Qualifications Explained

A quick guide to qualifications

You can choose to:
  • Study one subject
  • Study two vocational subjects
  • Study vocational subjects combined with A Levels
  • Full-time study
  • Apprenticeships
  • Higher education

Qualifications available

Vocational qualifications are available as Awards, Certificates and Diplomas with many achieved through subject specialist awarding bodies regulated by Sector Skills Councils – meaning the qualifications have been designed with employers to meet their needs. Depending upon your achievement in GCSE and equivalent qualifications, you will start your course at entry, Level 1, 2 or 3. However for some trades everyone starts at Level 1 or 2 as it’s about developing the skills relevant to the trade.

You can combine vocational qualifications at Level 3 with an A Level or two vocational subjects at Level 2 & 3 on the grid. Many universities prefer the BTEC diplomas as entry to degrees as BTECs prepare you for study, research and independent thinking. We can help you make the right choice at advice events.


These courses are normally for 1 year and are suitable for people who have finished school with few or no formal qualifications and may have extra study or support needs. From Entry Level courses students can progress to a Level 1 course in their chosen area. From a Level 1 course students can usually progress to a Level 2 course.


These courses are taken over 1 year and are suitable for people who have achieved some GCSEs at grades D–G or have passed a Level 1 qualification.


These courses are normally taken over 2 years and are suitable if you have gained four or more GCSEs at grade C or above or have passed a Level 2 qualification with an overall merit or distinction.


This level is higher level qualifications and during year 2 of a two year course, students will work towards units of a Level 4 qualification with the option of continuing with this the following year, this will mean no registration fees and for many a higher level of study free of charge.

Something for everyone

If you don’t get the grades you need to do the course you want, don’t worry. No matter what level you start at, if you successfully complete the course you can then progress to the next level. There may also be an opportunity to resit your maths and English GCSE if you have not obtained a C grade when in school.

The BTEC Foundation Diploma in Art and Design
This is a Level 3/4 programme, lasting normally a year, during which individuals are prepared for entry to higher education to study art and design.

NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications)

Based on an area of work, and the skills needed to do a specific job within that area. They are available at Levels 1-5 and assess the competency and knowledge required to do a particular job. NVQs can be studied full-time in college in those subjects such as hairdressing, catering, and administration, where the College can provide a realistic working environment. NVQs are also available through Work-based Learning, where students split their time between college and work, perhaps on an Apprenticeship programme.

Professional Qualifications

A range of well-respected and widely-recognised qualifications are offered in professions such as Accountancy, Administration, Beauty Therapy, Catering, Childcare, Construction, Hairdressing and Teaching. These courses are often available from level 2 to level 6 and include AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians), and CACHE (The Council for Awards in Children's Care and Education).


These Work-based Learning courses give students the opportunity to earn money with an employer whilst attending College. Shrewsbury College offers training and placements in a variety of occupational areas. For more details click here

HND and Degree Courses

On completion of a Level 3 programme* students can choose to remain at Shrewsbury College to study one of our HND or degree-level courses, offered in association with Staffordshire University or Edge Hill University. Each year we celebrate the success of these students with a Higher Awards Ceremony held at St Chad’s in Shrewsbury. * Level 3 qualifications may vary for mature students / adult returners.
The College also offers one-year Access to Higher Education course designed for those aged over 21 who want to get into Higher Education but lack formal qualifications.

Foundation Degrees

On completion students can top up with a full degree. Combine academic education with work experience and work-based learning. Students can study full-time (includes work placement) or part-time (in employment). Often designed with employers / sectors to identify and address specific skill requirements. Aimed at:
  • Those with Level 3 qualifications (NVQ or BTEC) or WBL students, or Access students wanting a progression route into HE / university,
  • Companies wishing to invest in their employees
  • Individuals looking for a career change - or wanting to return to work
The College is continuously reviewing and developing its provision of higher education courses in conjunction with local universities and university colleges. For more details click here

How to move on at College

Students start at Shrewsbury College on a course that suits their level of achievement, and can move ‘up’ levels until they reach their full potential.
Level Equivalent Entry Requirements
(May vary slightly for some subject areas)
Pre Entry Supported Learning programmes An interest in College life and a willingness to learn
Entry Bridge to FE course, Entry to Employment (e2e) Functional reading, writing and number skills
Level 1 BTEC Introductory Diploma No formal requirements - just a keen interest in the subject area
(Foundation) NVQ Level 1
Level 2 4 or 5 GCSEs BTEC Introductory Diploma
(Intermediate) GNVQ Intermediate NVQ Level 1
  NVQ Level 2 2 GCSEs at grade D or above
  BTEC First Diploma
Level 3    
(Advanced) AS/A Level BTEC First Diploma
  BTEC National Diploma 4 GCSEs at grade C or above – may need to include Maths and English
  NVQ Level 3
Level 4 Higher National Certificate or Higher National Diploma Degree Level 3 qualifications
Higher Education NVQ Level 4 (may vary for mature students)





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