Students in park © Mat Wright

Respected by employers and academics worldwide, UK further education courses fall into two categories; academic and vocational.  Academic courses, which help you prepare for higher education, or vocational courses, which give you the skills required for your chosen career. You can choose to study online, on campus in the UK or even on a campus in your home country.

Why choose UK further education?

All UK further education institutions are held to strict quality standards, so that you can be sure that you are getting a world class education.

UK further education institutions have strong links with industry, ensuring that what you learn is relevant to your career aspirations. Qualifications are approved on the basis that they meet industry needs, and many courses are designed and delivered in partnership with industry experts and local employers. 

Employers and further education institutions partner to offer apprenticeships, years in industry and work placements that all offer ways to work towards qualifications while working (subject to visa restrictions).

Further education institutions are innovative, with state-of-the-art facilities mirroring the work-place. They make use of the latest technologies to teach and learn, and offer virtual reality employment-based learning experiences. 

Many further education institutions encourage entrepreneurial learning, including a focus on social enterprise activities. This develops innovative approaches and creative and critical thinking skills that allow you to set up your own enterprises, or rise to positions of influence within existing organisations. 

Many UK colleges are institutions of both further and higher education. These institutions offer a wide range of full time and part time courses in a huge variety of subjects and specialisms, to different levels, to students from all over the world, and to students of all ages. This means you could be part of a vibrant student community.

For more information about why to study further education in the UK, visit the Association of Colleges (AoC) website. The AoC also have a useful set of key facts about UK Further Education Colleges

Types of courses

Further education institutions offer many of the same courses as schools and higher education institutions, as well vocational and technical courses designed to meet the needs of employers. They are taught in a way to suit those who prefer to learn in a vocational context. Students can choose to pursue study through:

Academic pathways – including AS and A levels, International Baccalaureate and undergraduate study – that can lead to university, an apprenticeship or a job. 

Applied general or technical pathways – including national vocational qualifications and business and technical qualifications – that can lead to higher apprenticeships, higher education at college or university, or a job.

Occupational or professional pathways – taken in apprenticeships or through training courses for employees – that can lead to higher apprenticeships, a job or promotion. (As apprenticeships are primarily focused on the job and employment, any international applicant must be eligible to work in the UK, as well as have the necessary visa.)

Further education institutions also offer a range of courses specifically designed for international students, such as English language courses, summer schools, international diplomas, foundation years and top up courses. 

Visit UCAS to find out more about different types of courses.

To search for courses and apply, search the websites of the further education institutions in which you are interested. 

You can find a list of UK further education colleges on the AoC website, or search for a specific course using the National Careers Service course search.

Applying for a course

Most further education courses require you to apply directly to your chosen institution. Institutions usually have application forms on their website and set their own entry requirements. If you need to find out if your qualifications are equivalent to their requirements, find out about the services offered by UK NARIC.

If English isn’t your first language, the institution may ask you to take an English language test or show your English language qualifications before you can enrol. You also need to check your visa requirements.

For information on costs of further education courses, please visit the UKCISA website