Qualifications Explained


Degrees are awarded as an ordinary Degree or Honours Degree, either as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc), depending on whether a dissertation or research project is undertaken. The title of the degree depends on the subject you choose and the education institution that awards the qualification. They typically take a minimum of three years to complete and are widely offered by universities and by an increasing number of other institutions such as colleges.

Foundation Degrees

Foundation Degrees (FDs) can offer a more accessible route into university, they are equivalent to the first two years of a degree course and a qualification in their own right. Usually designed with input from employers, these courses ensure that on completion of their foundation degree, learners can make an immediate contribution to their workplace. Students often then choose to top up their qualifications either by joining the 3rd year of a degree, or a specifically designed ‘top-up’ qualification.


Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) are a practical vocationally focussed qualification, usually studied over two years (full-time) or three years (part-time) and like foundation degrees can be converted to a full degree by completion of a final year.


Higher National Certificate (HNC) courses normally take one year full-time or two years part-time and can be used as entrance to the second year of a degree course or more commonly, topped up to an HND with a further year of study.


National Vocation Qualifications (NVQs) are usually completed in the workplace, they test your ability to actually do the job, which makes them suitable to take whilst in work. Vocationally Related Qualifications (VRQs) offer pathways and levels which focus on the development of the underlying principles and practical skills required across many industries.

Access to HE Diploma

Access courses are intended for adults who do not have A Levels or Level 3 qualifications. The course enables you to prepare for, and gain entry to, degree and other Higher Education programmes. You may have some qualifications already, for example GCSEs or an A level, but not enough to get into university.