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Higher Education

Higher Education (HE) is the final, optional stage of education in the UK.

Traditionally higher educational courses were offered at university, but now you can take higher educational courses at colleges as well as through distance learning courses – the Open University is the most well-known provider of distance learning courses and many private companies offer similar qualifications. Higher education qualifications include:

HNC (Higher National Certificate)

An HNC takes one year to complete and is considered equivalent to completing the first year of an undergraduate degree course. Though it covers many of the same subjects as the HND (see below), it is actually a level below but can be used to go on to complete a HND.

HND (Higher National Diploma)

An HND is considered to be roughly equivalent to the second year of a university degree and many people who complete a HND go on to complete a university degree, bypassing the first two years at university. It is usually geared towards more vocational subjects and students studying for a HND can usually expect a more workplace-based style of learning. Subjects offered at HND level include music production, jewellery, business and accountancy. It takes two years to complete, unless you have completed a HNC (see above), in which case the HND takes only a year to complete.

Foundation degree

A foundation degree is designed to give students basic knowledge in their subject areas and most students who complete a foundation degree then go on to study for a university-based bachelor’s degree. Foundation degrees are ideal for those who wish to gain workplace-based skills while also gaining a more academic platform for their chosen career.

As with HNDs and HNCs, there are lots of vocational subjects offered at foundation level which make it perfect for people who want to go into careers such as accountancy, pharmacy and town planning. Foundation degrees are also great for those who are unsure whether they want to commit to years of extra study. After achieving a foundation degree, you can choose to go on to study for an honours degree, but it doesn’t have to be straight away. Though many students go on to top up their foundation degree to a full honours degree, a foundation degree is a degree in its own right.

Honours degree

Honours degrees come in a variety of types, including BA (Bachelor of Arts), BSc (Bachelor of Science), BEng (Bachelor of Engineering), BM (Bachelor of Medicine), BEd (Bachelor of Education), and LLB (Bachelor of Laws).

The subjects that you can study for a degree in are too many to mention and they are all listed on the UCAS website. You can also study for a joint honours degree, in for example Creative writing and Psychology.

As well as traditional degrees, universities and higher education establishments also offer many other kinds of courses and qualifications. These include full time and part time courses, such as the one-year Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE), the two-year Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE).

To go to university in the UK, you will have to apply through the official channels. UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) are in charge of allocating university and college places to students and to filling spaces on university courses.

Post graduate higher education

Masters degrees

If you love learning then once you have completed your degree, you may choose to continue in higher education and gain a master’s degree. This will take another year if you study full time or another two years studying part time. Many people complete their master’s degree part time whilst working. On completion, rather than placing BA or BSc after your name, you can use MA or MSc (or whichever master’s abbreviation matches your studies)

And beyond…PhD

PhD stands for Doctor of philosophy – it doesn’t mean that you study philosophy though; it refers to the love of wisdom that goes with study at this level.  A PhD normally takes between three and five years to complete.

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