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Monday, 15 October 2012

Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas

If you want to go on to higher education and gain a recognised qualification to do a specific job, a BTEC HNC or HND could be for you. HNCs and HNDs focus on 'learning by doing' and can lead into a new career, or help you progress in your current line of work.

HNCs and HNDs: what they are

HNCs (Higher National Certificates) and HNDs (Higher National Diplomas) are work-related (vocational) higher education qualifications. While bachelors degrees tend to focus on gaining knowledge, HNCs and HNDs are designed to give you the skills to put that knowledge to effective use in a particular job.

They are highly valued by employers both in the UK and overseas, and can also count towards membership of professional bodies and other employer organisations.

HNCs and HNDs are provided by over 400 universities and further education colleges. HNCs can take one year to complete full time and two years part time (or in other situations such as distance learning). HNDs take two years full time and can also be taken part time (which takes longer).

Qualification levels

HNCs and HNDs are at level 5 on the National Qualifications Framework.

On the Qualifications and Credit Framework, HNCs are at level 4 and HNDs are at level 5.

These frameworks show how different types of qualifications compare, in terms of the demands they place on learners.

Subjects available

HNCs and HNDs are available in a wide range of subject areas, including:

  • agriculture
  • computing and IT
  • construction and civil engineering
  • engineering
  • health and social care
  • business and management
  • sport and exercise sciences
  • performing arts
  • retail and distribution
  • hospitality management

Who can take them

To study for an HNC or HND, you will need some previous qualifications. Most HND courses require one A level (or equivalent).

Search for courses online

You can look for HNC or HND courses near you on the Next Step website and on the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website.

How you are assessed

HNCs and HNDs are mainly assessed through assignments, projects and practical tasks that you complete throughout the course.


If you are not happy with how you did in a particular project or practical task, there are opportunities to improve your performance. Speak to your teacher or tutor in the first instance.


If you are still not happy with the mark or grade you got, there are appeals procedures you can follow. Again, speak to your teacher or tutor for more advice.

Where they can lead

Because HNCs and HNDs are designed to give you the skills for a particular field of work, they can lead straight to a career. You can also use the qualifications to progress within your current career, for example as a stepping stone to gaining professional status.

You can also convert your HNC or HND to a bachelors degree with extra study. Once you complete your course, HNCs can allow entry into the second year of a degree, while HNDs can allow entry into the second or third year.

Diploma of higher education

Diplomas of higher education are similar to HNDs. They are accredited professional qualifications and are highly respected by employers both in the UK and overseas.

They usually take two years to complete and offer subjects such as accounting, construction, engineering, nursing, science, technology and textile design.

You can normally convert your higher education diploma to a degree with an extra year of study. The diplomas are at level 5 on the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ).

Certificate of higher education

Certificates of higher education are academic, rather than vocational qualifications. There are broadly equivalent to an HNC, and usually take a year of full-time study to complete. They are at level 4 on the FHEQ.

How to apply and find out more

For more about applying for HNCs, HNDs and other higher education courses, see 'Applying for a higher education course'.

HNCs and HNDs are offered by the Edexcel awarding body; visit their website for more details on the qualifications.

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