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What is higher education?

What is higher education?

Higher education (HE) refers to study at level 4 and above. HE is voluntary and is an option for those who have completed a level 3 qualification, such as A-levels and BTECs.

Commonly, HE takes place in higher education institutions (HEIs), such as universities or colleges, although distance learning (study from home) opportunities are available in some cases. For students who are unable to meet the requirements of full-time study, there might be a part-time route available. Courses are usually three years in length, but sometimes four, depending on the type of qualification and whether there’s a placement year.

Teaching is usually delivered through lectures and seminars, but the real learning takes place through the process of independent learning, or self study. Some courses might involve field trips, or a placement year in industry; these could take place locally, nationally, or even overseas!

In the UK, there are around 400 HE providers and around 50,000 courses to choose from. HE qualifications include:

  • foundation degrees
  • bachelor’s degrees
  • higher national certificates (HNCs)
  • higher national diplomas (HNDs)
  • higher apprenticeships
  • degree apprenticeships
  • national vocational qualifications (NVQs) at level 4 and above

With an emphasis on independent learning, being a student in HE is very different from being a pupil in school. HE students are required to manage their time and workload themselves. By the end of their course, students will have developed these skills to a high level and this is one of the reasons why employers value HE graduates.


Higher and degree apprenticeships

Higher and degree apprenticeships are a relatively new initiative. They are for people who wish to study for an HE qualification while learning ‘on the job’.

Apprentices receive the same benefits as an employee, including receiving a salary, holiday pay, a pension, and they have a high chance of being taken on full-time once they’ve finished their studies.

Oh, and did we mention that the employers pay the tuition fees?

The amount of apprenticeship programmes available is currently low compared to traditional courses (making them competitive to get onto), but the number is increasing all the time.

To see what apprenticeships are available in your area, visit gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship


Next: What are the benefits of higher education? 

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