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What qualification?

Finding the right qualification and level is the first step to choosing a course. We offer courses in all Levels from Entry Level to Degrees.


GCSE Equivalent to a Level 1 or Level 2 (grade depending), GCSEs are widely recognised by employers and by educational establishments when progressingto higher level courses such as A-level and BTEC. GCSE subjects (certainly English Language and Mathematics) can be taken in combination with other courses.


A-levels are a good choice if you are planning to progress to higher education. They can also be useful if you want to study a range of subjects and haven’t decided on a specific career path to work towards. You will need to be confident at taking exams as A-levels are assessed almost totally by examinations.

You can mix and match subjects, so if you haven’t decided whether you want to go into the Arts or the Sciences, you can do courses in each to find out what you really enjoy. A-levels are also highly valued by employers because they show you can work at a higher level.

Please note: A-levels are currently only offered at our Southend Campus.


Apprenticeships give you the opportunity to work for a real employer, earn a real salary and gain a real qualification whilst gaining valuable workplace skills and experience. Apprenticeships can be studied at Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4.


BTECs combine work-related training with traditional classroom learning. Offered up to Level 3 (equivalent to A-levels) BTECs can count towards your UCAS points total as a popular alternative entry route to degree-level study.

Diploma in Foundation Studies

We offer a Diploma in Foundation Studies for Art and Design, ideal for students making the transition from A-levels or school-based GNVQs to degree-level art courses.

National Vocational Qualification (NVQ)

NVQs are work-based awards achieved through assessment and training. To achieve an NVQ, candidates must prove that they have the ability (competence) to carry out their job to the required standard. NVQs are based on National Occupational Standards that describe the 'competencies' expected in any given job role. NVQs are offered in a range of subjects at various levels:

  • Level 1 is a basic or Foundation Level
  • Level 2 is equivalent to GCSEs or First Diploma Level
  • Level 3 is equivalent to A Levels or Extended Diploma Level
  • Level 4 is equivalent to a Foundation Degree or Higher National Diploma.

Foundation Degrees

Run in partnership with the University of Essex, Foundation Degrees are higher education qualifications designed to equip you with the skills needed for a particular area of work. They typically involve learning in the workplace as well as the classroom. As with other higher education courses students are able to apply for financial support. After successful completion of a Foundation degree, students can apply to progress on to the final year of an Honours degree programme in a relevant subject.

Higher National Certificates (HNC) and Higher National Diplomas (HND)

If you are looking for a work-related qualification that will advance your career, give you practical skills and can lead on to higher education, our HNC and HND courses are a great option. Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas are job-related qualifications that are highly valued by employers. HNCs and HNDs are a mix of academic and hands-on practical and vocational learning that will develop the skills you need in the workplace.

If completed with high grades the HNC can be topped up to an HND, which can lead to the third year of a degree at university. HNCs and HNDs are at Level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework. On the Qualifications and Credit Framework, HNCs are at Level 4 and HNDs are at Level 5.

Which Level?

Entry Level

Our Entry Level courses are designed for people with no qualifications and will help you to improve on your reading, writing and IT skills. You will work in small groups and enjoy lots of practical activity.

Level 1

Our Foundation Level courses allow you to gain skills that will help you to get a job or qualification. These courses give you a good introduction to a general area of work, and combine practical hands-on activities, project work, key skills and work experience.

Level 2

These courses are Intermediate Level and are an ideal route into a career or provide an opportunity to get qualifications that prepares you for study at a higher level. Most students who have achieved GCSE Grades C-E in their final year at school, choose a Vocational or work-related course at South Essex College. Please refer to individual courses for entry criteria.

Level 3

At South Essex College, students who have achieved a least five GCSEs at Grades A*-C are able to choose from the widest range of courses in the area. Study at this level is challenging with courses offering solid preparations for a career or further and degree level study.

Levels 4 and 5

We encourage all students to aim higher and have a wide range of full- and part-time university level courses. Qualifications on offer include Higher National Certificates, Higher National Diplomas and Foundation Degrees. Courses are run in collaboration with our partners University of Essex.

For full details on any of courses please use our coursefinder tool.