Guide to qualifications

When choosing your course it’s important that you make sure you’re studying the right qualification, at the right level, that will take you where you want to go.

Studying some qualifications may mean you could qualify for reduced fees, or even free courses.

Our advisers can talk you through the range of qualifications and levels open to you. Call them on 0117 312 5000.

Find your qualification level 

There are typical entry requirements for different levels and types of learning. The webpage for each course will tell you specific entry requirements.

Foundation/Entry Level

Who can study at Entry Level?

No formal qualifications are required for Foundation Level courses.

What is available?

  • Vocational pathways
  • English
  • Maths
  • Personal and social development
  • Skills for employment

What can I do next?

Progress to Level 1, Level 2 or technical/ vocational qualification.

Search for Entry Level courses

Foundation/Level 1

Who can study at Level 1?

You need four Grade 2s at GCSE, normally including English Language and maths at Grade 2 or above.

What is available?

  • Vocational pathways
  • English
  • Maths
  • Personal and social development
  • Skills for employment

What can I do next?

Progress to Level 2, technical/vocational qualification or an intermediate apprenticeship.

Search for Level 1 courses

Level 2

Who can study at Level 2?

You need three Grade 3s at GCSE or a Level 1 qualification at merit grade as well as English Language and Maths at Grade 3 or above.

What is available?

  • Intermediate apprenticeships
  • Technical/vocational qualifications

What can I do next?

Progress to a Level 3 course or advanced apprenticeship.

Search for Level 2 courses

Level 3

Who can study at Level 3?

Entry requirements for A-level courses vary. Generally, you need five Grade 4 passes at GCSE including Maths and English Language.

For Advanced Apprenticeships and Technical/vocational qualifications, you need five Grade 4s at GCSE or a good pass with a full Level 2 qualification. You need English Language and Maths at Grade 4 or above.

What is available?

  • A Levels
  • Advanced Apprenticeships
  • Technical/vocational qualifications

What can I do next?

Progress into higher education, higher apprenticeship or employment.

Search for Level 3 courses

Level 4

Who can study at Level 4?

Entry to Level 4 programmes is subject to the UCAS points system for full time study. All entry requirements are available on our website.

What is available?

  • Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Higher National Diploma (HND)
  • Foundation Degrees

What can I do next?

Progress into employment or on to further study.

Search for Level 4 courses

Types of qualifications

Don’t be overwhelmed by all the different qualifications. Here’s a handy summary of the main ones on offer at City of Bristol College.

Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Higher National Diploma (HND)

These higher-level vocational qualifications are particularly popular within certain industries. They can be studied over one or two years and mean you can combine work and study.

Once you’ve completed your HND or HNC, you could top-up to a Foundation or Honours Degree. HNCs usually earn a minimum of 120 credits and for HNDs it’s 240 credits.


A Bachelors, or Honours Degree, usually takes three years of full-time higher level study to complete. It’s designed to give you a thorough understanding of a subject and develop analytical, intellectual and essay/ dissertation writing skills.

These level six degrees are highly attractive to employers and create the possibility of progression to a Master’s degree or a higher education equivalent.

Foundation Degree

A Foundation Degree is a higher-level vocational qualification consisting of 240 credits at level four or five. It’s designed to help you develop:

  • Specialist skills and knowledge to maximise your employability in your chosen industry sector
  • Practical work experience skills
  • General work skills like reasoning, professionalism and work process management to either supervisory or management level
  • Enhanced skills, including communication, IT and problem-solving.

We joined forces with partner universities and employers to design our Foundation Degrees. Most can be studied full-time over two years and some are available part-time over three years.

Whether you’ve just left sixth form or college, want to develop your existing career, or change to a completely new one, a Foundation Degree will equip you with the necessary skills for your future.

Once you’ve graduated you can choose whether to focus on your career, or carry on studying (usually for just one more full-time year) for an Honours Degree.

Foundation Year/Year 0

These one-year courses are designed for students who don’t have the entry qualifications needed to start an Honours Degree.

They may offer direct access to an Honours Degree.

Access to Higher Education

If you want to study for a degree but don’t have the entry requirements, an Access to Higher Education course could be the ideal route. It’ll make you ready for university in just one year.

A Levels

A Levels are highly valued by universities and employers who hold academic knowledge and skills in high regard. A Levels could be the right choice for you if you want to study a range of subjects and you perform well in exams.

How will you learn?

A Levels are studied over two years. Most students study three A Levels. You will be taught at college by specialist teachers who will enhance your learning where possible with trips, visits, external speakers and work experience or real work projects. Subjects that include practical work will have access to specialist facilities and resources.

How will your work be assessed?

A Levels are mainly assessed by exams, though some include coursework.

What can you do when you complete your A Levels?

A Levels are an important route onto a range of university level courses as well as into jobs with great prospects. You might also choose to start an apprenticeship after your A Levels, either as a route into a career with training, or as a way to earn and learn before progressing onto higher education at college or university.


