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Guide to Higher Education Qualifications

The term “higher education” is used to describe courses of study that fall within the government’s Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (FHEQ).

Higher education qualifications mainly relate to levels 4 – 8 of the FHEQ. The main qualifications you can study at Leicester College are:

Higher National Certificates (HNC) and Higher National Diplomas (HND)

Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) are work-related, or vocational, higher education qualifications. They are Level 4 and Level 5 qualifications respectively. HNCs take about one year to complete full-time and two years part-time. HNDs take two years full-time and can also be taken part-time, which takes longer.

HNCs and HNDs assessed through assignments, projects and practical tasks that you complete throughout the course.

If you successfully complete an HNC or HND, the grades in each subject unit are shown as pass, merit and distinction.

HNCs and HNDs are designed to give you the skills for a particular field of work, they can lead straight to a career. You can also use the qualifications to progress within your current career to gain professional status.

HNCs can allow entry into the second year of a degree, while HNDs can allow entry into the second or third year.

Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQ)

HTQs are an alternative to apprenticeships or degrees. They may suit you if you want a more practical, employer-led study programme. There are many different types of HTQs such as: higher national diplomas, higher national certificates, foundation degrees and higher education diplomas. However, not all diplomas, certificates and foundation degrees are approved HTQs. Look out for the HTQ logo or banner which will always show on approved qualifications.

HTQs are usually level 4 and 5 qualifications and have been approved as meeting occupational standards for the relevant sector. HTQs have been created in collaboration with employers so that graduates are ‘work ready’.

Bachelor’s degrees

A bachelor’s degree is a course of academic study leading to a qualification such as a bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of science (BSc), or bachelor of medicine (MB).

It usually takes three or four years to complete full-time (normally four years if you’re doing a sandwich course as this includes a year in industry or abroad). Some bachelor’s degrees, like medical courses can take longer. You can also study for a bachelor’s degree part-time, or through flexible learning.

The qualification is designed to give you a thorough understanding of a subject. It helps you develop your analytical, intellectual and essay/dissertation writing skills.

Foundation Degree

Foundation degrees are higher education qualifications, mainly taught in Further Education (FE) colleges. They mix academic and work related learning and offer a clear route to university or into employment. Similar to Bachelors degrees, foundation degree courses are classified according to subject area – for instance, FdSc and FdA awards relate to the sciences and arts respectively.

A foundation degree is the academic equivalent of two-thirds of a Bachelors degree, a Higher National Diploma (HND) and Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) – at Level 5 of the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF).