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Further Education

With the government set to increase university fees to £9,000 a year, the job market continuing to splutter and the news still carrying a tinge of post-recession blues, it’s very easy to be downbeat about career prospects in the UK. Most of the chat is focusing on going to university right now, but that’s just one of the many routes available to young adults. It is a common misconception that you need a degree to pursue the so-called ‘top’ careers.

Virtually every career route you may wish to take does not necessarily require a university degree. So what are the other options you say? Well I’m glad you asked!

So what are the options?

Well, one thing you’ll be glad to hear is that they all focus on helping you get a job. Where some degrees can be accused of not adequately preparing people for the world of work, most other options are designed specifically with this intention. It must be remembered that a university degree is still a viable option; however, you can also do what is known as a Foundation Degree, an HND or HNC, a BTEC, an NVQ, a City & Guilds qualification or you could just jump straight into an apprenticeship programme.

Foundation Degrees

Foundation degrees are used as a precursor to the world of work or a qualifying degree. They combine academic study with work-based learning to give participants a variety of skills that are useful in a variety of jobs. T

here is a truly gigantic amount of foundation degrees to select from; covering anything from agriculture and building technology, to graphic design or sports coaching. They are usually designed in partnership with universities, colleges and employers to ensure that they are relevant to particular occupations.


HNDs (Higher National Diploma) and HNCs (Higher National Certificate) are work-related courses provided by over 400 higher education and further education colleges in a wide array of subjects. The HND takes two years to complete as a full-time discipline or three to four years if it’s done part-time whilst working. The HNC is at a lower level to the HND, but it still focuses on largely the same subject areas, taking one year full-time or two years part-time. All of the courses focus on delivering the skills required for a particular occupation, whether you want to be an accountant, animator or a music producer.

BTEC, City & Guilds & OCR Nationals

A BTEC (Business, Technology & Education Council) is another work-related qualification that focuses on giving its participants the necessary skills for a variety of occupations. There are three tiers to the qualification, beginning with the ‘Award’, then the ‘Certificate’ and finally the ‘Diploma’. These bad boys are often interwoven with apprenticeships or general occupations. However, they can be taken on their own, either full-time or part-time.

City & Guilds as well as ‘OCR Nationals’ deliver a similar qualification and can also be taken in a variety of subjects, including business, health and social care, media, I.T., public services, science, sports and art and design. Entry onto these courses usually requires GCSEs between grades D and G for level one and level two courses and grades A* to C to study the level three qualification.


An NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) is what’s commonly referred to as a ‘competence-based’ qualification. Students are assessed ‘on-the-job’, where an NVQ assessor measures an individual’s performance when undertaking a particular process or task. Employers often introduce these courses and offer them to people who are already working; however, they can also be taken as a way of securing a job.


Apprenticeships are the purest form of ‘on-the-job’ training; providing both a steady income and an education in a particular career sector. Whether it’s agriculture, health, engineering, I.T. or virtually every other practical career, most of the biggest companies in the UK take on apprentices each year to strengthen their businesses and increase the level of talent in their companies. With now over 190 different types of apprenticeship available, the choice is both varied and plentiful. For more information on apprenticeships, head over to our Apprenticeships article now!