Apprenticeships are a fast-growing training and progression route in a wide range of industry sectors. As an apprentice, you will work and train with an employer and they will pay you a wage while you develop work-related skills, knowledge and experience and gain a qualification. We offer over 35 career paths to choose from.

How will you learn?

You will undertake a real job for your employer, learning most of the skills and knowledge you need from your work colleagues and by actually doing the job. You will also learn from specialist college staff, either at college or in work, and you will have opportunities to meet and work with other apprentices. The length of your apprenticeship will depend on the level of your training and the industry sector.

How will your work be assessed?

You will complete a combination of knowledge and work-based competence assignments to demonstrate your learning and these will be assessed by college staff with input from your employer. The majority of apprenticeships include industry-recognised qualifications.

Apprenticeship levels and entry requirements

We provide apprenticeship training at all levels to support a range of abilities, careers, employers and industries.

Level 2 Apprenticeship Standards

Providing you with functional skills and a relevant knowledge-based qualification.

Entry requirements: GCSEs at Grade 3 or above in Maths and English

Level 3 Apprenticeship Standards

You will gain valuable skills and training with a knowledge–based qualification.

Entry requirements: GCSEs at Grade 4 or above in Maths and English or level 2 apprenticeship

Level 4/5 Apprenticeship Standards

The most challenging yet rewarding apprenticeship providing you with the skills you need. There are knowledge-based qualifications such as Foundation Degrees. The length of training will vary depending on the apprenticeship level and the job you are being employed to do.

You will also work towards gaining a Competency Certificate, Technical Certificate and English, Maths and IT Certificate, for those who haven’t achieved a Grade 4 in these subjects at GCSE.

Apprenticeships are advertised as real jobs and you will need to apply for apprenticeship job vacancies if you choose this route – we can help you find and apply for vacancies.

Entry requirements: GCSEs at Grade 4 or above and A Levels or a level 3 college course or level 3 apprenticeship

What can you do when you complete your apprenticeship?

Whatever your starting point, when you complete your apprenticeship, you will have opportunities to progress your training and your career.

You may be able to stay with your employer, either as a permanent member of staff, or progress onto a new higher level apprenticeship to further develop within the company.

You may seek an apprenticeship or job with another company or, depending on your qualifications, you could return to further study at college or university.

Technical and vocational qualifications

These qualifications will equip you with professional knowledge, technical skills and work experience relevant to a particular career or industry sector. They provide a strong foundation for your future progression onto further study, training or employment.

How will you learn?

You will be taught a range of topics related to your field of study, by specialist teachers who have professional and practical experience in the sectors and subjects they teach. You will learn through a mix of practical work and theory, mainly at college and, where relevant, in our specialist industry-standard workshops and facilities. All technical courses include work experience placements, work-related projects and contact with employers and external organisations. You will study for one or two years, depending on the level of your learning. If you have not yet achieved a Grade 4 or above in GCSE English and Maths, you will re-take these subjects alongside your qualification. This could be a GCSE or functional skill.

How will your work be assessed?

Technical and vocational qualifications are assessed mainly through coursework and some courses have examined units. Real work projects and work experience will include feedback from employers and other external organisations.

Course levels and entry requirements

We teach a wide range of technical diplomas and certificates to suit your needs and career aspirations. Our courses for young people aged 16-19, range from Level 2 to Level 3. Entry requirements and length of study will vary depending on the level and type of qualification you study.

What can you do when you complete your course?

Depending on the level of your qualification, you will be able to progress onto further or higher levels of study and training at college, at university or through work-based training and apprenticeships, or you may choose to go directly into employment.

English and Maths courses

Having strong English and Maths skills and qualifications will make a big difference to your future progress and success – in employment, further study and your personal life. Whatever Grades you achieve in your English and Maths GCSEs, we will support you to further develop these skills.

If you do not gain a Grade 4 or higher in either English or Maths GCSE, you will study GCSE or Functional Skills as part of your technical or vocational qualification.

The level of your study will depend on your most recent exam grades and our assessment of your current skills. If you have already gained Grade 4 or higher in English and Maths, we will support you to continue to develop these skills through your main programme of study specifically linked to your subject.

Foundation programmes

Foundation programmes are especially designed for young people who:

  • Do not yet meet the entry requirements required to progress onto Level 2 qualifications
  • Will be seeking entry level jobs and training
  • Need a fresh start
  • Would benefit from greater focus on personal and social development skills needed for progression.

Foundation courses are a great way for you to further your skills and experience in an environment that suits you. There are a broad range of vocational pathways to choose from including: construction, business, travel and tourism, sport and animal care.

Pathways (SEND)

Our study programmes for young people with special educational needs or learning difficulties are designed to give the skills and experience necessary in order to progress into employment, live a more independent life or move onto a higher level of study.

Study programmes are available from Pre-Entry to Level 1.

We personalise these study programmes, working with the young person, to create a timetable based on their interests, skills, support needs and aspirations.

Where to find us