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What grades and qualifications are needed for higher education/university?

What do we mean by Higher Education? Higher Education is any course or training which is at Level 4 or above, with Level 6 being equivalent to a degree. You can see all qualifications and levels in a grid by following this link to Careerpilot but, for comparison, Level 2 is GCSEs 4-9, Level 3 is A levels/Level 3 BTECs and T Levels.

With over 37,000 courses available at over 370 different Higher Education institutions such as universities or colleges, it is a complicated picture so find out more by reading the 'HE at 18/19 or later' section on Careerpilot. There are many different types of higher education courses available and you can find out more about each type of HE course on Careerpilot. You can also search for a degree course and find out the entry requirements which can vary significantly in different universities.

How the type of HE course can determine entry requirements

What type of HE course, which subject and where your child wants to study will determine the entry qualifications required. Different courses require different grades and some courses might specify subjects they expect a young person to have studied before they apply, like certain A levels, and even specific GCSEs. As each university can set their own entry requirements, this can differ from university to university for the same level course and the same subject.

There are courses available which will ask for the top grades, A* at A level or Distinction* at BTEC, and then other courses which are far more flexible requiring E grades or passes at BTEC, and everything in-between! As a parent, you might be concerned that taking a course which doesn’t require such high grades may mean that it is not a worthwhile investment of your child’s time and money, but graduates from all of the different HE courses have the potential to gain a good graduate outcome. You can find out more about what happens to students after their courses by following these links:

Entry to HE can be from a whole range of qualifications - not just A Levels

Many young people take A Levels at a school or college and there can be the assumption that these are the only qualifications which will give you entry onto a Higher Education course. Whilst these are highly acceptable qualifications they are not the only qualifications which many Higher Education courses will accept. BTEC Diplomas, the Cambridge Pre-U,  International Baccalaureate and the new T Levels, are just a few of the numerous qualifications which might be considered. Whether a university will accept these qualifications for a particular course is up to them, so the best advice you can give your child is for them to check the entry requirements on the university's website and on the UCAS website.

Depending on the subject they are applying to study, a university may be very specific about the type of qualifications they require for entry and very specific about the previous subjects studied. For example a subject such as medicine is highly likely to require previous academic study in scientific subjects whilst other subjects such as Law or Politics may be far more flexible and make no specific requests. Some university courses may require or prefer A Levels for some of their courses, whilst others may be very happy to consider other qualifications.  The Russell Group of universities which are known for being leading research institutions in the UK have produced a guide to A level subjects and degree courses called Informed Choices

How some HE courses ask for grades, some for UCAS points

Some courses will ask for grades whilst other courses will ask for UCAS tariff points, these come from the grades achieved, with a certain number of points being awarded e.g 56 for a A*, 48 for an A, etc. Some universities use this method to help them decide who should be offered a place. Your child’s school or college should be able to tell you more about this or you can use the UCAS Tariff Calculator to estimate your likely UCAS points. 

More information

As the entry requirements can vary so much your child needs to check the specifics on the university website. If it is not clear, don’t be afraid of encouraging your child to email the university direct – either contacting the Admissions Department or a course contact.

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