Alternative Routes To Higher Education | Student Reviews & University Rankings EDUopinions

Alternative Routes To Higher Education


The “alternative route” is the term used for educational options that allow those who have not earned the desired school diploma in the normal course of their school careers or those who don’t have formal qualifications, but who want to get into Higher Education.

Higher Education

Higher education means that you are studying at university, university colleges or in further education colleges. Higher education qualifications range from higher national certificates and diplomas to postgraduate awards and master’s degrees.

Nowadays there are a lot of different flexible ways to get onto higher education courses. There are different study types, full-time traditional studying, work combinations and part-time options, study abroad, internships, online studying, apprenticeships etc.

Did you know there is no matter how old you are and what kind of qualification you already have, you still can get into higher education? There are many paths leading into it, you just need to have a lot of will and persistence and to have the right information.

How To Get The Right Information?

When you decide what you want to study or what are you interested in, contact universities directly and ask questions. Also, great opportunities for finding a lot of information on the university or college you are interested in are Open days (usually take place in spring or autumn), virtual tours and events and of course – websites about education. You can also call the university’s Careers Service or service for giving information for students.

Requirements for HE

Institutions set their own entry requirements for higher education courses, so it’s different from university to university and country to country. It depends on the course, but beside traditional qualification, many also accept vocational qualifications which can be equivalent to A levels or secondary education. There are many ways to get a University education these days without needing to go through the rigours of college or secondary education. Institutions may also take your life and work experience into account or some other courses, qualification etc.

For example, UK students may be able to enter higher education with a range of qualifications which include: A levels, key skill qualifications, international baccalaureate, national vocational qualifications (NVQs), Scottish vocational qualifications (SVQs), BTECs, OCR Nationals and other vocational qualifications and other specialist and professional qualifications. If you are a student from outside the UK, you need qualifications which are considered to be equivalent to A- Levels ( the International Baccalaureate (IB), the European Baccalaureate (EB) and the Irish Leaving Certificate…). This is just example for the UK, but in other countries you may need a different type of qualifications, because of that you should contact your chosen university or college for further details and check which Requirements you need for studying in that country.

Foundation years, courses or degrees

If you don’t have the necessary qualifications to study at degree level Foundation years can help. It is some kind of preparation for certain degree courses, it qualifies you to enter the degree course itself. Foundation courses are similar to Foundation years, but may not be held at the same university or college as the full degree or diploma, or qualify you for entry to a particular course. A foundation degree is an intermediate higher education qualification its own right, delivered in further education colleges. Foundation degrees mix academic and work-related learning and offer a route into employment or university. Employers, universities and colleges work together to develop foundation degrees so that you gain the specific skills that employers need, making you more employable. Tuition fees for foundation degrees are lower than fees for bachelor’s degrees. Foundation courses are popular in many countries. For example, if your secondary school-leaving certificate is not recognised in Germany, you can gain entrance qualification to German university by completing a foundation course.

Access course

You may also be able to enter higher education by completing an Access course which prepares people without traditional qualifications for studying at university. You don’t necessarily need any formal qualifications to do an access course and it allows you to develop study skills, knowledge and confidence. Access courses prepare people without traditional qualifications for higher education study.

The Access to Higher Education Diploma is a U.K. qualification which prepares students for study as an undergraduate at university. It’s for people who would like to study in higher education but who don’t have qualifications such as A-Levels.

Professional qualifications

Applicants who have professional qualifications may be eligible to apply to study, for example, at Freie Universität Berlin. This option is open especially to applicants who have longer periods of professional experience and wish to deepen and expand their knowledge in their field. This is also popular in the fields of music, Art, IT, applied sciences etc.


An apprenticeship is a way to gain the skills, knowledge and experience you need to get into many careers. They combine work, training, and study, letting you ‘earn while you learn’. As a paid employee, each apprentice works alongside their studies. There are no student fees – your training costs are funded by the government and your employer. It’s an ideal option if you have a clear idea of the career path you want to follow, providing you with practical, on-the-job training, and classroom-based instruction.


An internship allows you to spend time in a company, to learn new skills and gain experience in a particular industry or job role and it can be an alternative route to Higher Education. This work experience gives you the opportunity to improve the skills that you need for University or your career. Some internships are unpaid, some are paid.

Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning

If you have relevant experience, skills and aptitudes, even if you don’t have formal qualifications, you may also be considered through a process known as Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). If the university or college think your experience is relevant to a particular programme, you may be considered for admission. For example, see how Durham University, a world top 100 university, explains that.

Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) website and similar sites

You can find a lot of information about the entry requirements on the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) website. There you will find undergraduate and postgraduate courses as well as foundation degree courses. Universities and colleges use a points-based system called the ‘UCAS Tariff’ to set entry requirements. The tariff assigns a number value to a wide range of qualifications so that colleges and universities can compare the achievements of different candidates. There is a lot of websites which gives you information about universities.

As you can see, there is a lot of alternative routes to Higher Education. Those are just some of them, some examples and ideas where you can find more information. Don’t forget, check with the institution that you wish to study at to see what kind of qualifications and requirements they are looking for. Also, search internet or contact companies where you can get experience or do internships. Maybe ethe mployer will pay for your course. The world is open for non-traditional students. You just need to find the right place for you!

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I'm finishing master studies of Serbian Language and literature and Serbian language as foreign language. I like dreaming, smiling, dancing, talking, writing, reading, learning, getting new experience, traveling and going on programs for students to meet other people and their cultures. My free time is time for me, my family and friends. The world is beautiful place and there is something for everybody, you just need to be ready to use right opportunity. I adapted one of Nietzsches quotes to myself - Happiness of humans is: I will. :)

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