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Further Education (FE) Courses Guide

After finishing secondary education, extra study often takes place through further education courses. FE courses are not part of higher education (i.e. part of an undergraduate or graduate degree).

This section explains how to apply for FE or adult education courses and how to get funding to help you study in the United Kingdom.

Further education courses range from the basics (e.g. English and maths) to Higher National Diplomas (HNDs).

FE courses for 16 to 19-year-olds can also include three technical and applied qualifications, such as:

  • Level 3 tech levels (to help you specialise for a position in a specific technical job).
  • Level 2 technical certificates (to help you progress to another tech level or to secure employment).
  • Applied general qualifications (for continuing your general education at an advanced level through applied learning).

Paying for Tuition

In fact, there are no fees for many of the further education courses (e.g. basic mathematics, reading, writing).

So, if you are studying for your first qualification (that is equivalent to GCSE or A level), and under the age of 24, you may not need to pay for the tuition.

Even so, you might also be able to get financial support to help cover some of the course materials or your daily expenses (see further details below).

Note: Another section explains what different qualification levels mean based on the difficulty level for each course.

How to Find a Further Education Course

You can use the National Careers Service to search online for learning opportunities (by course name or provider) at colleges, training providers, and local education authorities. Further education courses are also available through the internet or by email (called ‘distance learning’). You can also contact them to get free advice about choosing the right course.

National Careers Service Helpline
Telephone: 0800 100 900
Lines open daily: 8am to 10pm
Charges and freephone numbers

PO Box 1331
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE99 5EB

Note: Statistical data and performance indicators, made available through FE Choices on the GOV.UK website, provides clear and comparable information to help learners and employers make informed decisions about post-16 further education and training.

FE Courses for 16 and 17-Year-Olds

Learners who are aged sixteen (16) or seventeen (17) will be able to study a further education course (either):

If you have yet to turn eighteen (18), and you are approaching the end of a school or college course, you will be guaranteed a place on an FE course for the following autumn.

Note: Find out what is on offer from your school or the local council authority. You can also speak to an adviser at the National Careers Service.

Funding and other Financial Help

In most cases, you will get some help towards the costs of the course, arranging childcare, and your day-to-day living expenses.

But, the actual subject that you are studying, and your personal circumstances, determines whether you qualify for:

Funding for Essential Skills

As a general rule, level 1 and 2 English and mathematics courses, along with certain other types of courses, are free of charge.

Improving Your English, Maths, and ICT Skills

Most companies who are sourcing people into employment will require applicants to have basic reading, writing, and maths skills. You would also need to have these basic skill sets for further study (e.g. to get qualifications in the Regulated Qualifications Framework).

In most cases, being over the age of sixteen (16), and having already left school, would mean you do not have to pay to learn:

  • English or mathematics to GCSE level
  • Selected courses relating to information and communication technology (ICT)
  • English for speakers of other languages (ESOL)

Note: In most cases, ESOL courses are free (or discounted). It would depend on your employment status and how long you have been resident in England. You may qualify for the Learner Support Fund if there is a course fee.

Besides learning courses at further education colleges and at the premises of training providers, you might also learn at:

  • Adult education centres
  • Children’s centres
  • Libraries (and other community venues)

Free Training for Learners on Benefits

You could qualify for FE course funding if you are claiming certain types of unemployment benefits, such as:

Financial Help from a Charitable Trust

The Family Action Grant Service distributes funding to help people and families in need. You can use the grant search to check whether help would be available for you from one of the charitable trusts.

Note: Contact the National Careers Service for expert advice about further education (FE) courses and what kind of financial help may be available for you.

Further Education Courses and Funding in the United Kingdom