It’s a good question. When you hear the phrase “higher education”, many people assume it automatically equates to “university” – but in fact the range of study options available post A-level is much wider and more interesting than that. And actually, there are many good reasons why committing yourself to a three- or four-year university degree course might NOT be the most sensible higher education option for you.

Take the BTEC Higher National Certificate (HNC), for example. This typically requires around a year of study and is considered a Level 4 qualification, the equivalent of the first year of a university degree. The subject areas offered tend to be more career-focused than conventional degrees; while here at Oxford Business College we obviously focus on Business, elsewhere you will find courses in Agriculture, Computing, the Performing Arts, Health and Social Care, and so forth.

The next step up is the Higher National Diploma, which usually requires two years of study (or an HNC plus HND = two years). This is a Level 5 qualification, the equivalent of the first two years at university – and, indeed, can often be “topped-up” into a full degree by completing just the final year of a university degree course. The subjects represented are similar to the HNC, but perhaps with more opportunity to specialise. The HND in Business course taught at OBC, for example, offers for specialisms in Accounting, Marketing or HR Management.

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So, back to the original question: when is an HNC or HND a more appropriate course for a school or college-leaver than a university degree? Well. . .

An HNC/D might be best for you if. . .

1. You want maximum flexibility

One of the great advantages of these qualifications is that they keep your options open. Choosing an HND doesn’t mean you’re foregoing a chance to get a degree – far from it, actually, as plenty of OBC students go on to university – but it does allow you to step into the world of work with a well-respected qualification after one or two years if you want to. Leave uni at that stage and you’re considered a “drop-out”.

2. You want to save money

As we mentioned above, an HND usually takes two years. But it can also be “fast-tracked” into one year of study as hundreds of Oxford Business College students have discovered. You’ll work hard, but it does mean it’s possible by topping-up with a university to complete a degree course in under 24 months. This can potentially save thousands of pounds in tuition fees.

3. You want a career-focused course

Spending three years reading poetry or writing essays about the Peasants’ Revolt isn’t for everyone. The courses at Oxford Business College are deliberately designed to offer a practical, useful education that will help students thrive out in the real world of work. You’ll finish your time here not just with any old qualification, but one that employers genuinely value.

4. You don’t like exams

It’s hard to promise that this is true for every HNC/D across all subject areas, but here at Oxford Business College students on the HNC/D in Business programmes are not required to take examinations. Assessment is based on assignments and projects done over the time of the whole course, which is arguably less stressful and certainly teaches a skillset more relevant to the work place than conventional final exams.

5. You want to return to education after a time away

One of the great benefits of an HNC is that for mature students – defined as over 21 – work experience in a related context is considered valuable enough to earn a place on the course. This can offer a potential pathway to university for someone who left school too early to have completed A-levels, a route that becomes even more convenient if the qualification is studied for part-time.

For information about HNC and HND courses at Oxford Business College, email admissions@oxfordbusinesscollege.ac.uk\/dev/dev or call 01865 791908.