Higher education and further education: a quick definition
The difference between higher and further education (HE and FE) can be a common cause of confusion – here’s our quick round up of their definitions in a UK context.
What is further education?
Further education (FE) is used to describe the education that occurs following compulory post-16 secondary education, which is usually distinct from that offered in universities (higher education). It includes many different levels such as A Levels and Higher National Diplomas. Foundation Degrees are also a type of further education and take 2 years to complete (or 3-4 part-time) compared with the 3-4 years of most bachelors degrees, however they are offered by both universities and colleges; sometimes it is possible to ‘top-up’ a Foundation Degree to a bachelors degree, with 1 year or more of extra study
Further education is usually taught in the sixth-form college part of a school or in independent FE colleges, as well as in other work-based, adult and community learning institutions. Further education programmes will usually go up to Level 3 (e.g. Advances Apprenticeships or A Levels) and are often designed to provide the skills to advance to HE. In the US FE is sometimes referred to as continuing education.
What is higher education?
Higher education (HE) primarily describes post-18 learning that takes place at universities, as well as other colleges and institutions that award academic degrees, professional qualifications and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) modules. Whilst HE is the common name in the UK and Ireland, it is also known as post-secondary, tertiary and third level education. The right of access to higher education is enshrined in both UN and European human rights conventions (see more info on Wikipedia).
Image source: Stuart Miles