades such as Entry Level courses through to apprenticeships, A Levels, Higher Education degrees, and professional or technical qualifications.
Most full time college courses are attended by 16–19 year olds, but you will find plenty of adults studying in a college on a range of short, part-time, professional or Higher Education courses.
Some large colleges in big towns and cities may offer up to 80 different courses while some colleges like to specialise, for example, in Devon, Bicton College is a ‘College of the Countryside’ specialising in courses such as agriculture, horticulture and equine studies. Strode College offers 36 different A Level subjects and they have more 16 year olds studying there than most sixth forms!
Some schools in the South of England do not have sixth forms so most students will go to a college when they are 16. At some colleges post 16 students doing an A Level programme are integrated with all the other departments but sometimes they might be in a separate building or campus of the college. It is important you visit to see what sort of environment is right for you.
Courses offered at FE Colleges
- GCSE or A levels The GCSE offer at each college will vary, there is often a large choice of different subjects and all will offer English and maths
- Vocational subjects are related to a broad employment area (such as business, IT, engineering or health & social care) and can lead to a large variety of different types of work, apprenticeships and university courses
- Practical Vocational Courses (often now called Tech Levels) that lead to specific jobs such as hairdressing, plumbing, or engineering.
- Apprenticeships where a student undertakes paid work predominantly or completely with an employer and is assessed either in that workplace by a visiting assessor, or by attending a college for a day or week at a time.
- Courses that prepare people for Higher Education, such as Access Courses or an Art Foundation Course/post A level Art course.
- Vocational Higher Education Level courses, such as Foundation Degrees, Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) and Certificates (HNCs).
- Foundation Courses to develop maths, English, studyskills, confidence and employability. These courses can give students the chance to try out several different vocational areas.
- Learning for leisure these courses are usually part-time and often in the evenings. They may involve learning more about a hobby or interest e.g. ceramics, art.
- Courses aimed at overseas students such as English Language Courses or preparation courses for university
All young people must now stay in education or training until their 18th birthday. Many young people choose to leave school after 16 and go to Further Education College so they can develop their skills and qualifications before they progress into a job or higher education course, either at a college or a university.
Watch this video to see what a college is like
FE institutions work closely with employers to offer courses that relate to the local jobs market, so it can really help students develop skills and qualifications to make them more employable.
FE colleges are friendly and diverse learning environments. Students come from different countries and from all different backgrounds and with a whole range of abilities. As well as supporting students across all courses, a college may also have provision for students with more complex learning difficulties or disabilities.
Every FE College is different, some are very large and run over several sites, whilst others are small and based in the centre of a city or town or in a rural area with their own accommodation. Make sure you visit open evenings and other events and ask the colleges about the destinations of their students – what do they go on to study, do they find relevant work?
When choosing your FE college; think about the sort of environment you will be happy in, how easy is it to get there, will the course or study programme they offer get you where you want to go, do they have clubs and activities to interest you?
College is for all age groups
14 – 16 year olds
A few students may come to an FE college to study vocational courses through a specific pre 16 programme whilst they are still learning at school. This could involve the student doing 1 or 2 days a week at school and the same at college.
These arrangements are normally made as an agreement between the college and the school. Ask your school for more information.
16 to 19 year olds
Further Education tuition is free for 16–19 year olds. Students of this age go to college for all sorts of courses, such as A levels, vocational courses, apprenticeships, etc.
Most full time courses at college are aimed at young people with little experience of the world of work and they focus on developing a student's employability skills while they complete their courses.
Over 19 years old
- There are lots of adults doing professional part time courses in the evening like business and accountancy qualifications.
- Many adults are doing courses to improve their maths, English, IT and study skills to enable them to progress at work or onto another course.
- Leisure courses are also available to develop skills such as painting, creative writing and photography.
- Many FE courses also attract adults who are looking for cheaper and flexible study options at a Higher Education level, such as Foundation Degrees or HNDs and HNCs.
- For some courses, students aged 19 or older may need to pay fees. Check with the college to find out more.
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