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Types of Qualifications

John Ruskin College offers a range of qualifications to suit everyone. So whether you're a school leaver, an adult learner or looking progress in your career, we can provide advice and guidance to help you choose the right course for you.

Take a look at the information below about the types of courses we offer, and if you have any further questions, our Client Services team will be happy to offer you advice and guidance: call: 020 8651 1131 or email:

Functional Skills are the fundamental skills you need for work and your personal life. They can be studied as standalone qualifications or as a stepping stone to GCSEs and support progression to higher levels. You are eligible to study Functional Skills if you are:

  • 16+, have left compulsory Full-time education or do not have an up-to-date English or Maths qualification at Level 2 (such as a GCSE)
  • between the ages of 16-18 and are studying a Full-time course

If English isn’t your first language, ESOL courses cover speaking, listening, reading and writing. You will be assessed before starting, to ensure you are placed on the right course level.

Good grades at GCSE level can make the difference when it comes to employment and opportunities for progression. They are the main qualifications taken by 14-16 year olds, and are highly valued by schools, colleges and employers.

Maths and English are particularly valued by employers and are important to be able to progress onto higher levels.

Vocational qualifications are work-related qualifications. Available from Entry Level to Level 5, vocational qualifications are designed for those interested in a particular sector or industry, offering a mix of theory and practical learning, including an element of work experience or a work-related project.

Vocational qualificatons have been developed in partnership with awarding bodies and employers; they are nationally recognised and are highly respected by employers and universities.

A First Diploma is equivalent to 4 GCSEs at grade 9-4 and enables you to progress into employment or to study at the higher level of the National Award or National Diploma.

A National Diploma is equivalent to 2 A Levels and an Extended National Diploma is equivalent to 3 A Levels. These are preferred routes for many to University.

A Foundation Diploma is similar to an Access to HE programme, and will aid entry into Higher Education. Our Foundation Diploma in Art & Design offers an intensive year of study, where students can build up their portfolio of artwork and knowledge required for HNC, HND or Degree Level courses.

A new qualification designed for 16-19 year olds, with a mixture of classroom learning and a significant work placement. They follow GCSEs and are equivalent to 3 A Levels. 

John Ruskin College offers a range of Access to Higher Education courses which are widely recognised by UK Universities. If you are planning to go to University, these qualifications are designed for adults without a suitable Level 3 qualification and will prepare you for studying at Degree Level.

An Apprenticeship is a real job where you learn, gain industry experience and get paid a wage. By the end of your Apprenticeship you’ll have gained a nationally recognised qualification with the skills and knowledge needed for your chosen career.

An NVQ is an industry related qualification that you may study at College or at work as part of an Apprenticeship. You will learn practical, work-related tasks to help you develop the skills and knowledge to do a job effectively. You will be assessed to see the areas that need to be developed to complete your qualification.

Please note: These qualifications are only available at East Surrey College in Redhill. For more information visit


Higher National Certificate (HNC) - equivalent to one year of university level study, in a vocationally oriented subject, normally delivered full-time in one year, or part-time over two years. An HNC can allow entry to Year 2 of a Higher National Diploma in many cases.

Higher National Diploma (HND) - equivalent to two years of university level study. This is normally delivered full-time over two years. Again, HNDs are most common in vocational subject areas. An HND can often be completed in one year, if a relevant HNC is held by the candidate. It is sometimes possible to gain entry to Year 2 or Year 3 of a university degree programme with an HND.

Foundation Degree (FdA or FdSc) - equivalent to the first two years of an undergraduate degree. In most cases, students who perform well will have the opportunity to ‘top-up’ to full Bachelor's Degree (BA or BSc) by completing a third year at university.


Bachelor's Degree Top-Up - only available to graduates of a specific FdA who have achieved at least a Merit profile (over 60%). They represent the final year of an undergraduate degree.

Bachelor's Degree - The BSc (Hons) is a full undergraduate Bachelor's Degree programme.

 LEVEL 4 & 5 Qualifications

Level 4 or 5 qualifications are accredited by various awarding bodies such as AAT or CIPD, typically completed on a part-time basis. Particularly beneficial for those looking for accreditation in various industries or to progress in their profession. Successful completion of the qualification can lead to progression onto higher level courses. 

Course Levels explained

Each qualification has a difficulty level which means the higher the level, the more difficult the qualification is. Each level has specific entry requirements which are detailed in the course information.

Below is a guide to the qualification levels available at John Ruskin College and East Surrey College.

Entry Level courses give you access to Level 1 qualifications and employment. This is usually your first step if you have no GSCEs or formal qualifications. 

Level 1 courses give you access to Level 2 qualifications, apprenticeships and employment. Courses at this level provide an introduction to the vocational area and help you to build core skills, knowledge, and confidence. 

Level 2 courses give you access to Level 3 qualifications, apprenticeships and employment. Qualifications include GCSEs, vocational qualifications and apprenticeships.

Level 2 programmes are generally one-year courses which focus on developing your core theoretical and practical skills.

Level 3 courses are equivalant to A Levels and give you access to university, higher apprenticeships or skilled employment. Qualifications include vocational qualifications, T Levels, Access to Higher Education Diplomas and Advanced Apprenticeships.

Level 4-7 courses are university level (higher education) qualifications available in a range of subjects. Qualifications include: Higher National Certificates (HNCs), Foundation Degrees (FdA/FdSc), Bachelor Degrees (BA/BSc) and Higher and Degree Apprenticeships.


Come along to our next Open Event to discover more about our courses.


Address: John Ruskin College, Selsdon Park Road, South Croydon, CR2 8JJ

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