> My bookmarks

Further education at 16+

Sign in or register to add to ‘Bookmarks’ in ‘My Career Tools’

What are the course options at a FE College?

FE Colleges offer a range of different courses

  • GCSE or A levels.
  • Vocational subjects - these are related to a broad subject area such as business, health and social care, etc. - so they can lead to a large variety of employment areas or university courses
  • Practical Vocational Courses that lead to specific jobs such as hairdressing, plumbing, etc.
  • Apprenticeships.
  • Courses that prepare people for Higher Education, such as Access Courses or the Art Foundation Course
  • Vocational Higher Education Level courses, such as Foundation Degrees, Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) and Certificates (HNCs).
  • Foundation Courses to develop maths, English and studyskills, confidence and employability. These courses can give the chance to try out several different vocational areas.
  • Learning for leisure e.g. ceramics, art, computing, photography, etc.

Explore college's websites to find out what they offer, and read on to see more details about the different courses and qualifications that colleges generally offer.

Familiar Academic Courses

All full time courses include maths and English and the opportunity to gain GCSEs or functional skills qualifications in these subjects.

Some colleges offer an opportunity to resit several GCSEs

Some students choose to go to college to study their A levels or International Baccalaureate qualifications, which could also be taken alongside a vocational subject.

Some colleges also offer A Level resits, part time or full time

Courses that Lead to a Specific Career

For students that know what job/career they want to do colleges offer courses that lead to qualifications for specific job areas. These courses provide a combination of practical training and relevant academic learning. They are usually very practical and involve learning in real situations, with real customers, such as; cutting hair in the college salon which will be open to the public; cooking for paying customers in the college restaurant; installing bathrooms in the plumbing workshops.

Find out more about vocational qualifications here.

Broad Vocational Courses

If you have a vocational area you are interested in – but would like to keep your career options open - then colleges offer courses that lead to a general vocational area, such as: business; fashion; health and social care; art and design; engineering; etc. These courses are offered at a range of levels and enable a student to progress to employment, Apprenticeships or university.

Find out more about vocational qualifications here.

Foundation Courses to develop skills

If you are not sure what you want to do, some colleges offer courses where you can try out a range of different subjects and then decide which one you want to continue with at the end of the year.

There are courses to help develop your maths, English, study skills, confidence and employability.


If you get an Apprenticeship with an employer where you mainly train on the job to get qualified, you may also come to the college on day or block release to do some work towards your qualifications. Find out more about Apprenticeships here.


Traineeships are ideal for young people who want to get a job or Apprenticeship but who lack the skills and experience that employers are looking for. Traineeships help young people get ready for the world of work and improve their chances of getting an Apprenticeship or other job.

Traineeships can last anything from 6 weeks to a maximum of 6 months and can include:

  • work preparation training such as developing a CV and interview practice,
  • maths and English skills, and
  • work placements with a company to build your experience and gain a reference.

Different colleges offer work placements in different types of job sectors such as sport, business and IT.

Who can do a Traineeship?

  • Young people who are unemployed or work less than 16 hours a week and have little work experience.
  • Young people age 16 – 18 and qualified below level 3.
  • People aged 19 – 23 and qualified to below level 2.
  • People aged up to 25 with a Learning Difficulty Assesment.

Will I be paid?

Traineeships are unpaid. However some colleges will pay a training allowance and also may cover other costs such as travel or lunch.

Access Courses - prep for a HE level course

This one year course is aimed at adults who have been out of education for at least two years and would like to go on to study a Higher Education course.

Although there are no formal qualifications required, some colleges may insist on A* – C grades in maths and English GCSE, as these qualifications are often required by universities.

Access courses are offered in a range of different subject areas, such as medicine, social sciences, engineering, etc. Courses are designed to help students get onto specific university courses.

Higher education in FE

Colleges offer a vocational Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND) either full time or part time alongside a job or a higher Apprenticeship. These courses can lead on to the second year of a full time degree or to career development in a job.

Some universities also offer higher education courses such as Foundation Degrees which are delivered at a college. Usually these are two years full time and focus on a specific job or profession. They can lead directly on to the final year of a degree course in the subject area.

These courses usually cost a lot less than studying at a university. They often have flexible entry requirements and may look at relevant work experience as well as academic qualifications.

Find out more about Foundation Degrees