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What is Higher Education?

Let’s keep it simple and start from the beginning.

Think back all those years ago to your first day of school. You were probably around 5 years old when you started in Reception with your oversized jumper, and it was your first step into Primary School. It was also your first step into compulsory education. This used to end at the age of 16, after your GCSEs in Secondary School, however it is now necessary that all young people between the ages of 16-18 must stay within some form of education or training.

So… what’s next?

Well, the next step in your educational journey is a special one, because it is the first time that you really have a choice about what you want to study.

There are many different ways that you can carry on your education after your GCSEs, but they all come under the heading of Further Education:

  • You can study at a Sixth Form or a Further Education College
  • And you can study A levels, BTECs, NVQs etc.
  • You can even do an apprenticeship, where you can work and study at the same time

Further Education will usually last 2 years and you will typically start it straight after your GCSEs, so it is important to start thinking about what you might like to do before you finish school.

Higher Education is the term used to describe all the courses you can study after further education. You usually do these at a University, but you can also do them at some colleges. They can include:

  • Undergraduate degrees
  • Foundation degrees
  • Higher National Diplomas (HNDs)
  • Higher Apprenticeships


Most people start Higher Education courses when they have turned 18, but there is no age limit for university. Some people might want to go travelling or get some work experience before going to university, this is often called a gap year. This can be a good way to have a break from education and get a little experience of the world before you make a decision on what you want to do.

There are more than 40,000 Higher Education courses available at over 300 different universities and colleges across the UK, so you can be sure that there is a route that is right for you. If you decide to keep travelling on your own educational journey, you can be sure that you’ll have all the support you need to finally arrive at the career you want!

North East Raising Aspiration Partnership
Level 3, King's Gate
Newcastle University

Tel: 0191 208 3128