What higher education is

Higher education is third level education after you leave school. It takes places at universities and Further Education colleges and normally includes undergraduate and postgraduate study. Higher education gives you the chance to study a subject you are interested in and can boost your career prospects and earning potential.

Higher education qualifications

The Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) contains descriptions of all the main higher education qualifications.  Higher education qualifications mainly relate to levels 4 - 8 of the FHEQ. The main qualifications are:

Choosing higher education

Your choice of career might be a key reason in deciding whether to go into higher education and what course to take. Some careers, including medicine, dentistry, chartered engineering and architecture require you to have a degree.

Other professions, like law or speech therapy, require you to have an additional postgraduate qualification on top of your degree before you can practice.

You may just want to study in a subject that really interests you or to broaden your knowledge in a certain area. However, studying a higher education qualification can also help you to develop skills and qualities that employers value, such as problem-solving and communication skills. It can be helpful to have a career path in mind before choosing a course to study.

Life and work experience

You  may not need to have academic qualifications to go into higher education. Some universities are prepared to accept life and work experience as an alternative to formal qualifications.

Work experience may also be taken into account if you apply to do an Access course, a Foundation course or Foundation year.

A higher education qualification can lead to increased earning potential, a wider range of opportunities, and a more rewarding career. So no matter what your circumstances, it could be the right choice for you.

Listen to students from various backgrounds share their experience of studying for a higher education qualification and how it has helped their careers.

Research your career

Choosing what career is right for you is an opportunity to look at what kind of person you are, what kind of life you want and how you can achieve your goals in the real world.

Before making any career decisions it may be helpful to research the following areas to help you decide on your potential career direction:

  • skills and entry requirements
  • future options with your subjects/qualifications
  • vacancies that employers find hard to fill
  • where jobs are advertised (local or abroad)
  • skills in demand – where the jobs are now and likely to be in the future

Choosing a course to suit your career plans

Selecting the best possible course for you is a key career decision to make, and often a challenging one. There can be intense competition for the most popular courses, and later for graduate jobs.

There are tens of thousands of courses across the UK, and although two courses may have the same name, they could be taught in different ways and cover different material from one university to another.

Course accreditation from professional bodies

Some professions approve or accredit related courses. If you're looking to pursue a career in a particular area, check your course is one of those approved by the relevant body. Every institution should be able to give you this information.

The cost of Higher Education

The cost of higher education can vary depending on where you study and the length of each course. In Northern Ireland fees are capped at £4,030 per academic year while other parts of the UK are capped at £9,250.

There is a wide range of financial support available to students which can help pay tuition fees and support a student through their study including bursaries and scholarships.

Listen below to one young student who had been put off higher education because she thought she couldn’t afford it, explain how she realised going to university was possible.

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