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Higher education at 18+

Higher Education in a Further Education College (FE)

What is Higher Education in a Further Education College?

Many Further Education Colleges offer HE courses which are often linked with universities.  

This option might really suit some students - for example, those who want to stay closer to home because it might be cheaper or because they have family or personal commitments. Some might prefer to study in a smaller environment and be particularly interested in a shorter course related to a vocational area (with an option to top up to a full Honours Degree later). 

What are the benefits?

FE colleges tend to offer HE qualifications such as HNDs, HNCs or Foundation Degrees which relate directly to certain jobs or industries and often include practical work experience as part of the course. These courses tend to take two years full time with the option of topping up to a full degree in the third year.

A lot of HE courses in FE colleges can be taken on a part-time basis meaning they can fit around existing commitments like part-time work, child care, etc. These courses tend to have lower fees too: where universities charge up to £9250 per year, many Foundation Degree courses at FE colleges cost from £6000. Whilst this does mean that your student debt is smaller, remember that your repayments are not based on what you have borrowed, but on what you are earning. In addition, if you want to top up to a degree, you will have to pay for this. 

What types of HE courses are offered in FE colleges?

Foundation degrees

A Foundation Degree is a degree-level qualification combining academic study with work-place learning. Designed with employers, they aim to equip people with the skills, knowledge and understanding to achieve academic results as well as being able to do the job. Foundation Degrees are aimed at particular jobs or professions and intended to provide professional skills for people currently working in these industries or for those hoping to enter.

A Foundation Degree is the equivalent of two thirds of a full degree and they are often offered as full- or part-time. There are no set entry requirements for Foundation Degrees, but they can vary: for learners who have just completed a Level 3 qualification, UCAS points might be required. 'Topping up’ a Foundation Degree to a full Honours Degree requires a further year of study at the college or partner university. See UCAS for more information.


Higher National Diplomas and Higher National Certificates are work-related courses provided by a number of FE colleges. Generally speaking an HND is the equivalent to two years at university but they can often be studied part time over four years. HNCs and HNDs focus on 'learning by doing' and develop skills that you can use in a particular job. This route could be good for you if you prefer a more 'hands-on' approach to learning. 

Many students who undertake these courses are already employed in the industry and the qualification helps them to further their career or update their knowledge. They are highly valued by employers and can also count towards membership of professional bodies. Entry requirements for a HNC/D vary and relevant professional or technical experience is often taken into account. Progression from an HNC/D can include further study at university which can lead to an degree, or entry to and progression within a related industry.


Many colleges offering HE courses work in partnership with universities local to them. This means you may be able to study a full degree at your local college but be awarded the qualification by a university. In addition, you often have access to the University’s resources such as online support or library services.

How to find out more and how to apply

If you want to find out more about what is offered near you, visit your local college’s website. Alternatively, all full-time HE courses, whether taught at FE colleges or universities, can be found on the UCAS website. The UCAS website gives details of all entry requirements and course content. For full-time courses apply through UCAS. As a HE learner you will be eligible to apply for student finance too through Student Finance England.

Some part-time courses might require you to apply directly to the college.

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