Further or Higher Education?

What’s the difference? Let’s take a closer look.


Further education

Isn’t it basically college or sixth form?
Yes. Further education is a college, community learning institute, or the equivalent to the sixth-form part of a school. In Essex these are Writtle University College, Colchester Institute, Chelmsford College, New City College (Epping), and The Sixth Form, Colchester.

However, because a sixth form is part of a school it can only teach 16 to 18-year-olds, but a further education college can open its doors to 16-year-olds upwards to any age. And, further education community colleges are open to everyone, offering for example evening classes, vocational courses, access courses, and adult learning courses.

What kind of qualifications you can get from further education?

Anything from level 1 all the way up to a degree, level 6, including A-levels or the equivalent to A-levels.

Further education colleges play the role of providing the skills we need to move onto higher education, or into work.

Other qualifications they offer include HNDs, HNCs, NVQ level 3s and BTECs – up to level 5 – to find out more about levels of qualifications and what they mean, view this list on the gov.uk website.

What’s important to remember, Level 3 is the usual level of qualification required to get into university – so by taking a further education course rather than A-levels, you won’t necessarily be ruling out university.

Higher education

Isn’t it another word for university?
Sort of! Traditionally, higher education meant university, but now there are many more options available including taking a higher education-level qualification through a further education college – so you don’t have to move away from your home town or change institution, and it can also mean taking a degree apprenticeship.

It’s basically what comes next if you want to pursue your studies, after successfully completing a level 3 course, and working towards getting an academic degree, or take a degree apprenticeship at level 6 and upwards.

The nature of a university is that is offers a very broad range of sources, subjects and modules, for academic undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorate-level study. However, you can do degree-level courses at other further education colleges too, up to level 6 but no higher. Degree and higher apprenticeships come under the umbrella of higher education, because their final qualification is level 6.

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"By taking a further education course rather than A-levels, you won’t necessarily be ruling out university."