In the UK, there are so many different levels of education and qualifications that they all seem to get jumbled up. Many of these terms are very similar or mean the same thing. This can make it particularly confusing to know what the difference between these different terms are. One of these is tertiary education. What exactly is tertiary education, and who does it involve?
The term tertiary education in the UK refers to all post-secondary education. This means that it is any education after secondary school. This includes sixth form college and university. In other words, it is both further and higher education grouped together. It starts from the age of 16.
In the rest of this article, we will be further discussing the confusion, and other places it may be used. To find out more about this, please read on.
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What is tertiary education in the UK?
There is a lot of confusion about this online from multiple sources, which has caused many conflicting definitions. I have tried to make it as simple as possible below.
Tertiary education is a name given to all education or training after completing secondary education. This means that it is completed after secondary school at age 16.
It is used to describe further education study along with higher education. This means that it covers college, level 3 apprenticeships and other qualifications of that level as well as undergraduate and post graduate study including bachelor’s master’s and doctorate degrees.
However, confusion comes from the terminology of similar terms. It is important to note what further education is. It is any study after completing GCSEs, or the completion of compulsory education in the rest of the UK, and this is usually around the age of 16.
Higher education is education after the completion of all secondary education. Usually after the age of 18.
The term tertiary literally means the ‘third level’. This is why it follows primary, and secondary education. Some good places for the definition of ‘tertiary education’ are Cambridge dictionary which you can find by clicking here, and Oxford dictionary which you can find by clicking here.
Is higher education and tertiary education the same thing?
If you seem confused by these terms, don’t worry. This should clear it up.
Higher education and tertiary education are not the same thing and should not be used interchangeably. Higher education is part of tertiary education, along with further education.
Tertiary education is used to group the 2 terms together. This means that it also highlights the period of non-compulsory education.
You should refer to the links above explaining further education if you would like to know more or continue reading below.
Are A-Levels tertiary education?
A-Levels are a level type of level 3 qualification that you can study in specific subjects, after finishing your GCSEs. Due to this, they are non-compulsory and are a form of further education.
As mentioned above further education is part of tertiary education, along with higher education. This means that A-Levels are also a part of tertiary education.
To find a full guide on these levels and the education system of the UK, you can click on this link to a Think Student article find out more. To learn more about A-Levels, click here to find a Think Student article that will tell you more.
What qualification levels are tertiary education?
Tertiary education consists of further and higher education. This means that it consists of level 3, levels 4-6, and levels 7-8. These are the equivalents of A-Levels, undergraduate university level and postgraduate university level, respectively.
To find out more about the qualification levels, including those of other UK nations, you should click here to find a Think Student article with more details on this.
What age is tertiary education?
Further education consists of Years 12 and 13 in England and Wales. Years 13 and 14 in Northern Ireland, and finally S5 and S6 in Scotland. Higher education is then anything after the age of 18. Therefore, tertiary education is any training or education after the age of 16, when in an educational or training facility.
What is further and higher education?
Further and higher education has been mentioned a lot in this article, but what exactly is it?
The exact definition of further education is education below university, after leaving school. You can find this definition at this link from the Cambridge dictionary.
This means it is any education before university, but after GCSEs. In other words, it is sixth form college, or equivalent from the age of 16-18.
Within this, you will be completing some form of education. The most popular are A-Levels, BTECs or the new T-Levels which will replace BTECs. Other forms are apprenticeships, which is working on the job, while getting paid and achieving a formal qualification.
The exact definition of higher education is education studied at an advanced level. This was found at the Cambridge dictionary which you can access by clicking here.
This is education studied after secondary school, and sixth form, usually at post-18. This consists of undergraduate and postgraduate studies but isn’t limited to that.