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University Qualification Levels Explained

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Our courses cover a range of qualification levels that are simple to explain.

All UK qualifications are assigned to a specific level on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF). They’re based on the standards of knowledge and skill you learn when you complete them. Our courses start at Level 4 and run up to Level 8.

Because there are a number of different course types and qualifications, they're grouped together so that you can easily make comparisons and find the right fit for you. You might find that employers ask you to have a certain level of qualification in order to apply for jobs too.

Take a closer look at the qualifications and levels we offer below.

Qualification Level

Access to HE Diplomas

Access is a qualification which prepares people without traditional qualifications for higher education.

Foundation year or preparatory year

This foundation or preparatory year is added to your Foundation Degree and designed for potential students who have the ability to study for a degree but do not meet the requirements for direct entry into undergraduate-level programmes.

HNCs, Level 4 Diplomas

Higher National Certificate (HNC) – a vocationally focused higher education qualification offered in the UK, usually taking one year to complete, and roughly equivalent to one year of university study.

Foundation degrees, HNDs, Level 5 diplomas

Foundation degrees (FdA or FdSc) - They are designed to combine practical work-based learning with academic study and aim to train you for a specific job. The qualification is often favoured by students who want to work and study at the same time. Once you have completed your Foundation degree you can go straight into work or you can ‘top-up’ your studies to achieve a full degree.

Higher National Diploma (HND) – a vocationally focused higher education qualification offered in the UK. Completion of a HND is considered equivalent to the second year of a three year degree course. You can ‘top-up’ your Foundation degree to a full Bachelor’s degree with a one year ‘top-up’ course.

Bachelor’s degrees (e.g. BA or BSc)

Bachelor’s degrees (e.g. BA or BSc) - A Bachelor's degree can also be known as an undergraduate, first or honours degree. You can study a Bachelors degree in almost any subject and there are thousands of different courses available. It typically takes three years full-time but can take longer if you study part-time.

Bachelor’s degrees (e.g. BA or BSc) Top –Up - Top-up degrees are designed for students who have successfully completed a Foundation degree, HND or DipHE. A top-up course, or progression route, allows you to enter the final year of university study so you can upgrade your qualification to a full degree. This typically takes one year of further study, full-time.

Masters degree, postgraduate certificates, postgraduate diplomas

PGCert and PGDip - These are levels within a Masters degree, which can be studied as standalone qualifications. These can be useful if you want to test a subject, don’t want to commit to a full degree or have a specific interest in a small number of modules.

Masters (MA/MSc) - Following a Bachelors degree it is common for students to continue their studies with a Masters degree.

Specialist qualifications such as PhDs

PhD - A Doctorate is the highest level of academic degree. Students work independently to produce a substantial piece of original research (this can take years to complete).

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