Higher education

Higher education is the name for qualifications and courses you can take after 18. It includes diplomas, foundation years, bachelor degrees and more.

get the jump

Some students may go to university or into another type of higher education earlier than 18 years old.

You can often study flexibly at your own pace by learning online or part-time. Courses are usually taught in universities, colleges or specialist institutions like art schools.

Types of qualifications

There are many different types of higher education qualifications, such as:

  • diplomas
  • bachelor degrees
  • foundation degrees and foundation years
  • HTQs
  • degree level apprenticeships

If you’re struggling to decide which qualification to take, you may want to speak to a careers adviser.

What you’ll do

Most higher education courses give you the chance to learn in different ways.

This could be through lectures, seminars, workshops, group projects, independent study or placement years.

Subjects you can take

You’ve got a lot of choice when it comes to higher education. There are hundreds of different subjects to choose from.

You may decide to study a general subject, like English or history. This can help you keep your options open and give you the skills you need for many different jobs and careers.

Alternatively, you may want to take a specific subject like medicine, law or architecture to prepare you for a particular career.

You can explore different subjects on the UCAS website.

Data about courses

You can view statistics about university courses from Discover Uni, such as:

  • average amount of money graduates earn after a course
  • percentage of graduates in full time work
  • number of graduates studying another course
  • opinions of recent students, such as if they enjoyed the course or found it useful

This data may help you decide whether you want to go to university, what subject to study or which universities to apply to.

Entry requirements

Each provider and qualification will have its own entry requirements that you’ll need to meet.

You'll usually need A levels or a qualification that’s the same level. If you’re not sure, you can see what the different qualification levels mean.

You can take an access to higher education diploma to prepare you for university if you’re over 19 and do not have A levels.

Tuition fees and funding

Most universities and colleges charge a tuition fee to cover the cost of your course.

You can apply for funding from student finance to support you.

You may also be eligible for a scholarship, grant or bursary, depending on your circumstances and the subject you’re studying.

After higher education

You can use your higher education qualifications towards:

You could also look for volunteering opportunities to get workplace experience and build new skills.

Special educational needs guide

Disability Rights UK has a guide to higher education that you may find useful.

The guide includes stories from real students with special educational needs or disabilities.

Uni Connect

Uni Connect helps young people remove financial, academic and cultural barriers to higher education.

They offer different activities like campus visits and provide practical advice about going to university.

Their website provides information for:

If you want to know more about Uni Connect, you can speak to a careers adviser or find your local Uni Connect hub.

Get more information

You can read more about the different types of higher education courses, what you’ll study and how to apply on the UCAS website.

More about higher education from UCAS

Explore your choices

Combine work and study

T Levels


A levels
Higher education
Higher technical qualifications (HTQs)
Vocational technical qualifications (VTQs)


Supported internships
School leaver schemes

Special educational needs (SEND) advice

You can get education advice if you're disabled or have special educational needs. 

It may help you choose what you'd like to do next.

Information for other countries: