Right after students in the United Kingdom gets their GCSEs – the last phase of compulsory education – they could choose not to study anymore and stay at home or look for a job. A large number of GCSE graduates, however, would choose to extend their studies further into non-compulsory education.
When UK students say they are going to pursue further education, they don’t mean going to universities to receive higher education. Further education and higher education are similar in a sense that they come once students complete compulsory education. Further education and higher education, however, are distinct from each other in a sense that the latter refers to formal learning typically provided in institutions like universities. On the other hand, further education usually refers to attainment of an intermediate or follow up qualification needed to attend to a university or to be hired by employers.
For UK students who want to take up further education, the choice of schools or college usually depends on the future that they want to attain. As noted prior, further education paves the way for admission to a higher education institution or for employment in a certain workplace. Where they would study further education depends on what qualifications they want to take.
If students are planning to pursue a study of an academic subject to higher education level, they could consider getting academic qualifications like A-levels and AS-levels or International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma.
Further education schools typically offer A-levels and AS-levels on a broad range of subjects. Students who want to study a certain course or take a certain career should be able to achieving related A-levels and AS-level subjects. For instance, students who want to take up medicine or nursing courses should take related A-level and AS-level subjects like chemistry, maths, biology and psychology. On the other hand, students who want to take up environmental courses should take related A-level and AS-level subjects like chemistry, biology, environmental studies and geography. While most students study three or four subjects, one could opt to study more or fewer.
The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma programme, meanwhile, is considered as an alternative to A-levels. The International Baccalaureate Diploma programme provides qualifications in six to seven subjects, of which mathematics, native language and theory of knowledge are mandatory. IB students are free to select the remaining three or four subjects in which they want to specialize. Around 150 state and private institutions in the UK are offering the IB Diploma programme.
In Scotland, students could avail of the so-called Scottish Highers or Advanced Highers. Available in a range of subjects, Advanced Higher qualifications are seen as equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate degree. If students with Advanced Higher qualifications decide to enter higher education, they would be slotted in the second year of a degree.
These three qualifications are typically completed over two years.
For students who want to develop a career in a certain industry, they can opt to take vocational or professional qualification, which are usually offered in many levels.
For students who don’t have the necessary industry experience but want to have a professional qualification, getting a diploma is a good approach to do so. A Diploma is considered an intermediate qualification that is equivalent to an A-level. That said, students could use their diploma to enter higher education or gain employment.
Students could also enter an apprenticeship program in which apprentices train and work alongside experienced employees while preparing for nationally recognized qualifications. The program, which could one to four years to complete, provides training specific to a certain line of work. More than 100,000 employers are offering apprenticeship programs with over 200 different types of apprenticeships are available.
For students who have some industry experience – which may come from apprenticeship programs — could try to gain National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) or Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs). Having these qualifications proves that one has the knowledge and practical ability to carry out works and projects to the standard.
If students have already decided on what qualifications to take based on their future plans, they would have a clear idea on where they could study further education. Not only that they could receive a world-class education and internationally recognized qualifications, they would also be able to create a better path for their future.