HNCs are a Level 4 qualification and take just one year to complete full-time. After studying the HNC you can ‘top-up’ to a HND qualification in just one year, or progress to employment and kick start your career.


HNDs are work-related courses that focus on ‘learning by doing’ and are designed to give you specific skills for employment. A HND (Higher National Diploma) is a Level 5 qualification and typically takes two years to complete. It is considered equivalent to the first and second years of a Bachelor’s Degree and many use it as a stepping-stone to complete a full degree.

Once you have completed your HND you can go straight in to employment or you could apply for the final year ‘top-up’ full degree at University. Acceptance on to these courses is at the discretion of the institution offering the top-up.


Foundation Degrees are vocational alternatives to traditional degrees. Like HNDs, these are also considered equivalent to the first and second years of a Bachelor’s Degree but offer a more work-related alternative, with the aim to develop you for a specific work sector. This Level 5 qualification is often favoured by students who want to work and study at the same time, with modules designed with industry demands in mind.

Completion of a Foundation Degree will enable you to develop your career in the work place. You may choose to continue your studies at Bachelor’s Degree level. This might be through a ‘top-up’ programme, or by direct entry to University at Level 6.


Typically, students graduating with a Foundation Degree or HND can go on to achieve a Bachelor’s Degree with one further year of academic study at University (longer if part-time).

Some Universities might allow you to transfer your accumulated credits, enabling you to enter into a full degree programme, directly at Level 6.

In certain subjects, for example, Professional Studies, standalone ‘top-up’ courses offer you an opportunity to earn the extra credits you need at Level 6, to convert your Foundation Degree into a Bachelor’s Degree.

Entry to either of these progression routes is at the discretion of the receiving University, and dependent upon availability in the subject area.