Courses and qualifications explained

When you’re choosing a course, how and when it’s taught, and what level of qualification you get at the end of it, are all part of your decision.

This page tells you what you need to know about:

  • teaching styles
  • modes of study 
  • types of courses
  • qualification levels

Our 'what course should I study?' page is useful for exploring your options about what course you want to study.

Teaching style

On campus learning

  • Most courses are taught on campus to give students the full college experience: in East Kilbride or Lanark (Rural Academy)

Blended learning

  • A mix of online and on-campus learning
  • Flexibility of online learning, plus college experience and one-to-one in-person support
  • Some classes may be on Microsoft Teams or similar

Online/distance learning

  • Most, if not all, of the course is taught online using Microsoft Teams or similar
  • Mostly used for part-time and short courses
  • Students who’d find it difficult, or who prefer not, to be on campus can take part

Modes of study

Full-time courses

  • Usually taught over three days a week, Monday to Friday, with expected self-study outwith these times for assignments, study and course work
  • Timings and days for full-time courses vary – we aim to share timetables with you as early as possible before starting with us, so you can plan other commitments in advance
  • We offer around 70 full-time courses a year, with two main start dates: August and January

Find out more about our full-time courses and how to apply

Part-time courses

Part-time evening

  • Mostly taught in the evening: usually one or two evenings a week during term time, depending on the course
  • Timings vary but usually start between 6pm and 7pm and all finish before 9:30pm
  • Can be for career progression (for example Institute of Leadership and Management), to enhance your qualifications (for example Higher English) or for leisure (for example Introduction to Chocolate)

Part-time day

  • Usually one half or full day a week
  • The times tend to suit people who work part-time, work shifts or are unemployed

Day release

  • Usually one full day a week in the college
  • Tend to be for people in employment
  • An agreement is made with the student and employer to allow the student time out of work in order to study/progress their career
  • Examples include HNC Quantity Surveying and HNC Construction Management

Short courses

  • Range from a half day to six months
  • Suit people who want to progress their career or gain a qualification to improve career prospects, or to learn a new skill in a short time
  • They include Skills Boost and Accelerated courses

Work-based SVQs

Rural Academy courses

  • Full- and part-time courses for people in Lanark and surrounding areas. More about the Rural Academy 

Schools Gradu8 courses

  • For S4, S5 and S6 students who are studying at school and want to gain some college experience, alongside their school subjects
  • Can help with progression to a full-time college course
  • Examples include Care, Beauty Therapy, Horticulture and Hospitality

More information on our schools courses

Foundation Apprenticeships

  • Aimed at S4, S5 and S6 students
  • Usually taught one or two days a week
  • Are studied alongside school subjects
  • Bridge the gap between employment and study, allowing students to gain work experience while at school
  • Students are taught in college, with work experience at one of our partner organisations
  • Are at the same level as Higher, with the added benefit of practical work experience
  • This means students stand out from the crowd when applying for a college course, university study, employment or a Modern Apprenticeship
  • Examples include Creative and Digital Media, Business Skills, Scientific Technologies, and Social Services: Children and Young People

More information on Foundation Apprenticeships


Qualification types

Qualification types (SCQF levels)

All Scottish universities and colleges use SCQF levels and credit points to describe their courses. This means that, wherever you study in Scotland, study levels are consistent.

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) gives each qualification a standard SCQF level and credit-point rating.

More information on the Scottish Credit Qualification Framework website

Or find out more about qualifications at the Scottish Qualifications Authority

SCQF levels

When you search our courses, you’ll see a level or qualification for each course:

Levels 3 and 4

  • Usually introductory or leisure courses aimed at those wanting to start their career in a particular industry
  • Introduce subjects and support students to study independently with the aim of progressing to a level 5 course
  • Suitable for people who have no experience in industry and who want to start their career in a particular subject area

Level 5

  • Suitable for those who don’t have any Higher qualifications but who have achieved some National 4 awards or some experience in industry

Level 6

  • Suitable for those who have some National 4 and 5 qualifications or some experience in industry
  • Same level as a Higher qualification
  • Helps with progressing into employment or on to an HNC course
  • Foundation Apprenticeship courses are level 6

HNC (Level 7)

  • Suitable for those who have studied level 6 in a similar subject, have Highers or experience in industry
  • Equivalent to year one of a university degree
  • Offer advanced-level skills and knowledge to help progression to university (possibly second year) or into employment

HND (Level 8)

  • Suitable for those who have studied an HNC course or have experience in industry
  • Equivalent to year two of a university degree
  • Can lead to an advanced role in a chosen sector or to year two or three of a university degree course

BA Degree (Level 9)

  • We offer the BAcc in Accounting in partnership with The University of the West of Scotland
  • Teaching is at the college campus
  • This is the equivalent of third year of a university degree and can lead to employment in a chosen industry at advanced level or an Honours level university degree
  • Suitable for those who have completed an HND

SVQs (Levels 4 to 11)

  • Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) are work-based qualifications
  • They guarantee that someone can do their job well and to the national standards for the sector
  • They range from level 4 to degree equivalent level

Professional Development Awards (PDAs)

  • Suitable for those already in a career who wish to extend, broaden or enhance their skills
  • Sometimes for those wanting to enter employment
  • Can be taught in a variety of settings
  • Demonstrate progression in a defined set of specialist occupational skills
  • May be part of another qualification such as an HNC/HND

Modern Apprenticeships

  • Provide paid employment and the opportunity to train for jobs for anyone over 16
  • Help people start a career without having to study full-time
  • Can include SVQs from level 5 to level 12, with most at levels 6 and 7

Leisure courses

  • Suitable for those who want to learn a new skill or enhance an existing hobby
  • Don’t usually have a formal qualification or SCQF level attached, although some are level 3 or 4
  • Can lead to a full-time college course

Find out more about qualifications at the Scottish Qualifications Authority

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