A levels aren't the only option out there to take your students to higher education.

Choosing a different qualification can offer an alternative way to study – as a teacher, you can help students consider their preferences for learning and assessment.
So which other qualifications could your students choose as a stepping stone to higher education? Here's an overview of what’s on offer…

Vocational qualifications

It is becoming increasingly common for students to apply to higher education with either standalone vocational qualifications or a mixture of academic and vocational or technical qualifications. If the academic and exam focus of academic qualifications isn't right for a student you're advising, then how about a vocational qualification at Level 3 (Level 6 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework)?

BTEC qualifications are widely known and available in sixth forms and colleges. T Levels are newer two-year courses in England equivalent to three A levels, with more subjects available over the coming years. You might also encounter CACHE qualifications, City and Guilds Tech Levels or Cambridge Technicals. In Scotland, Higher National Diplomas and Higher National Certificates offer pathways into higher education. All can be used to progress into higher education.

Often, vocational qualifications tend to link to a broad job area, rather than an academic subject – think engineering, not maths; health sciences, not biology.

Who would they suit?

Vocational courses like these might suit students considering higher education or work-related options in future. Students will still spend time in the classroom, but they should also get the chance to apply their learning. There’s a focus on coursework and assignments over exams. As a general rule, students will need GCSEs at grade 4 to get a place.

What do vocational courses mean for progression to HE?

Vocational qualifications are often welcomed as part of an application to higher education providers. UCAS Tariff points are awarded for vocational qualifications. Some universities advertise their entry requirements in Tariff points whereas others will list accepted qualifications. If in doubt, check entry criteria with the HE provider.

Some of the most competitive universities consider vocational qualifications, however some do not. UCAS has found that of the 49% of English 18 year olds with post-16 vocational qualifications who enter HE, 3% enter higher tariff providers. This is significantly less likely than those with academic based qualifications (27%).

So, prospective students and their advisers should check university and college websites before making decisions and submitting applications.