There are over 20 different Further Education Colleges in the South of England. They offer a range of academic, vocational, technical and professional courses. FE colleges use Labour Market Information and relationships with local and regional employers to ensure they offer qualifications reflective of the job market. Further Education Colleges are attended by people of all ages, from 16 to 90+ although most students are between 16 and 18 years old.
Some colleges are very large, with several sites or campuses and some are specialist, such as those offering agricultural or marine courses.
Further Education Colleges offer courses at every level from entry level courses that do not require GCSE grades at entry through to higher level qualifications such as HNC/ HND and degree courses.
The main difference from school is that an FE college is a much more adult environment and students will typically call teachers by their first name and be expected to be independent. That said, they are still supportive environments and it not uncommon for parents to be invited in to meet tutors at parents evenings or to receive attendance reports sent home.
A full time course at college is 16 hours, which can mean a student can have a part-time job at the same time (but they will be expected to complete course work and projects too!). Students required to re-sit or take English and maths as part of their study programme may be in college for more hours each week.
List of the qualifications FE Colleges offer:
- GCSE or A levels (often with a large choice of subjects) The GCSE offer at each college will vary but all will now offer English and maths.
- Vocational subjects - these are related to a broad subject area such as business, health and social care, etc. - so they can lead to a large variety of employment areas or university courses.
- Practical Vocational Courses (often now called technical or professional programmes) that lead to specific jobs such as hairdressing, plumbing, or engineering.
- Apprenticeships where a student is mostly based with a paying employer and is assessed either in that workplace by a visiting assessor or by attending a college for a day or week at a time
- Courses that prepare people for Higher Education, such as Access Courses or the Art Foundation/Post- A level Art Course
- Vocational Higher Education Level courses, such as Foundation Degrees, Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) and Certificates (HNCs)
- Foundation Courses to develop maths, English, studyskills, confidence and employability. These courses can give students the chance to try out several different vocational areas
- Learning for leisure these courses are usually part-time and often in the evenings. They may involve learning more about a hobby or interest e.g. ceramics, art.
- Courses aimed at overseas students such as English Language Courses or preparation courses for University.
All young people must now stay in education or training until their 18th birthday and many young people choose go to Further Education College so they can develop their skills and qualifications before they progress into a job or higher education course, either at a college or a university.
Why young people choose college at 18
At 18 young people might attend a college to do:
- Vocational courses.
- Specialist courses such as post-A level Art programmes.
- Higher education courses, such as, Foundation Degrees or HNCs.