What is Further Education?

Further Education is the education undertaken post-secondary level and before Higher Education.

There are many post-16 options available to students today and the best choice for you will depend on your situation and the career or job you have in mind. The qualifications and training offered in different colleges and areas of the UK varies and there are many different paths you could take including A-Levels, Highers, apprenticeships, vocational qualifications and more. Find out what courses and qualifications (gov.uk) are available at schools, colleges and sixth forms in your area.

GOV.UK has a guidance page offering advice on further education courses and funding; free courses for jobs (England); and the Education Hub shared a blog on alternatives to A Levels and university which has information on the different pathways available to students.

Finding Your Way

An options guide for Service children and military families to support students making post-16 and post-18 choices (aimed primarily at those studying in England). If you are based in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland you may find it helpful to visit our pages on Education in the Devolved Administration to find out more about education in those areas.

Download Finding your Way here >

Finding Your Way cover image

What is Higher Education?

Higher Education is the continuation of study which may be taught in universities, colleges and specialist institutions like art schools or agricultural colleges. You usually have to be 18 or older to take a higher education course. The GOV.UK website has information on the different types of higher education courses that are available. Options for study can include full-time, part-time and open university options.

Higher education courses include:

  • Diplomas
  • Bachelor degrees
  • Foundation degrees
  • Post-graduate degrees

After leaving school, most students going on to university or college study for an undergraduate degree.

GOV.UK has guidance on higher education for Service children which offers key information on applying to university and a useful overview on the differences between funding in England and the devolved administrations.

If you are considering applying for a higher education course, it’s important that you check application deadlines for the institution you wish to apply to and ensure you apply for your chosen courses by the appropriate deadlines, as not all courses will have places for all students. UCAS Deadlines has information on when to apply for undergraduate courses.


Apprenticeships provide a more hands-on training route with different levels from Level 2 (equivalent to GSCEs) to Levels 6 and 7 (equivalent to to undergraduate and master’s degrees). They are available in a wide range of industries and apprentices are paid a wage while they train. For more information, including who can do an apprenticeship; where you can find apprenticeships and how to apply for an apprenticeships visit GOV.UK and the Education Hub.

Where can I go for careers advice?

If you would like to explore different careers; what a job involves to help you decide whether it’s right for you; and the courses which may help you to achieve your career goals, you can visit the National Careers Service (England), Skills Development Scotland, Careers Wales or nidirect (Northern Ireland). These organisations provide information, advice and guidance and can help you to make decisions on learning, training and work at all stages of your career. Many schools and colleges also have careers advisors that can offer guidance and signposting to students to help them make decisions on their next steps.

The Forces Employment Charity expert team works with Service children and young people aged 16-24, providing tailored one-to-one support that boosts confidence to explore various pathways into employment, such as volunteering, university, further education, and apprenticeships. They identify strengths and interests, raise aspirations, and provide guidance as to how best to integrate these into a career plan. They also offer practical support to help access work and learning through their network of employer and training partners. Their advisors come from teaching backgrounds and forces families themselves, so understand the unique challenges of military life and the importance of supporting the whole family with finding fulfilling sustainable careers. Visit Forces Employment Charity Families Programme Registration to request support.

Support available to the Armed Forces community

UCAS support for students from a UK Armed Forces background

Veterans, or students whose parent(s), carer(s), or partner are current or former UK Armed Forces personnel may find there are unique circumstances to consider when making their applications. They may also be able to get extra support from their chosen university or college.

UCAS has introduced a new section to the application for students applying to start their course from 2023, where you can share more information about your circumstances with the university or college – including whether you are from a UK Armed Forces family. Whether you are a Service child, veteran or Service leaver, head to the UCAS website where you’ll find additional information and guidance for consideration.

UCAS application guidance from Service Children’s Progress (SCiP) Alliance

The Service Children’s Progress Alliance (SCiP) has published guidance on making the most of your personal statement as well as guidance for practitioners supporting young people, including teachers, referees and HE admissions departments:

From 2020, all Universities are required to publish Access and Participation Plans.  The Office for Students published its first analysis of these in February 2020.  SCiP Alliance discusses the Access and Participation Plans report here.

The report states:

77. Our initial analysis of the plans also suggests that some student groups may not be adequately addressed. For example, mature students have not been prioritised by many providers despite low and decreasing proportions of such students in their own populations and the sector more broadly. Similarly, although other, smaller groups of underrepresented students, such as Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups, children from military families and carers, are mentioned in many plans, some of the approaches to addressing the needs of these groups are in the early stages of development or are yet to be scoped” 

The RAF Families Federation will continue to work with SCiP Alliance to encourage inclusion of Armed Forces children and you could look at the plans of any Universities that your child is planning to apply for to see if it has put in place particular measures for Armed Forces families.

The Open University

The Open University (OU) offers flexible part-time study, supported distance and open learning for undergraduate and postgraduate courses and qualifications. The OU website has information on opening higher education to the Armed Forces which includes guidance on Enhanced Learning Credits, Standard Learning Credits and Supporting the Armed Forces.

Scholarships for children whose parent has died in Service

The Bereavement Scholarship Scheme (gov.uk) is available for 16 year olds and over, to provide University and FE scholarships for the children of service personnel whose death has been attributed to Service since 1990.

Service Children’s Progression Alliance

The Service Children’s Progression (SCiP) Alliance is a partnership of organisations including the RAF Families Federation focused on improving outcomes for children from military families. The SCiP Alliance’s Mission is to champion the progression of the children of military personnel, so that they can make informed and confident transitions through further and higher education into thriving adult lives and careers. The SCiP website has further research and resources for practitioners as well as information for parents.

The University of Winchester has undertaken some research into the progression of service children into HE and FE (scipalliance.org).

Have a look at this news story from April 2019 (gov.uk), where Universities are urged to boost their support for Armed Forces families.

Support for adults preparing for university level study

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) is the regulator for the Access to Higher Education Diploma (accesstohe.ac.uk), a qualification designed for adults to prepare them for university level study.

The UCAS Armed Forces support page also provides details of support available to service leavers, veterans and spouses and partners of Armed Forces personnel.

See here for information on the ‘Troops to Teachers’ initiative (ucas.com) including bursary.

Grants and bursaries for adult learners (gov.uk) offers some information on grants and bursaries for study as an adult – including NHS bursaries.