Qualifications explained

Unsure which level is right for you? Read on to find out more about the most common types of qualifications.

We offer further and higher education programmes at a range of stages, helping you progress towards your chosen career goals. These include GCSEs, A-Levels and BTECs.

You will need to meet some entry requirements to start your chosen programme. However, if you receive a conditional offer from us and you don't meet the conditions of your offer, we may be able to help you find an alternative course. This could be at a different stage or in a different subject. We look at every case in an individual basis. Please contact us to see how we can help you. 


GCSEs are usually taken at age 16, at the end of school year 11. They are also suitable for adults who are returning to study.

GCSEs are offered across Levels 1 and 2 of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). They are assessed using both coursework and exams.

Students usually need to achieve a number of GCSE passes before starting out on a Further education programme (for those aged 16 or over). If they have not achieved a grade C in English or maths, there will be a need to re-take these alongside their studies. Those with a grade D will usually re-take GCSEs. Those with a lower grade will usually take Functional Skills examinations.

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A-levels are two-year courses offered by schools and colleges for students aged 16 and over. They are designed to help you move into higher education.You will normally be required to have achieved at least five GCSEs at grade C or above to be accepted onto an A-level programme.

You will begin making your choices and applying for Higher education programmes, using predicted grades, by the start of the second year. You will generally need to study three A-levels to gain enough points for university.

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BTECs are full-time programmes of study that can last for between one and two years. They help give you the skills to move on to higher education or work. They are related to industry sectors such as hair and beauty, media or engineering. BTECs are made up of a number of units, usually assessed through assignments and some tests. Level 3 BTEC diplomas are the equivalent of three A-levels for the purposes of applying to and entering university.

Professional courses

If you want to gain a qualification to help you progress in the workplace, our professional courses could be what you are looking for. You will find many options available, including: human resources, accounting, health and safety, security and much more. 

Foundation degrees

A Foundation Degree is an innovative higher education career-focused qualification. Designed with employers, it helps equip you with the knowledge and skills needed for a particular career.

A Foundation Degree is equivalent to the second year of a three-year Honours Degree. They are usually offered full-time over two years and part-time over three years. In many cases, you will be allowed to continue studying on completion of your foundation degree to achieve a full honours degree.

Foundation Degrees combine work-based learning with academic study. Attendance at college can vary
from one to four days a week, depending on the mode of study and your chosen programme. This
means a Foundation Degree allows you to combine work and study, so you can earn while you learn.

Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas

A Higher National Certificate (HNC) is equivalent to year one of an Honours degree. It can usually be studied full-time over one year or part-time over two years. 

A Higher National Diploma (HND) is equivalent to the first two years of an Honours degree

BA Honours degrees

An Honours degree usually takes three years to study full-time (longer if available part-time.) An Honours degree will prepare you for progression into your chosen career or for postgraduate studies.