Course Types – Qualifications Explained

School Leavers (Further Education) Course Levels
Course Levels | Course Types
NVQs and VRQs


NVQs are National Vocational Qualifications for students who wish to develop the skills, knowledge and understanding needed at work. They enable students to become competent in a specific job or craft. They are assessed through multi-choice and short answer questions.

What is an NVQ programme?

NVQ programmes provide a mixture of practical and theoretical studies in realistic working environments to simulate the real world of work. The range and number of NVQ units studied is decided nationally by employers. NVQs are available at levels 1, 2 and 3. Level 1 is a basic introduction, level 2 is a general craft and level 3 is an advanced or more specialised craft level. Some programmes include other specialist qualifications, enrichment activities and work experience.

Why should I study an NVQ?

NVQs are a passport to a job. If you achieve an NVQ you have demonstrated the competence to do the job. This is very attractive to employers because it means that you are already trained and ready to work from day one.

Qualified, skilled employees have excellent earning potential. NVQs assess practical competence and underpinning knowledge, unit by unit, throughout your course.

What NVQs are available?

We offer NVQs for a wide range of careers in automobile engineering, construction, hairdressing, beauty therapy, childcare, catering and hospitality, and more.


VRQs are vocationally related qualifications for students who wish to prepare for a career in a specific vocational area. They are offered at levels 1, 2 and 3 and allow students to develop and practise skills required for employment and/or career progression in their chosen sector. College-based study consists of a combination of theory and practical activities related to the world of work.

You will be assisted to improve your IT, numeracy and communication skills through a programme of Functional Skills. VRQs will favour those candidates who prefer a more structured approach to learning and the associated assessment process.

BTEC Diplomas

BTEC facts and statistics

  • In 2015, 1 in 4 students who got into university in the UK did so with a BTEC (UCAS report – Progression Pathways Jan 2016)
  • Almost 79% of BTEC students go on to receive a First or Second class degree (The outcomes associated with the BTEC route of degree level acquisition, London Economics 2013)
  • 90% of BTEC students are employed full time after graduating (The outcomes associated with the BTEC route of degree level acquisition, London Economics 2013)
  • 74% of businesses prefer recruits to hold a mix of academic and vocational qualifications or value them equally (Inspiring Growth: Pearson/Skills CBI Skills survey 2015)
  • Learners who hold BTEC qualifications have high rates of progression between learning levels compared to other types of vocational qualification (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – October 2015).

Read more:

What is a BTEC qualification?

BTEC Diplomas are work related vocational qualifications suitable for a wide range of students, designed to deliver the skills required for different career paths. The courses are a mix of theory and practical, and enable progression to a range of next steps including:

  • Employment
  • Apprenticeship
  • Further/higher study programme
  • University or other Higher Education

They provide a practical, real-world approach to learning and an alternative route to traditional GCSEs and A Levels. BTEC qualifications were established over 25 years ago and are recognised by universities, employers and professional bodies across the United Kingdom and in over 100 countries worldwide.

BTEC Diplomas Equivalences

BTECs are equivalent to GCSEs and A Levels, BTEC graduates can go on to university or start their career straight away. The table below shows the progression routes available to all BTEC students together with their more traditional equivalents.

What are BTEC Level 2 qualifications?

These are one year, level 2 qualifications for students who would like to take up a career in a broad occupational area. They are vocational courses that provide a mix of essential and optional subjects tailored to suit local employment opportunities and develop knowledge, skills and understanding fo employment or progression to a BTEC Level 3 qualification. Students will experience a broad range of study in preparation for a wide range of careers in the vocational area. All programmes include Functional Skills. Some courses include the opportunity to develop other skills relevant to the occupational area and work experience.

Who should study a BTEC Level 2 qualification?

For students with at least four GCSEs (grades D – G), or satisfactory completion of an appropriate programme at level 1, these programmes are recognised and understood by employers and provide an excellent stepping stone to BTEC Level 3 qualifications. The courses are assessed by a range of methods including assignments, practical exercises, role plays, projects and case studies. Much of the course content is based on actual work situations that test the student’s ability to solve real problems individually and in a team.

Who should study a BTEC Level 3 qualification?

These qualifications are for students with a minimum of four/five* GCSEs (grades A*-C), or satisfactory completion of an appropriate level 2 entry route, who wish to prepare for a career in a specific occupational area and/or progress to higher education. College-based study consists of a combination of theory and practical activities related to the world of work. Much of the course content develops your ability to solve real problems. Subjects are mainly assessed through coursework.
*dependent on course area

What is a BTEC Subsidiary Diploma?

A BTEC Subsidiary Diploma is a one year level 3 programme, worth 60 credits and is equivalent to one A Level. This may be beneficial for students who wish to study a shorter level 3 programme. In many areas, there is an opportunity to progress to a second year and complete a larger Diploma.

What is a BTEC Diploma/Extended Diploma?

A BTEC Diploma is a two year programme, worth 120 credits and is equivalent to 2 A Levels. An Extended Diploma is a two year programme, worth 180 credits and is equivalent to three A Levels. This programme can attract the maximum in UCAS points, which allows for progression to university.

Practical Awards, Certificates and Diplomas

Practical Awards, Certificates and Diplomas are designed to give students realistic experience and the practical skills that they will need in the world of work. Alongside practical sessions, students will also study the necessary theory to enable them to develop the knowledge required for working life.

Functional Skills

Functional Skills are practical skills in English, maths and ICT that allow learners to work confidently, effectively and independently in life, including education and training. They aim to increase achievement in all learning, improve employability and provide a sound basis for progression to further study or training. They also help develop other important skills such as team work, presentation and problem solving. Functional Skills are common to all our lives.

They help make sense of daily life, from working out which deal is best value, to writing an application letter or sur­fing the Internet. They are about using English, maths and ICT in everyday situations.

They are essential for:

• Getting the most from education and training

• Personal development of all young people and adults

• Developing employability skills

Foundation Learning
Foundation Learning is a credit-based programme where learners (both 14-19 and post-19 adult learners) undertake a combination of courses which meet their personal needs. The aim of Foundation Learning is to increase learner participation, achievement and progression through entry level and level 1 towards achievement at level 2.

It gives greater meaning to programmes of study and supports progression to clearly defined destinations. It aims to make learning fit-for-purpose for the individual.

Learners completing courses within Foundation Learning can gain credits which allow for the achievement of an Award, Certificate and eventually a Diploma. Foundation Learning covers educational provision at entry level and level 1.

Foundation Learning programmes normally include:

  • Functional skills
  • Subject and vocational skills and understanding
  • Personal and social development
  • WorkSkills/Enterprise Skills

Foundation Learning offers students the opportunity to develop further their social and personal skills including numeracy and literacy. With a curriculum which is full of enrichment activities it makes learning fun and meaningful.

With such a diverse range of courses to choose from, Foundation Learning offers the opportunity to develop personal skills and knowledge, at whatever stage you are in life, to make your learning experience relevant and significant.

Learning for Work

Gateway and Pathway offer a curriculum which is the development of entry level work with numeracy and literacy embedded into a range of subjects.

New Approach is a full-time course for year 11 students.

Schools Links courses offer a taste of the College experience for students in year 11 who are mainly based in special schools in the locality.

All course have a wide range of enrichment activities to make learning enjoyable and meaningful.