A Guide to Qualifications

Not sure which qualification you want to study? Our simple guide shows you what’s available.

Now that you have to stay in education or training until you’re 18, fortunately there are plenty of different qualifications you can study at 16 which will lead you into work, apprenticeships, traineeships or higher education and university.


If you enjoy hands-on, practical work with plenty of real-life situations, BTEC qualifications are for you. BTECs are not exam based qualifications, you will instead undertake projects that form the basis of unit results and an overall grade. Each unit is graded pass, merit or distinction.

At East Durham College you can choose to study BTEC qualifications at Level 1 right up to Level 4.The BTEC Subsidiary Diploma, 90 Credit Diploma, Diploma and Extended Diploma have been recognised by employers for a great number of years and provide UCAS points for entry into higher education.


NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) are delivered in the workplace or settings which are similar to the workplace – like a workshop or beauty salon with college, for example. NVQs are based on standards which are drawn up by the relevant industry for the qualification area and so reflect the true needs of employers.

NVQs are assessed by a combination of a portfolio, where you collect evidence of the work done, and by observation where an assessor watches you work and checks how you carry out tasks.

VRQs (Vocationally Related Qualifications) are classroom-based awards that will help you learn the knowledge and skills you would need to do a job or take an NVQ. They are assessed through a combination of assignments, practical tests and written exams.

T Levels

T Levels first came to EDC in September of 2022, and are a new type of qualification combining together traditional vocational study with a lengthy work experience placement.

A Levels

A Levels remain the traditional academic route to university although some A Level learners choose to go straight into employment. A full A Level is achieved by completing two years of study. From 2015 the AS Level will become a separate qualification and no longer contribute to your full A Level.

Other Qualifications

We also offer other recognised qualifications for specialist careers including CACHE qualifications in Care and Early Years and City & Guides in Hairdressing and Catering.

Steps for Success

This flexible programme is for 16 to 18 year olds who are not in employment or education. It is tailored to individual needs to help gain qualifications, develop skills and gain confidence to enable progression to employment, college or an Apprenticeship.


The Traineeship programme is designed to provide young people aged 16 to 23 (under 25 for learners with specific learning difficulties) with a tailor-made package of support that will give them the confidence, skills and experience to compete in the labour market. A Traineeship could provide that crucial stepping stone on to an Apprenticeship or a job with training to specific industry standards for those young people who currently lack the necessary skills.


Apprenticeships combine college study with on the job training. They are offered in a wide range of occupational areas and are available with East Durham College at Level 2 and Level 3. To be an apprentice you will need to be employed. Your weekly balance of work and study will depend on your chosen Apprenticeship and your employer.

Access to Higher Education

Access to Higher Education (HE) Diplomas are designed to prepare students, aged 19+, without traditional qualifications for degree studies. The Access to HE Diploma is widely recognised by UK universities. Indeed, some have policies to encourage applications from Access to HE students, who are often valued for their maturity and willingness to contribute to discussions. A recent former East Durham College Access student progressed on to study medicine at Durham University, whilst another has gone to Newcastle University to study dentistry.

Higher Education Programmes

Working in partnership with the University of Sunderland the College offers a number of higher education full and part time Foundation Degree courses. Once you’ve got a Foundation Degree, it’s possible to ‘top up’ your qualification to a full Honours degree, usually with an extra year studying full-time (or the part-time equivalent) at the University of Sunderland.

Any questions?

Please use the enquiry form below or call Student Services on 0191 518 8222 to discuss your options.

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