Diplomas were developed by the previous government for students aged 14 to 19. The diploma is no longer available to new students.

The last students to undertake a diploma qualification started their programme in 2012. Diplomas can be awarded until the end of August 2014. A diploma is and will remain a valid qualification, even after its withdrawal at the end of August 2014.

A number of principal learning qualifications, which provide the sector-related learning and form the core of diplomas, have been approved for inclusion in the 2014 and 2015 key stage 4 performance tables. These high-value qualifications can still be studied in their own right.

The value of a diploma to an individual pupil, employers and universities remains unchanged.

Diploma awarding bodies (DABs) are required to issue certificates to students who successfully complete all the component qualifications of their diploma up until August 2014.

Diplomas were designed to give pupils practical skills for employment as well as academic qualifications for further or higher education.

Diploma qualifications were developed in the following subjects:

  • creative and media
  • construction and the built environment
  • business, administration and finance
  • engineering
  • environment and land-based studies
  • hair and beauty studies
  • hospitality
  • information technology
  • manufacturing and product design
  • public services
  • retail business
  • society, health and development
  • sport and active leisure
  • travel and tourism

Diploma components

Principal Learning

This qualification was developed by employers and universities, and is a combination of practical experience and theory. About 50% of a diploma is principal learning.

Some principal learning qualifications have been approved for inclusion in the 2014 and 2015 key stage 4 performance tables. They can be studied in their own right even when the diploma is withdrawn in August 2014.


This qualification recognises a piece of work chosen by the student, usually related to the diploma subject or sector area. It requires evidence of planning, preparation, research and independent working.
At advanced and progression diploma level, students take the extended project qualification.

This can also be taken alongside other qualifications as a freestanding qualification. It carries the same Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) points as half an A level and is graded A* to E.

Functional skills

These are available in English, mathematics and information and communication technology (ICT).

Work experience

This must be for a minimum of 10 days.

Personal learning and thinking skills

This includes:

  • team work
  • creative thinking
  • effective participation
  • reflective learning
  • self-management

Additional or specialist learning

Additional or specialist qualifications are drawn from a catalogue including GCSEs, A levels, and vocational qualifications. Each diploma has its own catalogue of qualifications.

These can be found at Ofqual’s register of qualifications.

Diploma grading

  • foundation (level 1) – the same level as GCSEs at grades D to G
  • higher (level 2) – the same level as GCSEs at grades A* to C
  • advanced (level 3) – the same level as A levels
  • progression (also level 3) - has the same components as the advanced diploma, but without additional and specialist learning

Diploma students can be awarded the following grades:

Diploma level Grades available
foundation A*, A, B, U
higher A*, A, B, C, U
advanced and progression A*, A, B, C, D, E, U

The final diploma grade is based on the principal learning and the project results. All other components must be successfully completed but do not contribute to the overall grade.

Diplomas and higher education

All UK universities have stated that a young person holding an advanced or progression diploma can apply for undergraduate courses at their institution.

This does not guarantee access to any course - as with any qualification, students will need to first check with UCAS or their chosen university, because entry requirements vary from each institution.

You can find full details of UCAS tariff points for the Advanced Diploma and Progression Diploma, including additional and specialist learning (ASL) qualifications, on the UCAS website.

Many courses require the holder of the diploma to have taken specific additional and specialist learning, such as an A level directly related to the course. You will need to confirm this by visiting the UCAS website or that of your chosen university.