Qualification Levels & Entry Requirements

Don’t get confused by the numbers! We’ll help you understand what different qualification levels mean!

All UK qualifications are assigned to a specific level on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF), based on the standards of knowledge and skills you learn when you complete them. They start at ‘entry-level’ and are then numbered from 1 to 6. The box below shows the different types of Higher Education qualifications offered by the College and how the qualifications compare against each other. 

Below will help you compare different qualifications and levels to understand the right choice for you.

Level 4

  • Higher National Certificate (HNC)
  • NVQ 4
  • Higher Apprenticeships

Level 5

  • Foundation Degree
  • Higher National Diploma (HND)
  • NVQ 5
  • Higher Apprenticeships

Level 6

  • Degree (Final year)

Which course is for me?

There are many different pathways at University and Professional level – don’t just take the traditional route; decide which is best for you!


Both HNC (Higher National Certificate) and HND (Higher National Diploma) are focused on helping you get a head start in a specific industry, with all the relevant skills you’ll need for the sector.

A HNC is a vocationally based qualification. That means you’ll be studying for a career in a specific area, with practical work-related training and education and a focus on preparing you for a real-world job. Studying full-time, a HNC course usually takes a year, or you can do it on a part-time basis over two years.

After completing a HNC, you could convert your qualification to a HND with one year’s further study on the HND programme. 

With a HNC or HND, you may be able to enter the second or third year of a Bachelor’s degree and ‘top up’ your qualification. Or you can use this higher level of qualification to showcase your skills and expertise in your chosen career and secure a great job.

Don’t worry if you’re confused by the different choices for HE and Professional qualifications. The variety of options mean that you can decide on a path of study that suits your individual circumstances. 

Foundation Degree

A foundation degree is a great place to begin if you’re getting back into education and eager to lay the groundwork – either for work-related skills or as a stepping stone to a full university degree. It will help you further develop your career if you’re already in a job, or provide you with work-related learning options with relevant employers if this is a new career path. 

A Foundation Degree is broadly equivalent to the first two years of a Bachelor’s degree (many of our Foundation Degree graduates opt to continue their studies and apply for one of the progression route courses to gain a full honors degree). 

If you want to enhance your career whilst continuing in employment, a Foundation Degree is perfect, as it allows you flexibility of study and is designed with employers’ and Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) needs in mind.

Higher Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are a great way to get on the career ladder, so you can start earning while you train and gain your independence quicker.

The job market, as you will have heard or experienced, is tough these days. More people are competing for fewer job vacancies, making it more important than ever to make yourself stand out from the crowd. So what are employers looking for? Qualifications, definitely, but when you’re competing against other well-qualified candidates you’ll want to give yourself the edge, and a Higher Apprenticeship could help. 

The Higher Apprenticeship benefits students by equipping them with great qualifications. Higher Apprentices study for work-based learning qualifications like a Level 4 NVQ. In some instances you can work towards an academic qualification like a Foundation Degree. Some of our most established and respected companies offer these types of courses. 

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