There are lots of different stages of education in the UK, and lots of different qualifications available to get at each stage. Most of us are familiar with the most common qualifications, such as GCSEs, A-Levels and undergraduate degrees. However, these are far from the only options available. One possible advanced course you can complete is a certificate of higher education, otherwise known as a CertHE.
There are several advantages to completing a certificate of higher education. It is relatively convenient to study, as it is quicker to complete, and more flexible, than a typical undergraduate degree. Once you have this qualification, there are many places it can take you. You can often go on to complete a full degree in a similar subject, if that is the right path for you. Alternatively, this certificate will give you the skills and experience necessary to apply for competitive apprenticeship programmes, or to boost your CV for a job application, among many other routes you could take.
Keep reading for plenty more information about completing a certificate of higher education, including information about the qualification itself, as well as its benefits, drawbacks, and details about the many routes you can take after achieving this certificate.
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What is a certificate of higher education?
A certificate of higher education is the most basic qualification you can achieve that falls under the category of higher education. For a quick answer essentially, it is any education at a higher level than qualifications (such as A-Levels) that you complete in school. For a full guide to what exactly higher education is, have a look at this article from Think Student.
In terms of more familiar qualifications, a certificate of higher education is equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate bachelor’s degree. It is worth being aware that this does not necessarily mean it takes you one year to study it. For example, if you have limited hours available and are only studying part time, it may take you two years to complete the course. However, this is still a useful comparison.
The certificate of higher education is similar in other ways to the start of a degree. For example, both are usually completed in universities. Additionally, you are typically studying a very specific subject, rather than the range of subjects you will have taken in school.
There are a huge variety of subjects available, and you will find them similar to the subjects that degrees are offered in. Some are broader topic areas, while others are more specific – for instance, you may choose to complete a certificate of higher education in psychology, or a more niche area, like criminal psychology.
To get an idea of the subjects, you can achieve a certificate of higher education in, have a look at this page showing the courses offered by the Open University.
What is a certificate of higher education equivalent to?
As mentioned, a certificate of higher education is equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate bachelor’s degree. While this is perhaps the easiest way to compare this course, there are other qualifications it is equivalent to, such as a level 4 NVQ. For more on NVQs – national vocational qualifications – have a look at this Think Student article.
The government has a system of levels to categorise all the qualifications available in the UK. A full guide to this can be found on the official government website if you click here. As you can see, a certificate of higher education falls under level 4.
This shows that this qualification is at a more advanced level of education than you study in school – level 3 qualifications include A-Levels and the International Baccalaureate. However, it is a lower level than a full undergraduate degree (which is level 6), as you are only completing one year’s worth of study.
Can you get into university with a certificate of higher education?
A commonly asked question is whether a certificate of higher education can be used to get into university. The short answer to this question is yes, but this topic is a little more complicated than that.
Firstly, a certificate of higher education is, technically speaking, a university qualification. It is studied in a university, is a higher education qualification (as the name suggests!) and is equivalent to the start of a degree as discussed.
When asking about ‘getting into university’, people are usually referring to getting an offer for a three-year undergraduate degree course. In this case, a certificate of higher education can certainly be used to help your application.
In fact, if it is in a closely related subject, your certificate may mean you do not have to complete all three years of a degree course, shortening it to two. This is particularly common if you study the certificate of higher education at a certain university, and then apply to continue there, moving into the second year of the full degree programme.
Even if you study one subject for your certificate, and then want to study an unrelated degree course, this qualification is still valued by universities as part of your application. It shows that you have experience in a university setting and have successfully completed a year’s worth of university study, so they know you can keep up with the demands of study at that level.
Although having a certificate of higher education does not guarantee you an offer, going on to complete a full degree course is definitely one of the options it opens up for you. For more information about this, check out this page from the Arden University website.
Can you get into an apprenticeship programme with a certificate of higher education?
Another popular route after completing a certificate of higher education is to go on to a higher level apprenticeship. Have a look at this helpful article from the Prospects website if you are unsure whether university or an apprenticeship would be a better fit for you.
Once again, a certificate of higher education can be helpful if you are applying for an apprenticeship course. Apprenticeships are often competitive, with high demand for places.
Having this certificate can help you to stand out from the crowd, as you will likely be more experienced than other applicants, many of whom are applying straight out of school. For more on the entry requirements of apprenticeships, check out this Think Student article.
Degrees and apprenticeships are not the only places a certificate of higher education can take you. They are also great to show extra experience, knowledge and commitment when applying for a job, and will be taken into account if you want to study for other qualifications, such as diplomas.
In short, definitely do not worry that completing a certificate of higher education won’t open any doors for you!
What are the benefits of a certificate of higher education?
There are plenty of benefits to completing a certificate of higher education. As mentioned, it can be a great stepping stone to the next stage of your education, whether that be a full degree course, or an apprenticeship programme. It also helps with employability, showcasing your skills and experience to help you make competitive applications in the job market.
As well as this, a certificate of higher education is often a more accessible qualification than full-time degree study. For instance, the time commitment is not as significant as it is for an undergraduate degree course.
There are often more options to study for a certificate of higher education part time, if you cannot commit to full time study, which can be helpful if you want to work alongside your study. You may also be able to complete certain modules online, giving you greater flexibility over your work.
Alternatively, if you want to fast track your study, some providers even offer intense 6-month courses, according to this article all about the certificate of higher education from Indeed. This may equally be a good option for you, if you want to progress quickly onto the next stage of your education or career.
Finally, this qualification can be a great route into degree courses that are very competitive when you apply as a school leaver. For example, the certificate of higher education is available in law. You can then go on from this to complete a law degree.
This route can be ideal for students who are not sure they will meet the entry requirements for undergraduate law when they leave school. These requirements are often strict due to high demand for places – it is worth considering this alternative route.
What are the entry requirements for a certificate of higher education?
The entry requirements for this qualification can vary, so be sure to double check the official website of universities to see exactly what they want before you apply. However, in general, the entry requirements are typically lower than traditional degree programmes. This makes the certificate of higher education a more accessible way to continue education after school.
This article from University Compare, which has plenty of useful information about these certificates in general, says that you normally need just one A-Level or equivalent, with some universities not even asking for this. In contrast, the vast majority of degree courses ask for 3 A-Levels from applicants.
There are likely to be further requirements, such as a personal statement to tell the university more about you and why you want to study this particular course. Additionally, some universities ask for a grade C/4 in GCSE English and Maths, and for some practical courses like art, you will usually need to showcase a portfolio of your work.
Should you do a certificate of higher education?
Hopefully, this article has given you a good idea of what a certificate of higher education is, as well as some of the many paths you can take having achieved this qualification. Ultimately, this is just one of the many qualifications available in the education system in the UK, and it is up to you which one is best for you.
There are lots of things you can consider to help you make this decision. For example, you may be very keen on a certain degree, but do not think you will meet the entry requirements. In this case, it is definitely worth researching if there is a certificate of higher education offered in that field that you would be more eligible for.
You may want a more flexible timetable that works around your other commitments, or something that will provide a route into the working world with less of a time and financial investment. Again, a certificate of higher education may be a more suitable choice than a degree.
Additionally, remember that a certificate of higher education and a full-time undergraduate degree are not the only two options after leaving school. Everything from a gap year to a degree apprenticeship to a full-time job is possible.
Have a look at this page of the government website for lots of information about your post-18 options. This article has focussed on the many options a certificate of higher education opens up for you. However, you must still make sure you research all your options to make an informed decision about which one is right for you.