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Qualifications and Programmes

What do we mean by an Award, Certificate or Diploma? What is an apprenticeship?

This table lists some examples of past and present qualifications along with an indication of their level. The Framework is used in education and employment to help compare the size, level of difficulty and content of different qualifications.

Level Qualification examples
1 Entry Level Award, Certificate, Diploma
English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
Skills for Life
Functional Skills (English, maths, ICT)
Essential Skills
2 GCSEs (grades A*-C)
O Levels (grades A-C)
Award, Certificate, Diploma (City & Guilds, CACHE, OCR, BTEC/Edexcel/Pearson1)
English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
NVQ Level 2
National Certificate/Diploma
Intermediate Apprenticeship2
Functional Skills
Essential Skills
Music (grades 4-5)
3 A Levels (grades A-E) AS Levels Award, Certificate, Diploma (City & Guilds, CACHE, OCR, BTEC/Edexcel/Pearson1)
English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
Access to Higher Education Diploma
Foundation Diploma (Art and Design)
NVQ Level 3
Advanced Apprenticeship2
National Certificate/Diploma
4 Higher National Certificate (HNC)
Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE)
Higher Apprenticeship2
5 Higher National Diploma (HND)
Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)
Foundation Degree
NVQ Level 4
6 Degree with Honours (eg BA Hons, BSc Hons)
Graduate Certificate
Graduate Diploma
Ordinary Degree (without Honours)
7 Postgraduate Certificate
Postgraduate Diploma
Master’s Degree (eg MA, MSc, MBA, MPhil)
Integrated Master’s Degree (eg MEng)
Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)
NVQ Level 5
8 Postgraduate Certificate
Doctorate (eg PhD, DPhil, EdD, DClinPsy)

Some of the main qualification types are explained below -

Further Education Further education (FE) includes any study after secondary education that’s not part of higher education (that is, not taken as part of an undergraduate or graduate degree). Courses range from basic English and maths to Higher National Diplomas (HNDs). Many courses in reading, writing and basic maths are free, and you may not have to pay for tuition if you’re under 24 and studying for your first qualification equivalent to GCSE or A level.
GCSE GCSE Grades D-G are Level 1 qualifications. GCSE Grades A*-C are Level 2 qualifications
AS Level Advanced Subsidiary These Level 3 courses usually from the first year of an A Level course. They are the same standard as A Levels but half as long. AS Level subjects can count towards a full A Level even if they are in different subjects. For example AS Maths and AS English together are the equivalent of ONE A Level
A Level Advanced General Certificate of Education. These are Level 3 courses studied at school or college if you gain sufficient A*-C grades [or equivalent] and want to continue with a general education programme
Apprenticeship These are Level 2 programmes that require learners to be 16 and over and employed. They are made up of 3 elements: vocational course/units, functional skills (English and maths) and a specialist technical certificate.
Advanced Apprenticeships These are Level 3 programmes that require learners to be 16 and over and employed. They are made up of 3 elements: vocational course/units, functional skills (English and maths) and a specialist technical certificate.
BTEC
Subsidiary Diploma
Diploma
Extended Diploma
This is a Level 3 applied qualification linked to areas of work, for example, Health & Social Care, Business and Art & Design. The courses are linked to job families with some practical work to show that you can apply the knowledge and skills you learn. The level of qualification varies dependant on the number of units you take. BTECs can be equivalent to 2 or 3 A Levels
HND/HNC Higher National Diploma or Higher National Certificate. A Level 5 applied qualification linked to job families with some practical work to show that you can apply the knowledge and skills you learn. It is a progression from Level 3 and available part-time as well as full time, usually after age 18. You need a NVQ Level 3, a National Diploma or at least 1 A Level. It can be extended into a full degree like a BA or BSc
Foundation Degree This is a Level 5 applied qualification linked to job families with some practical work to show that you can apply the knowledge and skills you learn. It is a progression from Level 3 courses and is available part-time as well as full time. You need a vocational Level 3, a National Diploma or at least one A Level. Can be extended into a full degree like a BA or BSc
Degree This is a Level 6 qualification usually studied after age 18 at university or college. You normally need at least 2 A Levels, one Level 3 or 4 vocational or applied qualification (see above) or a Foundation degree to be accepted. Sometimes there are exceptions so you need to enquire.
Degree with Foundation Course Some degree courses accept people who do not have all the entry qualifications they need on condition that they do some preparation to get them up to a level where they can cope with the degree work. This may require a foundation year.
Access to HE This is a course to prepare students to go on to study as a degree. It is designed for people who would like to study in higher education but who left school without qualifications such as A-Levels. You will need an English GCSE A-C.

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