What Is Further Education?

Further education in the UK is classed as education which takes place after secondary education, but that occurs before higher education. Commonly, further education is undertaken by students between the ages of 16 and 19, after they have completed their G.C.S.E examinations or equivalent qualifications. However, the qualifications received during further education have no age restrictions.

From 2015 onwards, due to the change in law with the passing of the Education and Skills Act 2008, all students in England are required to continue their education up until the age of 18. This means that up until 18, all young adults in the UK must either continue full time education, become an apprentice or trainee, or work for a minimum of 20 hours a week and stay in education part-time.

Where Can You Study Further Education?

Further education can be studied online, at home, or at one of the centres for further education in the UK. Commonly, students choose to either enter sixth form or college after leaving their compulsory secondary education. Mature students can take their further education examinations in centres across the UK, choose to attend college, or take alternative classes.

Sixth Form

Many schools in the UK, that offer secondary education, also offer a further education program, known as sixth form. However, it is not a requirement for a sixth form to be attached to a secondary education establishment. Sixth form education is open to students that currently study at the school, and those that wish to transfer from other schools. Most sixth forms cater to year 12, 13, and 14 students, who have met the required standard for entry at G.C.S.E level.


Further education colleges generally offer a vast range of courses and qualifications at further education level. They primarily cater to a large number of students between the ages of 16 and 19, but mature students are commonly welcomed also. Like sixth forms, some colleges also require a certain level of results to be obtained at G.C.S.E level before entry to some courses can be gained.

Alternative Centres

There are opportunities to study and take exams for further education outside of the standard establishments. Some community centres, libraries, and charity run organisations can help students to continue their further education. There are also private learning companies and courses available.

What Types of Further Education Are There?

The types of further education available in England is very diverse, both in terms of the topics available to be studied and the types of qualifications that can be achieved. Depending on the course that is chosen, further education qualifications normally take between 2 and 4 years to complete.


One of the most common types of further education is A-levels, which is the next step on from G.C.S.E exams. Most sixth forms solely offer A-level courses, and colleges also provide a vast assortment of subjects for students to study. A-level education normally takes place over the course of 2 years, with AS level exams taken in the first year and A-level exams taken in the second year. Commonly, students will select between 2 and 4 A-level topics to study.


Many colleges also offer a very diverse range of further education courses, which are very different to A-level courses. These provide different qualifications, such as an NVQ or BTEC, depending on the subject or skill that is being studied. Courses range from Advanced Business with Accounts to Animal Care, with each establishment offering a differing selection. Most courses run up until level 3, which is similar to the qualifications received at A-level.


While not generally considered to be a form of full time education, apprenticeships are also a popular option for continuing education whilst working. Often facilitated through a college and combined with a part-time course, apprenticeships span many different career paths. Students choosing an apprenticeship over full time education will normally earn a small wage whilst learning a trade on the job.

What Comes After Further Education?

After further education, where full time education is no longer compulsory in England, students have a number of options. Some students decide to continue with their chosen career path, with many of the further education courses giving students the qualifications they need to begin full-time employment.

The other route after further education is to apply to study higher education at university. Universities require students to achieve a certain level of qualifications in order to gain access to a course where they can begin studying for a degree. These qualifications can be A-levels, or certain qualifications from courses. Each subject at each university will have a different requirement.

The provision of further education in England, allows students to continue exploring subjects that they are most passionate about. With the variation in qualifications, ways to study, and topics available, there is a form of further education to cater to the needs of every type of student.