Undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications

Aged 18 and over (17 in Scotland).


  • Certificate of Higher Education: Focuses on either a particular job or profession, or academic study. The most basic level of qualification that can be gained in higher education
  • Bachelor’s or undergraduate degree: Full-time, this normally takes three or four years to complete
  • Foundation degree: The equivalent of the first two years of an honours degree. This consists of academic study integrated with relevant work-based learning undertaken with an employer
  • Diploma of Higher Education:  They can be academic, but are mainly linked to a particular job or profession such as nursing and social work
  • Higher National Diploma (HND): A two-year course which, if completed with high grades, can lead to the third year of a degree.


This level is for students who have already completed their undergraduate studies and want to gain a higher qualification

  • Master’s degree: This is an academic qualification awarded to individuals who successfully demonstrate a higher level of expertise in a particular field of study. You can study one in almost any subject, but there are two main types of master’s: taught and research
  • MBA courses: A Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree is an internationally recognised qualification which gives you the skills you need for a successful management career
  • PhDs/doctorates: A Doctor of Philosophy, or doctorate (PhD/DPhil) is the highest academic level a student can achieve. These degrees are very demanding and often lead to careers in academia (as a lecturer or researcher)
  • Postgraduate diplomas and qualifications: Postgrad certificates and diplomas allow students to study something new or build on the skills and knowledge already gained during their first degree
  • Professional and vocational qualifications: This is usually taken to improve skills or gain attributes required by specific jobs. Most awards will involve practical training, giving you the opportunity to experience a job first-hand.
  • Conversion courses: It is a vocational postgraduate qualification usually taken by graduates wanting to change subject area after their first degree and better prepare themselves for the job market.