Routes into Higher Education (HE)

_DSC2560Choosing the right higher education (HE) course and institution for you is an important decision to make.

This page offers advice and guidance on the routes you can take into HE, as well as the different types of course that are available.


The exact qualifications and grades needed for courses vary significantly. Factors which affect entry requirements are things like type and level of the course you wish to study, as well as the university or college. Work experience can be important in some cases, and may be taken into consideration if you are a mature student.

Generally accepted qualifications include:

  • A Levels 
  • IB Diploma
  • BTEC 
  • Apprenticeships and NVQs 
  • Access to HE Diploma. 
  • Addionally, students will typically need GCSEs of A*-C grades in Maths and English.

Relevant work experience is especially helpful for Foundation Degree programmes. 

If you have few, or sometimes no, formal qualifications or relevant work experience it may still be possible to enrol on an Extended Degree programme in York - you can find out more about Extended Degrees below.

Looking for further information? 

Informed Choices offers advice on the best subject combinations and is aimed at all students considering A Levels and equivalent options.  

Page break GREEN

Types of HE Courses

Graduation-079 v2

Choosing the right Higher Education (HE) course and university/ college for you is an important decision to which you should give considerable thought. However, this is not something you need to tackle on your own.

There are numerous places you can contact for information about courses, as well as various services offering advice and guidance relating specifically to Higher Education. Find out more about who can help.

To search the HE courses available nationally visit or to search all the HE courses available in York, visit the Higher York HE course database.

Higher National Certificate or Higher National Diploma (HNC/HND)

Vocational qualifications that will prepare you for a career in a certain occupational area. A HNC is equivalent in difficulty to the first year of a degree and a HND equivalent to the second year of a degree.

Typical length of course:
1 year (HNC) or 2 years (HND) full-time


  • Shorter course than others – either 1 or 2 years full time
  • On completion you may be able to use the qualification to join a degree course in the 2nd or 3rd year.

Page-break-GREEN-518px wide
Foundation Degree (FD)

Vocational qualification that can be studied in various work-related subjects. The course combines academic and work-related learning.

Typical length of course:
2 years full-time


  • FDs have been developed in partnership with employers so are designed to meet employers’ skills needs
  • On completion you may be able to use the qualification to join a degree course in the final year.

Extended Degree

An honours or foundation degree with an additional year (foundation year) of study at the start of the course. The foundation year is designed to enhance your skills and knowledge to equip you for the later years of the course.

Typical length of course:
4 years full-time


  • An ideal qualification for students with few or no formal qualifications who are returning to education. You do not always need formal qualifications to get onto the course.

Page-break-GREEN-518px wide

Honours Degree (BA/BSc)

The most popular type of HE qualification. It is a subject based qualification designed to give you a thorough understanding of a particular area.

Typical length of course:
3 years full-time (4 years if course includes a year in industry or abroad)


  • You can study almost any subject and it offers a very thorough understanding and high level of knowledge in that subject.
  • This is a level 6 qualification (rather than level 4 or 5 as the above are) so could open up more opportunities to you on completion.

Visit the Higher York HE course finder for details of courses offered by our partner institutions.