Accounting student talking to a lecturer

Higher Education Explained

24 May 2024

Deciding whether Higher Education is right for you is a big decision.

Whether you’re looking at continuing your studies, are planning to return to education, or want to upskill and change careers, RNN Group is one of South Yorkshire and North Nottinghamshire’s leading Higher Education (HE) providers.

You can study locally and save thousands on your degree at University Centre Rotherham, our dedicated HE facility that we opened in 2018.

But Higher Education isn’t just degrees. There are so many options that fall under the HE bracket, so it can become a bit of a minefield trying to figure out which option will suit you best.

Here we explain some of the options we offer at RNN Group.

An engineering student talking to a lecturer

What even is Higher Education?

Higher Education is undergraduate or postgraduate study. It’s the next step after BTECs, T Levels and A Levels, ranging from level 4 right up to level 7.

There is no upper age limit for Higher Education but you do have to be over 18. Some students naturally progress to Higher Education after college or sixth form, while others return to education as mature students (over 21).

To enrol on a Higher Eucation course, you must already have a level 3 qualification such as a BTEC, T Level or A Level. For students who haven’t got their level 3, you can do an access to HE course that will give you the grades needed to progress onto Higher Education.

At RNN Group, applications are assessed on an individual basis and we don’t just focus on qualifications. It may be that you have adequate work experience, knowledge or skills to complete your chosen course.

A photography student taking a photo of a fellow student

What are the different HE options?

Higher Education courses usually fall into one of the following categories:

Higher National Certificate (HNC) or Higher National Diploma (HND)

These are practical based, work-related qualifications, usually in science, engineering or technology industries.

A HNC is a level 4 qualification equal to the first year of a bachelor’s degree. It takes one year to complete.

A HND is a level 5 qualification equal to the second year of a bachelor’s degree. It takes two years to complete.

After completing a HNC or HND, students can progress to the next level of education (level 5 and above) or go into employment.

At RNN Group, we offer HNCs and HNDs in animal management at Dearne Valley College, engineering at Rotherham College, and specialist makeup at North Notts College.

Higher Technical Qualification (HTQ)

These are the newest HE option. Developed with employers, the two-year HTQ courses focus on skills and knowledge needed for specific jobs.

You’ll gain a level 4 or 5 qualification, with the opportunity to advance to further study like a degree or higher-level apprenticeship.

Currently, we offer HTQs in computing and healthcare, but more will be rolled out in the future.

Foundation Degree

A foundation degree combines both academic and vocational study to achieve a level 5 qualification. It takes two years to complete and is equal to two-thirds of a bachelor’s degree. There is sometimes the option to do a top-up year to achieve the full bachelor’s degree.

Taking a foundation degree is a good option for students who want to study alongside their job. They were created to help bridge the gap between college and university, bringing more people from vocational routes into Higher Education.

You could do a foundation degree at UCR in subjects like early childhood studies, games design, graphic design, learning support, and theatrical hair and makeup. We also offer top-up courses in all these subjects if you decide to do a third year of studies.

Bachelor’s Degree

This is what most people associate with university. Bachelor’s degrees are level 6 qualifications that take around three years to complete. It may be more if there is a mandatory placement year.

Depending on the course, they’re either a Bachelor of Arts (BA Hons) or Bachelor of Science (BSc Hons). Your final year will usually include a major project or dissertation.

Here at UCR, we offer bachelor’s degrees in business management, computing and systems development, fine art, media and photography, music performance and production, and theatre, acting and performance.

Masters Degree

A Masters degree is a postgraduate qualification that you can do after achieving your degree. They are level 7 qualifications that involve intense study with a series of modules and writing a dissertation. It usually takes a year to complete full-time, but can be done on a part-time basis, too.

At UCR, we offer a part-time masters degree in education and professional development. We also offer both the Professional Graduate Certificate in Education (PgCE) and Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) courses for graduates looking to qualify as a teacher.

Other HE options

As well as the courses listed above, RNN Group also offers other level 4 options such as:

  • ACCA Diploma in accounting and business
  • Therapeutic counselling and counselling practice
  • Advanced beauty treatments: dermaplaning, laser and light therapy, microblading, skin needling and peels
  • Higher level apprenticeships
Two UCR graphic design students sat at a deskb

Why should I choose Higher Education?

Unlike further education – things like BTECs, T Levels and A Levels for school leavers – Higher Education isn’t compulsory. You have the choice about whether or not you want to continue on in your education or go off into the world of work.

There are various reasons why students take a higher education course. You’ll gain:

  • More in-depth knowledge about your chosen subject
  • Better career opportunities
  • Employability skills
  • Increased earnings potential by an average of £115,000 over your working life.

But I don’t think I want to go to university

You don’t have to! RNN Group is one of 240 education providers in the country that offers Higher Education away from traditional universities.

As a university centre, UCR delivers courses differently. Students aren’t just a number in a big lecture hall, overwhelmed by multiple campuses spread across a city. Smaller class sizes mean tutors can take the time to get to know each student as an individual. We’ve been awarded the prestigious silver Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) rating for the quality and standard of our higher education provision.

It’s got all the facilities students could need to complete their studies, from soundproof pods for personal study to a two-storey library and computer space. There is also a music studio, photography studio, conference room and outdoor auditorium.

Located in Rotherham town centre, close to the bus and train station, students at UCR can achieve their career aspirations without the need to live away from home or travel long distances.

All courses are accredited by other Yorkshire universities such as Sheffield Hallam, Huddersfield and Hull. Many are offered full and part-time allowing students to fit studies around work and family life, great for mature learners heading back into education.

Ending up with over £45,000 of student debt can be a real barrier when choosing whether to carry on in education. However, full-time courses with us are between £6,900-7,600 per year of study, far less than the average £9,250 uni course fees, making UCR an affordable option without compromising on the quality of learning.

Plus, as we’re centrally located in Rotherham town centre, you won’t need to move away from home for your studies, saving you money on accommodation.

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