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Compare and contrast

In the previous Step, you looked at what HE is, but how does it compare to where you’re coming from? You’ll explore the differences between FE and HE in the comparison chart below.

Comparison table. Title: Further education versus Higher education: Looking at the differences between the two. Left hand side of the table are points for Further Education: Refers to education up to Level 3 and is typically taught in sixth forms or colleges. Typically aged 16 - 18 years old. Qualifications can include A Levels, BTEC Diploma’s, BTEC Extended Diploma’s, and Access courses. Level 3 courses that are offered in FE usually last for 2 years. Most FE courses are free. FE courses tend to be taught in small groups in classroom settings. Whilst studying FE, you'll have lots of contact hours with your tutors throughout the week, with minimal independent learning required. FE typically follows a strict curriculum. Directed study: To a certain extent, you're given the information you need for exams and assignments. Generally, people attend a place of FE close to home, which can often mean that you could be studying with people you already went to secondary school with. Sixth form or colleges have a smaller population.  Sixth form or colleges tend to be in one or 2 buildings. FE offers limited range of activities and clubs. Right hand side of the table are points for Higher Education: Refers to education that's Level 4 upwards and is typically taught in universities and HEIs. Typically aged 18+. Qualifications can include foundation degrees, degrees, HND/HNC courses, postgraduate or professional qualifications at a high level. Course lengths in HE can vary depending on the subject. A typical undergraduate degree lasts for 3 or 4 years, but some can last up to 7. You have to pay tuition fees. HE courses tend to be taught across a range of  settings from lectures (that can consist of hundreds of people), seminars and one-to-ones. At university you'll have fewer contact hours. You're expected to be self-motivated and do a lot of independent learning. HE doesn't follow a national curriculum and is based on the departments specialism and the lecturer’s areas of interest and expertise. Self directed study: You're only given background information. There's an emphasis on personal responsibility and you're encouraged to seek your own reading and research and to create your own arguments and analysis. Progressing into HE gives you the chance to expand your horizons and live in a new town or city, whilst meeting lots of new people. Universities tend to have a much bigger student population, ranging from approx. 1000 - over 150,000. Universities stretch across several buildings. Some universities are also across multiple locations. HE offers more options for social activities, societies and clubs.

Is there anything you found surprising? Or is there anything you’d like to add which you found through your own research? Leave a comment below.

Course tip

Keep an eye on the bottom of each Step as you’ll often find some further reading material or downloadable resources which you may useful.

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Live Smart: Your Essential Guide to Living at University

University of Reading