What should they study?
Higher education courses range from more academic subjects like English or history, to philosophy, and vocational courses like accountancy.
With more than 50,000 courses in both academic and work-related subjects - including many which let students study from home or part time - there's bound to be one that suits your teen. Most courses are based on units of study or ‘modules'. Each module lets students earn credits towards their qualification, while giving them some flexibility over their studies.
What qualification will they get?
Higher education doesn't necessarily mean getting an honours degree - there are Foundation Degrees, Higher National Certificates (HNC), Higher National Diplomas (HND), and Diplomas of Higher Education.
It's worth thinking about where their qualification could take them in the future. If they want to go on to higher education to gain a recognised qualification to do a specific job, a BTEC, HNC or HND could be for them. HNCs and HNDs focus on 'learning by doing' and can lead into a new career.
Below we've explained the basics of each type of qualification to help you make an informed choice.
An honours degree offers a good grounding for what are often thought of as traditional 'professional' careers - like science, medicine, law, business, finance, architecture, education or the public sector and they're designed to give you a thorough understanding of a subject.
A bachelors degree is a course of academic study leading to a qualification such as a bachelor of arts (BA), bachelor of science (BSc), or bachelor of medicine (MB). It usually takes 3 or 4 years to complete full time (normally 4 years if you're doing a sandwich course, which includes a year in industry or abroad). Bachelors degrees in some subjects can take longer; e.g medical courses usually take 5 or 6 years. You can also study for a bachelors degree part time or through flexible learning.
Foundation Degrees are higher education qualifications that combine academic study with work-based learning. Designed jointly by universities, colleges and employers, they're available in a range of work-related subjects.
Higher National Certificate (HNC) and Higher National Diploma (HND)
HNCs take 1 year to complete full time and 2 years part time (or in other situations such as distance learning). HNDs take 2 years full-time and can also be taken part-time. HNCs (Higher National Certificates) and HNDs (Higher National Diplomas) are work-related (vocational) higher education qualifications. While bachelors degrees tend to focus on gaining knowledge, HNCs and HNDs are designed to give you the skills to put that knowledge to effective use in a particular job.
They are highly valued by employers both in the UK and overseas, and can also count towards membership of professional bodies and other employer organisations.
HNCs and HNDs are provided by over 400 universities and further education colleges in a wide range of subject areas.
Diploma of Higher Education
Diplomas of higher education are similar to HNDs. They are accredited professional qualifications and are highly respected by employers both in the UK and overseas. They usually take two years to complete and offer subjects such as accounting, construction, engineering, nursing, science, technology and textile design. You can normally convert your higher education diploma to a degree with an extra year of study.
The DirectGov website has more info on the different types of qualifications on offer.