NCFE Level 3 Higher Level Studies suite

Qualification codes
601/7789/5 (NCFE Level 3 Award in Higher Level Studies)
601/7788/3 (NCFE Level 3 Extended Award in Higher Level Studies)

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.

These qualifications have been developed in partnership with employers, universities and other subject experts to ensure that the content is current and relevant.

They are designed for students who are considering studying at a higher level and would like to develop their higher level study skills and enable students to understand their own strengths and weaknesses and identify areas for further development.

The qualifications are particularly relevant for those aged 16–18 who wish to make the most of their programmes of study by including key higher level study skills.


Pass, Fail


Internally assessed and externally quality assured portfolio of evidence.

Students are set assignments. These may be in the form of briefs, scenarios, problem-solving exercises and/or research investigations. They are contextualised using realistic scenarios. The assessment may require students to write a report, write a business proposal, deliver a presentation, or make conclusions based on extensive research into a practical investigation.

All assessment is criterion-referenced, based on the achievement of specified learning outcomes. Each unit within a qualification has specified assessment guidance.

Further information

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.
  • If they are presented for admission to HE it is likely to be in conjunction with other qualifications.

These are the only qualifications of their type and have been developed to ensure that students with vocational qualifications are appropriately prepared for the rigour of academic study.

Several universities, as well as recent graduates, were involved in their development, to ensure their relevance and currency.

Level 3 criteria require students to analyse, draw conclusions, interpret or justify, which are all examples of higher level skills. This means that evidence provided for the portfolio will also demonstrate the development and use of higher level learning skills.

Students may combine the Level 3 Award or Extended Award in Higher Level Studies with other qualifications e.g. A levels or other vocational qualifications; they are a supplementary qualification to A levels and Level 3 vocational qualifications, for those students wishing to progress to higher level learning.

View the qualification specification for the Award:…

View the qualification specification for the Extended Award:…