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Further education colleges

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General further education (FE) colleges offer a wide range of full- and part-time courses for students aged 16+. Many courses are designed to qualify the student for particular professions.

FE colleges are the main providers of vocational (work-based) courses in the UK and they often have good links with the business world. Many also offer more academic courses and have strong links to higher education institutions.

There are more than 500 government-funded further education colleges in the UK (which are often referred to as state-sector or state-funded colleges). Courses range from GCSEs and A levels to the Diploma and BTEC Higher Nationals.

There are several specific types of college, although some of the categories overlap.

  • Sixth-form and tutorial colleges specialise in full-time courses for 16- to 19-year-olds, often designed to equip them for university entrance.
  • Specialist colleges such as land-based or agricultural colleges, offer courses for farming or horticultural careers, or colleges that concentrate on art and design, music or the performing arts.
  • Tertiary colleges provide academic and vocational education for 16- to 19-year-olds, but they are also likely to offer a range of courses for older students.

Many colleges offer English language, foundation and access courses designed for international students. Some colleges have their own residences, and many can arrange local accommodation.


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