Further education colleges can offer qualifications up to degree level, meaning you don’t have to move from home to study!
Improving your skills and qualifications can be an expensive and disruptive process if you opt for a university degree. If you’re already working and/or have a family or dependents, moving to be near a university can be out of the question – and that’s before you even take into account the financial implications of embarking on a degree.
The good news is you can gain new skills and qualifications without getting yourself into huge debt or having to move away from home. In fact, you can work training around your routine thanks to further education colleges (FECs) that allow flexible learning.
FECs offer a whole range of courses and study programmes, from those that do not need any specific GCSE grades, such as entry level courses, and apprenticeships, A-levels, technical and professional qualifications right through to HNCs (higher national certificate), HNDs (higher national diploma), foundation degrees and full honours degrees.
Beyond the norm
Typically, an FEC provides education that is beyond compulsory education but that is short of a degree level, although some do also offer degree courses. Some large colleges in big towns and cities may offer up to 80 courses, while others specialise in subjects such as agricultural or technical studies.
While most full-time college courses are attended by 16- to 19-year-olds, you’ll find plenty of adults studying in FECs on a range of short, part-time, professional or higher-education courses. Better still, most offer classes at times convenient to those with full-or part-time jobs, so you can study around your existing commitments.
Many FECs also offer financial support, careers advice, online (or e-learning) courses and good contacts with local employers, as well as childcare facilities and gyms.
What’s on offer?
Whether you want to learn new skills to help you embark on a new career or gain more qualifications to help you advance in your existing line of work, an FEC could be the answer. They offer:
- GCSE or A-levels, often in a large range of subjects.
- Vocational subjects related to a broad employment area (such as business, IT, engineering or health and social care, which can lead to a large variety of work, apprenticeships and university courses.
- Practical vocational courses, often called “tech levels”, that lead to specific jobs such as hairdressing, plumbing or engineering.
- Apprenticeships, in which a student undertakes paid work predominantly or completely with an employer and is assessed in the workplace or by attending college for a day or week at a time.
- Courses that prepare people for higher education, such as access courses or an art foundation course/post-A-level art course.
- Vocational higher-education level courses, such as foundation degrees, HNDs and HNCs.
- Foundation courses that are designed to develop maths, English, study skills, confidence and employability. These courses can give students the chance to try out several different vocational areas.
- Foundation degrees and full honours degrees.
- Learning for leisure courses, which are usually part time and often take place in the evenings. They may involve learning more about a hobby or interest such as ceramics or art.
Many FECs now offer students the opportunity to obtain access to training and qualifications through online courses, working with e-learning partners to deliver training and qualifications.
Anyone with access to an internet connection can become an e-student and there are many advantages to this method of learning. E-learning is:
- Cost effective – minimising travel and classroom costs.
- Flexible – studying is “on demand”, meaning you’re in control of where and when you learn.
- Up to date – all training materials can be kept current, which allows every student to learn from the latest content.
- Evidence based – progress tracking, completion reports and downloadable certificates ensure that everything learned is validated
- Consistent – online courses provide a standard message, eliminating problems with different instructors teaching different material in different styles.
- Environmentally friendly – You don’t need to travel and it doesn’t consume vast amounts of paper.
Benefits of studying at FE Colleges
- You don’t have to move away from home while you study
- Attending a local college cuts down on travel time
- Fees are usually far more affordable than university fees
- FECs can offer flexible hours to fit in with your work and home life
- Studies have shown that further education can boost self-esteem and wellbeing, and help develop social networks, independence of thought, problem solving and IT skills