Studying at a higher education college

Higher education (HE) courses don’t have to be studied at a university – there are more than 240 colleges in the UK that offer a range of higher education courses.

UK colleges offer all the subject areas you’d expect from a university, and many colleges offer full honours degrees. UK colleges are also known for more practical, vocational courses, such as Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) and foundation degrees, most of which are run in partnership with a university, and often allow students to continue to a full degree through a 'top-up' course.

UK colleges provide a very high level of teaching and learning support for students on higher education programmes, although some colleges don’t offer student accommodation like universities do with halls of residence. With this in mind, it’s important you research your accommodation options before you add a college-based course choice to your application.

What are the benefits?

There are many benefits to studying your course at a UK college, including:

  • lower tuition fees
  • smaller class sizes
  • location – you can choose to stay close to home (reducing any living expenses)
  • flexible study options, including part-time
  • progression programmes through to full degree courses
  • more class contact hours and individual study support

Who studies HE in a college setting?

  • Around 10% of all undergraduate higher education is delivered in further education (FE) colleges, with around 187,000 students studying HE at a college in the UK. 
  • Colleges have more part-time provision, more students in work, and more mature students than in universities.
  • Colleges offer a wide range of subjects, particularly vocational courses. They deliver a higher proportion of the following subjects than universities:
    • business, admin, and law
    • education and training
    • arts, media, and publishing
    • manufacturing technology/construction
  • Almost half of all undergraduates studying at a UK college are over 25 years old. A high proportion are also studying part-time – studying for their HE qualification alongside other responsibilities, such as working and family commitments.