Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas

Higher National Certificates (HNCs) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) are work-related, or vocational, higher education qualifications. They are Level 4 and Level 5 qualifications respectively.

What HNCs and HNDs are

HNCs and HNDs focus on 'learning  by doing' and give skills that you can use in a particular job. They are highly valued by employers and can also count towards membership of professional bodies and other employer organisations.

Both qualifications are provided by further and higher education colleges. HNCs take about one year to complete full-time and two years part-time. HNDs take two years full-time and can also be taken part-time, which takes longer.

Subjects available

HNCs and HNDs are available in a wide range of subject areas, including:

  • agriculture
  • computing and IT
  • construction and civil engineering
  • engineering
  • health and social care
  • business and management
  • sport and exercise sciences
  • performing arts
  • retail and distribution
  • hospitality management

Entry requirements

To study for an HNC or HND, you will need some previous qualifications. Most HND courses require one A level or an equal qualification.

Applying for an HNC or HND

To apply for an HNC or HND, contact the college offering the course. Contact details and website addresses for each college can be found at the following link:

How you are assessed

HNCs and HNDs assessed through assignments, projects and practical tasks that you complete throughout the course.

If you successfully complete an HNC or HND, the grades in each subject unit are shown as:

  • pass
  • merit
  • distinction

Retakes and appeals

If you are not happy with how you did in a particular project or practical task, there are opportunities to improve your performance, so speak to your teacher or tutor.

If you are still not happy with the mark or grade you got, there are appeals procedures you can follow. Speak to your teacher or tutor for more advice.

Where they can lead

Because HNCs and HNDs are designed to give you the skills for a particular field of work, they can lead straight to a career. You can also use the qualifications to progress within your current career to gain professional status.

HNCs can allow entry into the second year of a degree, while HNDs can allow entry into the second or third year.

Other qualifications

Diploma of Higher Education

Diplomas of Higher Education are similar to HNDs. They are accredited professional qualifications and are highly respected by employers both in the UK and overseas. They usually take two years to complete and offer subjects such as accounting, construction, engineering, nursing, science, technology and textile design.

You can normally convert your Higher Education Diploma to a degree with an extra year of study.

Certificate of Higher Education

Certificates of Higher Education are academic, rather than vocational qualifications. There are broadly equal to an HNC, and usually take a year of full-time study to complete.

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