'Pre-university qualifications give you the best possible chance of being accepted on to your first choice of UK course and institution. If you plan to head out into the workplace, a UK career-based degree will give you an edge over the competition.'
cliA-levels, BTEC national diplomas (England, Wales & NI only) and SVQ/NVQs are recognised and respected all over the world. Study a UK career-based or pre-university course and you’ll gain qualifications that have international currency. They are a measure of achievement that any employer looking at your CV will understand.
Study a career-based course in the UK and you’ll be encouraged to take on responsibility. You will find yourself working on projects with other students, being assessed through practical demonstrations or spending time in college libraries in preparation for essays and exams. Your UK course will combine practical skills with a sound academic foundation.
UK career-based and pre-university courses for you
The UK education system is very flexible so you can study academic and vocational courses side-by-side (such as a vocational computer qualification alongside an AS- or A-level in mathematics or economics). You could also learn a vocational skill alongside English language classes, or prepare for university whilst also improving your IELTS score.
UK career-based courses can last for up to two years, or three with a sandwich placement in industry. Work placements give you an insight into working practices and experience that will get you off to a running start in your chosen career.
What UK career-based and pre-university courses are available?
- BTEC National Award, Certificate or Diploma (England, Wales & NI only)
BTEC nationals are one or two-year courses in career-related subjects such as e-business, engineering, art and design, media, performing arts, agriculture, applied science, computing, and health and social care. They are ideal for students hoping to progress to a career at supervisory or technician level, and also provide a foundation for higher education courses in the same subject area.
AS- and A-levels are the UK qualifications most widely accepted for entry to university. They are available in subjects from the humanities, arts, sciences and social sciences, as well as in practical subjects such as engineering and leisure and tourism. You will study up to four subjects simultaneously over two years, taking AS-level examinations at the end of your first year and A-level qualifications at the end of your second.
An AS-level qualification is the equivalent of 50 per cent of an A-level. At both AS- and A-level, coursework accounts for between 20 and 30 per cent of the marks, with the remainder assessed by examination.
- International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB Diploma)
International Baccalaureate (IB) programmes include the Primary Years Programme (PYP) for pupils aged three to 12, Middle Years Programme (MYP) for students aged 11 to 16 and the Diploma Programme for students aged 16 to 19. The Diploma is the most popular. This is a two-year pre-university programme that is an alternative to A-levels and is recognised for entry into higher education in the UK.
You are required to study three subjects at higher level and three at standard, complete the Theory of Knowledge course and an extended essay, as well as participate in Creativity, Action and Service. English, a second language and maths are compulsory at either higher or standard levels.
There are more than 130 IB schools in the UK offering one or more of the three IB programmes.
You can search for International Baccalaureate courses on the International Baccalaureate Schools and Colleges Association website.
The Cambridge Pre-U Diploma, developed by Cambridge International Assessment, is offered in some schools and colleges as preparation for university and as an alternative to A-levels and the IB Diploma. To gain the diploma, you will need to study three principal subjects, as well as complete an independent research report and a course on global perspectives. Individual Pre-U elements may also be studied alongside A-levels.
- The Cambridge Pre-U Diploma
For information, visit the University of Cambridge website.
- Standard Grade, Highers and Advanced Highers
Students come from all over the world to study for Scotland’s universally known and respected National Qualifications (Standard Grade, Highers and Advanced Highers). These are school level qualifications that are designed to stretch your ability and your imagination.
You can prepare for your future learning by taking National Qualifications examinations at Scotland’s Colleges as well as Independent Boarding Schools.
Many of Scotland’s Colleges offer foundation programmes, which can be a combination of Highers and English language training. These programmes are specifically designed to prepare international students for entry into higher education, either at college or at university.
- Foundation courses or university access courses for international students
These are one-year courses that bridge the gap between qualifications gained in your home country and those required for entry to university courses in the UK. Extensive language tuition is also usually a feature of such courses.
Foundation courses allow you to focus on particular interests in preparation for university. In addition to core subjects, such as English and mathematics, you can opt for a range of subjects in areas such as art and design, business, engineering, humanities, information technology, law and science. They lead to institutions’ own qualifications that will be recognised by many universities, but not national qualifications.
These courses are offered by a wide range of institutions, including independent and state colleges, and by some universities in partnership with private providers.
Colleges in Scotland
Scotland has an excellent college system which provides a full range of qualifications. These range from foundation programmes, combining school level qualifications with English language training, to degree-level training in combination with universities.
Scotland’s colleges are best known for Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Higher National Diploma (HND) qualifications. These are recognised qualifications to do a specific job which focus on ‘learning by doing’ and can lead straight to a career.
You can find out more at the Scotland’s Colleges website
You can search for many career-based, pre-university and vocational courses in the course finder.
You can also study:
- A Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Diploma (HND)
- A foundation degree (FdA, FdSc etc)
- A University International Foundation Year course Find out more about these study options in UK undergraduate study.