Higher education is at the level above further education (FE), which usually goes up to Level 3 (e.g. Advanced Apprenticeships or A Levels). HE is learning at Level 4 and above and includes higher apprenticeships, foundation degrees, undergraduate degrees and postgraduate degrees (Masters and PhDs or Doctorates).
It usually takes place at universities, but it is possible to do a higher education course at a college or another institution that awards higher apprenticeships, academic degrees, professional qualifications and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) modules.
Here are the answers to some common questions about higher education:
Why should I go on to higher education?
Starting a HE course or going to university is a big decision and it's not your only option if you want to study. As a care leaver, you can also get lots of support to apply for and do an HE course. There are lots of different reasons why people decide to go onto HE. Some do it to improve their career prospects and pursue a particular vocation or job, while others do it because they enjoy studying a particular subject and want to learn about this in more depth. Whatever your reason for going into HE and whichever course you study, you will develop lots of transferable skills which are useful in the workplace, such as communication, problem-solving and teamwork. HE is also a great opportunity to join societies, take up sports, and meet a variety of people who might become lifelong friends. Some universities may also offer an option to study abroad for some of your course, which can be a great way to try living in a different country.
What is HE like?
HE covers lots of different courses and can be studied in lots of different places. You'll have a lot more freedom and independence than at school, but you'll also need to make sure you do your work! If you go to university then you'll get the opportunity to meet a mix of people, join sports clubs and societies, choose from a variety of subjects to study and get to know a new place.
How much does HE cost?
For most courses (but not degree apprenticeships) you will pay an annual tuition fee to the university (these vary by university but can cost up to £9000 per year). However, everyone is entitled to a student loan from the Student Loan Company to cover this. You will only have to start paying back the loan once you have graduated and are earning more than £21,000 per year. As a care leaver, you can also get help with costs of university (for further information go to financial support in HE).
What support is there for care leavers in HE?
Different universities will offer different levels of support for young people who have been in care. Some will have a named person who is the lead for supporting care leavers at the university you could contact them directly to find out what they offer. Your personal adviser should be able to help you find out about the support a university can offer you. Some universities hold an award in recognition of the good support they provide to care leavers. This award is known as the Quality Mark for Care Leavers. The Quality Mark is no longer awarded, but many universities still hold it – you may want to ask about this when researching universities. Alternatively, the Propel website provides a range of useful information and advice about studying at university and the different options available.
‘I was not inspired until uni and it made all the difference to my studies. At uni I performed far better than in school and have really enjoyed my studies as an engineer. I have found work very easily, getting a summer job after my first year of study, working on control systems for power generators, and now I have been offered a placement with Rolls Royce subsidiary Aero Engine Controls, working on the control systems for jet engines. My grades have been very good so far and I am hoping to get a First in my degree.’ Dawud
Options in HE
You can find out more about choosing where and how to study a HE course, applying for HE and the support you can receive below.