Levels and qualifications explained

Below is a guide to explain how different course levels relate to types of qualifications. This will help you choose the right level of study and will show you the various pathways you could take to achieve your goals.

To learn more about course delivery, course length and assessment methods, check out our course pages.

LevelsQualification
Entry Level 1Basic Skills / Skills for Life
Entry Level 2
Entry Level 3
Level 1Level 1 AwardTraineeship

NVQ 1
Level 1 Certificate
Level 1 Diploma
Level 2Level 2 AwardGCSEsApprenticeship

NVQ 2
Level 2 Certificate
Level 2 Extended Certificate
Level 2 Diploma
Level 3Level 3 CertificateAS / A LevelsAdvanced Apprenticeship

NVQ 3
Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma
Level 3 Diploma
Level 3 Extended Diploma
Level 4HNCCertificate in Higher EducationHigher Apprenticeship
Level 5HNDDiploma in Higher Education
Foundation Degree
Level 6Honours Degree

Entry Levels 1, 2 and 3

Entry Level courses are ideal for individuals who need extra learning support. Each of the three Levels have a different area of focus, designed to develop independent living skills, communication skills and employability skills whilst preparing you for further study if required. There are no formal entry requirements for these courses – students are offered places on these courses based on an assessment of their individual needs.

Level 1

Level 1 courses are suitable for anyone looking to further their education. Whilst we do not require any formal qualifications, we do expect students to be eager to learn and have a passion for the course they have chosen.

Level 2

Level 2 courses are suitable for anyone with 3 – 4 GCSEs or equivalent. A step up from Level 1 qualifications, these courses have a more in depth coverage of subject materials.

Level 3

Level 3 courses are suitable for anyone with 5 GCSEs or more, or equivalent, and are a great option for school leavers. These courses are ideal for those wanting to specialise in a particular subject.

Level 4

Level 4 courses are a bridge between Level 3 and those wishing to study in Higher Education (HE). These courses provide support to students who are keen to progress to the next stage of education.

Level 5

Level 5 courses indicate a thorough knowledge of a subject area and are ideal for anyone wishing to study at university or a higher vocational course.

Level 6

Level 6 courses are typically attached to centres of Higher Education, requiring several years of study. A Level 6 qualification is essential for anyone wishing to progress onto a Level 7 course.

Types of qualifications

Award

Awards are the smallest size of qualification, typically requiring up to 130 hours of study. An award offers students a detailed insight into a specific topic and can be a great introduction to a field.

Certificate

A certificate is a vocational qualification that can be studied at a variety of levels. Certificates are the next step up from Awards and offer comprehensive coverage of a subject. They can take between 130 hours to 370 hours to complete depending on the course.

Diploma

A diploma is a qualification that can be studied at a variety of levels. The largest in size, diplomas typically take a year to complete full time. These courses tend to have a greater vocational focus.

HNC

A Higher National Certificate (HNC) is a Level 4 vocational qualification which typically takes one year to complete full time.

HND

A Higher National Diploma (HND) is a Level 5 vocational qualification, which typically takes two years to study full time.

Foundation Degree

A Level 5 qualification, a Foundation degree bridges the gap between A-Levels and a degree for those that may feel they need some additional support.

Degree

A degree is a higher education qualification, equivalent to a Level 6. These courses involve a deeper level of study over a longer period of time, typically three or four years.

NVQ

A National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) is a hybrid course which could include time at college and/or a work environment, providing relevant skills and experience for specific jobs and industries.

GCSE

A General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is a Level 2 qualification.

A-Levels

An Advanced Level (A-Level) is a subject-specific qualification, equivalent to Level 3.

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