Written by: Toni Foot
What are Diplomas?
Diplomas are courses aimed at 14 – 19 year olds who prefer a more practical than academic approach to studying. Although some schools and colleges provide courses to 14 year olds, most students begin a Diploma at age 16. Universities and employers have contributed to the development of Diplomas in order to make them relevant to both further study and the workplace. Students can study at three levels:
- Foundation (level 1). This is at the same level as GCSEs, grades D to G.
- Higher (level 2). This is at the same level as GCSEs, grades A* to C.
- Advanced (level 3). This is at the same level as A levels.
Diplomas are available in many schools and colleges throughout the UK, although not all providers will offer every subject.
Which subjects are available?
- Business, administration and finance
- Construction and the built environment
- Creative and media
- Environment and land-based studies
- Hair and beauty studies
- Information technology (IT)
- Manufacturing and product design
- Public services
- Retail business
- Society, health and development
- Sport and active leisure
- Travel and tourism
What is involved?
Students are required to complete work experience, sector-related learning and functional skills (in mathematics, English and ICT). They also have to complete a project of their choosing, relevant to the Diploma they are working towards. This project element carries the same number of UCAS points as half an A level and can be completed as a separate qualification if desired. Students will need to complete an additional or specialist qualification alongside the other required elements of the course, to add depth to their knowledge and understanding of their sector-related learning. Specific qualifications differ according to the subject in question and students should check which qualifications are relevant with their school or college.
This means that the studying involved is more practical than more academic courses (such as A levels), which some students will find more engaging. Students who undertake a Diploma will need to be committed to their work whilst on placements as they will be expected to abide by workplace practices and regulations. When deciding if a Diploma is the best option for your son or daughter, consider how they approach learning currently. If they are more interested in learning about the world of work, then a diploma is probably a better option than A levels. However, a student who prefers theoretical study and academic methods of learning would probably be more suited to A levels.
Can my son or daughter go to university after achieving a Diploma?
UK universities have agreed to grant access to undergraduate students who hold an Advanced Diploma (equivalent to 3.5 A levels) so individuals can choose to go on to higher education if they so wish. However, this does not mean completion of an advanced Diploma guarantees entry to any university; it is important that students consult the entry requirements of specific universities and specific courses of interest if they wish to take this route. A student achieving an ‘A’ grade Advanced Diploma could get up to 420 UCAS points. Further information on university entry requirements can be found at www.ucas.com