Qualifications Explained

There is something for everyone at Kirklees College. We believe that everyone deserves the chance to learn and gain a qualification which is why we offer a huge range of courses and qualifications across many levels catering for all abilities.

School & College Qualifications

Many of you will be exploring your options post-GCSE and will be looking at studying T Levels, a BTEC, Diploma or NVQ. These qualifications will give you good knowledge and understanding of a subject and in some cases, will be linked to specific job roles.

They offer practical and theory-based learning while preparing you for Higher Education.

There are no formal entry requirements.


Vocational Pathways courses are designed for school leavers and college students who require a longer transition into their chosen vocation. The courses help to develop students with the skills, qualities and qualifications needed to progress to Level 1 or Level 2 vocational programmes at college or into employment.

Students starting on Entry Level 1 and Entry Level 2 qualifications are usually within our Foundation Learning Department. These qualifications support students in developing their basic skills in English, Maths and ICT. They typically also involve practical tasters in vocational subjects and life skills/work skills development.

Students studying Entry Level qualifications do not take exams; they are assessed by course work or by being observed doing practical tasks.

Usually for students with GCSE’s below Grade 2 in English and Maths.


Entry Level qualifications are offered in maths and English as well as practical subjects such as Construction, Motor Vehicle, Catering, and Hair and Beauty. In practical subjects, they usually will teach the basic skills for that area.


Students doing Entry Level 3 qualifications do not always take exams instead they are assessed by course work or being observed doing practical tasks. They usually take one year to complete.

Usually for students with a GCSE at grade 2 or above in English and grade 1 maths.

Level 1 qualifications provide an introduction to a subject area and are available in a wide range of work-related subjects. 


In very practical subjects you would usually start at this level as you will not have the skills required to join at a higher level. Students studying a Level 1 will usually be assessed by course work, completing set practical tests, and for some courses online multiple-choice question assessments.


They usually take one year to complete and you would be awarded a pass or fail.

Usually for students with a GCSE grade 3 or above in English and 2 in maths.


Level 2 qualifications provide a more in-depth look at a wide range of work-related subjects. In practical subjects, they will start to introduce more complex tasks and skills.


Students studying a Level 2 qualification will usually be assessed via set course work and assignments, completion of synoptic tests (practical) and usually some form of an exam or online assessment.  It usually takes one year to complete. 


The qualification you achieve can depend on the number of units you complete. Grading is usually Distinction, Merit, or Pass.

Usually for students who have achieved 5 GCSEs, including a grade 4 or above in English and 3 in maths.


In very practical subjects, e.g. Hairdressing, Bricklaying and Motor Vehicle, you would only join this level after you have achieved a Level 2 qualification in the subject because of the foundation skills needed for the Level 3 course.


You will usually complete your Level 3 qualification in one year. In these subjects, you will be assessed via practical tests or synoptic tests, written assignments and possibly online exams. You can be awarded a Pass, Merit, or Distinction.


In other work-related subjects, e.g. Business, Health and Social Care, or Sport you can join at Level 3 and usually study for two years. The number of units you study will impact on the qualification you gain. At this level, you will study both practical and theory of the work-related area you have chosen.


This level is equivalent to A-Levels. A BTEC Extended Diploma is the same UCAS points as 3 A Levels. Assessment is usually a mix of course work, group activity, practical assessments and exams.


You may need to complete work placement hours as part of your qualification to be successful. This is usually graded Distinction, Merit, or Pass.

Higher Skills Qualifications

Go higher with a Higher Skills Qualification at Kirklees College.

Kirklees College is a desired destination to study a  higher skills course, offering flexible learning and giving you access to degree study on your doorstep.

A Higher National Certificate (HNC) is designed to prepare students for employment. Studying an HNC course is an excellent route into a variety of industries, from HNC Electrical Engineering to HNC childhood practice, there are a huge number of career-based options available.


HNC courses are created in conjunction with employers and help you develop essential skills to start out, or progress in your career. They usually take one year to complete full time, or two years part-time and are classed as a Level 4 qualification. The benefit of a HNC is that it is a qualification in its own right, or you can choose to study further using this as your introduction.

A Higher National Diploma (HND) is the follow on qualification to the HNC. Again it can be studied one-year full time or two years part-time, and it develops the skills and knowledge you have learnt on your HNC. 

After your HND, you can if you wish, study further to top up your qualification to full degree level. This usually takes an additional one or two years depending on your chosen subject. HNC’s and HND’s can be funded via a student loan. Both qualifications are assessed by a mix of assignments, set tasks, and exams.

Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) are a high-quality alternative to apprenticeships and degrees developed by employers. The qualifications are for those over 18 and adult looking to retrain or upskill who are wanting to study a more practical, employer-led programme. They can lead to high-skilled, well paid jobs in a range of sectors, giving you a head start in your chosen career.


They are based on the same set of standards as apprenticeships and T Levels and have been approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education as meeting the occupational standards for the relevant sector.


There are many different types of HTQs, such as:


  • Higher national diplomas
  • Higher national certificates
  • Foundation degrees
  • Higher education diplomas


Not all diplomas, certificates and foundation degrees are approved HTQs. Our course listings state what courses are approved HTQs.

Apprenticeships Qualifications

Kirklees College is one of the region’s biggest apprenticeship providers with over 1,000 apprentices working in approximately 1,000 businesses.

Apprenticeships are work-based training programmes designed around the needs of employers and can lead to nationally recognised qualifications.

An apprenticeship can take anything between one and four years and are available at three levels, Intermediate (equivalent to GCSE Level), Advanced (equivalent to A-Levels) and Higher (degree level).


The level you start at depends on your chosen industry and role. When you are on your apprenticeship, you are working towards an apprenticeship standard. Sometimes your employer may also choose for you to study a qualification in addition to the standard e.g. an NVQ or BTEC. Your apprenticeship will involve you completing a portfolio of work to evidence you are competent in your role. Once you have completed all your units you will be put forward for end point assessment (EPA).


This can take up to two months and includes participating in a professional discussion, completing a skills assessment/task, a workplace observation and completing online assessment/exam.

T Level Qualifications

A T Level is a two-year technical education course for 16-19 year olds that follow GCSEs and one T Level is equivalent to three A Levels. T Levels have been co-designed with over 250 global and leading employers specifically to gain the knowledge and skills that employers need for the jobs of the future.

T Levels are two years of full-time study but also include an industry placement. Your time will be split with 80% in the classroom learning and 20% on your industry placement with an employer to help give you the skills for a future career.


A key aspect of all T Levels is the completion of an extended industry placement. Lasting for a minimum of 45 days (315 hours) industry placements are high quality, meaningful, and relevant to the T Level programme. 


They offer the opportunity to put into practice the knowledge and skills learnt in the classroom, and provide practical hands-on training in a real work environment.


Students prepare by building the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required by employers, and individualised learning goals provide a focus for further development. The industry placement makes up 20% of the T Level programme, students are required to complete the full placement and make good progress towards their learning goals to successfully pass this element.