Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) Colleges

FE and HE Colleges fulfill a similar role to that of community colleges in the USA. In Britain, a lot of FE Colleges provide comprehensive academic courses; including English, GCSEs, A levels, vocational qualifications, and some colleges also provide foundation courses and BA courses. HE Colleges usually provide undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Apart from the 98 FE Colleges there are over 150 HE Colleges in the UK. Britain has a strong history of vocational education and FE Colleges often provide more practical courses in a variety of field such as hairdressing, catering management, tourism, mechanics, business management, childcare, design, etc.


Students above 16 will be taught GNVQs before they can consider going to university. They can then complete their vocational qualifications at a university where they will be awarded a BTEC or HND qualification, which is the equivalent to the 1st and 2nd year university level. If their grades are good, they can then apply to get into the 3rd year of the university to complete a Bachelor's degree.

Compared to a traditional academic school curriculum (for example, GCSE, A level and first degree), vocational courses are more practical. These courses' evaluation standard is different too and based on daily assessments, reports and test results, which is totally different from traditional schools which are based on end of semester exams. Vocational schools may also inform students that they have passed some courses in order to release their stress. Therefore many overseas students consider obtaining their first degree with vocational qualifications. However this choice is complicated and depends on the students background. Your UKEAS counselor will be able to give you professional advice on what route best suits you.

Traditional academic degrees and equivalent vocational qualifications

Traditional academic degrees Vocational qualifications
A Level GNVQ
EDEXCEL First and National Diplomas
The 1st and 2nd undergraduate year EDEXCEL First and National Diplomas

Still have questions? Please contact your local UKEAS office to get the most up-to-date professional advice. Remember, its free!

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