NCC Education Level 3 International Foundation Diploma for Higher Education Studies

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This QIP covers a vocational qualification which is not listed on the Department for Education (DfE) 16 – 19 performance tables for England.

This qualification is not listed on the DfE 16 – 19 performance tables because it is not designed to meet the requirements of the Key Stage 5 performance tables.

  • England
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland
  • International

Vocational qualifications are either work-related qualifications designed to enable students to gain the skills required to perform a particular job, or qualifications that may be taken as part of a wider study programme or an apprenticeship.

Schools and colleges may offer qualifications that are not included in the DfE performance tables, if approved for teaching to 16-19 year olds by the Secretary of State for Education in England under Section 96, where this is in the best interests of individual students.

NCC Education is an awarding organisation offering education solutions to a global network of accredited partner centres in more than 50 countries worldwide.

Originally a division of the National Computing Centre, which was first established as an IT initiative by the British Government in 1966, NCC started offering IT qualifications and gradually expanded the higher education portfolio to include business, English language, and foundation level qualifications. In 1997, NCC were incorporated as an awarding organisation of British qualifications.

The Level 3 International Foundation Diploma for Higher Education Studies (L3IFDHES) is designed  for international students who have studied usually in a 12 grade system and who need to complete extra study in order to meet HE entry requirements. The L3IFDHES prepares students linguistically and socio-culturally to enter the first year of a UK degree course.

Education context

This qualification is designed for post-16 students and falls under the oversight of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). A significant number of students will undertake these qualifications post-19.

Following its 2012 review of post-19 qualifications the ESFA removed 1,800 qualifications from public funding and a further 1,000 in 2014. In March 2014 the government published a Reform Plan for Vocational Education.

This qualification has not been subject to the same reforms as Applied General and Tech Level qualifications (which are specifically designed for 16-19 year old students), however the ESFA has implemented a new set of business rules for the approval of qualifications for funding, based on the 2013 Review of Adult Vocational Qualifications in England. These rules recognise that adults may have different needs, aspirations and ambitions to younger people and include that qualifications should be:

  • relevant to individuals and employers and affordable for all sizes of business and for individuals
  • rigorous and based on a robust future-looking occupational standard designed and assessed by the sector
  • recognised as worthy of investment, giving a clear signal of the economically valuable skills, knowledge and understanding required in an occupation now and in the future.

Regulation of vocational qualifications

The regulation of vocational qualifications is the responsibility of the respective regulators in each UK country – Ofqual (England), CCEA Regulation (Northern Ireland), SQA (Scotland), and Qualifications Wales (Wales). The regulatory approach undertaken for vocational qualifications is different from A levels. This is because there are no specific qualification criteria for vocational qualifications, as there currently are for GCSEs, AS and A levels. Vocational qualifications must comply with the regulator’s general rules, as is the case with all regulated qualifications.

Awarding organisation
  • NCC
Qualification code
603/0080/2 (NCC Education Level 3 International Foundation Diploma for Higher Education Studies)

Candidates must pass six core units and two of eight elective units to be awarded the Level 3 International Foundation Diploma for Higher Education Studies certificate. Details of core and elective units can be found in the qualification specification.

Subject areas
  • English language
  • Computing
  • Business
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Further mathematics
  • Study Skills
  • Culture Studies
  • Level 3

Level 3 qualifications are regulated to the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) in England and Northern Ireland and the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales, though many may be offered on a three-country basis.

Level 3 is broadly aligned to the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 6 / 7.


The grade descriptors Pass, Merit and Distinction are awarded by unit to successful candidates.

A Pass is awarded for an overall unit mark of between 40 and 59. A Merit is awarded for an overall unit mark of between 60 and 69 and a Distinction is awarded for an overall unit mark of 70 and above. Candidates who obtain an overall unit mark of below 40 are classed as a fail in the unit and may resit.

A final Qualification mark will be awarded upon successful completion of all units. This is calculated by multiplying the candidate’s unit mark with the unit’s points (dictated by its weighting). The total of this is then divided by the total qualification points.


Assessment includes both external and internal (externally moderated) components. All assessment for the qualification is intended to allow candidates to demonstrate they have met the relevant Learning Outcomes. NCC Education’s assessment is appropriate to the assessment criteria as stated in the qualification specification and is regularly reviewed to ensure it remains consistent with the specification. Students are assessed by global exams (marked by NCC Education), assignments and local exams (marked by Centres and moderated by NCC Education.)

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

Assessment weighting varies between units. For full details of the contribution of each assessment component to overall unit and qualification grades, please consult the qualification specification.

Resit arrangements

Students may resit any failed unit (where they received less than the 40% pass mark). Resit attempts are not limited, however a qualification must be completed within a three-year eligibility period.

Guided/notional learning hours
This number is provided as an estimate, however may vary due to variances between optional units/pathways.: 663 hours
Guided/notional learning hours notes

TQT: 1200

Total Qualification Time is the same regardless of the optional units/pathways selected.

UCAS size bands

Not yet available.

UCAS grade bands

Not yet available.

Key issues for UK HE admissions

There are a number of key considerations for HEPs when reviewing vocational qualifications that are not listed on the DfE 16 – 19 performance tables for England:

  • Some of these qualifications are occupational, and may not be designed specifically for progression to HE.
  • Applicants holding these qualifications may be school or college leavers, however, some may be more mature students who are likely to have other relevant experience alongside these qualifications.
  • These qualifications may have been taken as part of a wider study programme or an apprenticeship.
  • These qualifications are 663 GLH. If they are presented for admission to HE it is likely to be in conjunction with other qualifications.

This qualification is designed as a bridging course for international students who have completed a high school diploma in their home country under a 12 grade system and so may not meet the university entry requirements for entry on their high school diploma alone. Therefore in addition to the L3IFDHES certificate, applications should include evidence of high school completion.

Timing of assessments/results for learners

NCC Education offers 4 assessment cycles per year, in spring, summer, autumn and winter.

Results are issued to candidates around 8-9 weeks after exams take place. Students eligible for certification will receive their certificates a week after results are released.

Qualification date
Starting from 05 Jul 2016
Qualification dates notes

This is a current qualification, and already available to students.

Reporting and certification information

The results of the NCC Education Level 3 Foundation Diploma for Higher Education Studies are not reported to UCAS through Awarding Body Linkage (ABL). This does not reflect the validity of the qualification. HEPs will need to ask applicants to provide their own evidence of achievement.

View the results available through ABL.

Progression information

Full official progression routes can be found here:

Progression routes available with universities for year 1 undergraduate entry, specific courses depend upon elective modules chosen. Examples of possible degrees and routes can be found here: 

Further information

For more information, visit

Additionally please consult the qualification specification.