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Vocational qualifications: Alternative routes into university

As the new academic year begins, you may be considering your next steps, such as university entry. But it’s important to remember that there are multiple routes into university, including vocational qualifications. So, we have answered the most popular questions surrounding alternative entry routes you can take.

There are multiple routes into university, including vocational qualifications. We answer popular questions about alternative routes to take.It’s been an unprecedented year. Despite this, students have triumphed through results day, with record numbers achieving the highest grades. The inspiring successes of learners’ achievements through such a tumultuous year may have you thinking about applying to university. Since the 1950s, A-levels have been touted as the main route into higher education. However, an increasing number of institutions recognise a variety of professional entry routes like vocational qualifications.

  • What are the main routes into university?

    There are many different routes into university, but the main ways are through level 3 qualifications. These routes include A Levels and Scottish Highers, Tech levels, Applied General qualifications and T-Level qualifications.

     A level qualifications are the most common qualifications associated with university entry. They emphasise academic learning and developing specific theoretical knowledge around a subject.

    Vocational qualifications like Applied General and Technical Level qualifications focus on developing the particular skills and transferable knowledge needed within your chosen career. Gaining these skills means that they are often a route directly into work as well as entry into higher education.

    Can I get into university without A levels?

    Although A Levels are the most popular route into higher education, a big misconception is that they are the only option for university entry. 

    Level 3 vocational qualifications are an increasingly popular way for young people to gain access to university entry. Qualification grades and sizes are converted into a points total to make it easy for universities to compare learner achievement accurately. This point system is called the UCAS tariff, and many post-16 Level 3 qualifications carry UCAS points.  

    As well as this, a small number of institutions consider applicants with no formal qualifications but can show the relevant experience and skills needed to study. 

    Who are UCAS and how are UCAS points calculated?

    UCAS is the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service in the UK. Their main purpose is to oversee and support the university application process. The majority of universities in the UK will only accept your university application via UCAS.  

    The UCAS Tariff (or UCAS points) is one of the main ways a university measures the value of level 3 qualifications and assesses your application. UCAS assigns a score to all of the possible grades that you can achieve within a qualification. Getting the most points depends on the size of your qualifications and how high your grades are. This makes it simpler for universities to compare both academic and vocational qualifications, within the application process.

    It’s important to remember that UCAS Tariff points only apply to Level 3 qualifications, and not all qualifications attract UCAS Tariff points. As well as this, universities may have additional entry requirements like qualifications, GCSE results, admissions tests, interviews or a portfolio.

    What are the benefits of taking a vocational route into university?University and vocational qualifications: VTCT UCAS tariff points

    Vocational qualifications are typically created and assessed to ensure that you gain the skills needed in the workplace. They are developed with the specific needs of employers and job sectors in mind and prepare you to apply practical knowledge into real-life situations easily, unlike the theoretical approach of academic routes. This gives you a well-rounded experience of the sector you want to enter, making your skillset more attractive to employers after you complete your degree. 

    As well as this, because of the range of innovative assessment methods that vocational qualifications offer, they give learners that prefer non-traditional assessment methods the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities and skills in ways that may be better suited to them. 

    Which vocational qualifications carry UCAS points?

    You can find a list of all the qualifications (including vocational qualifications) that have UCAS tariff points attached to them and calculate your points on the UCAS tariff points calculator.

    VTCT has several vocational qualifications that carry UCAS points to help you get into university. All of our eligible qualifications can be found on the UCAS tariff points calculator.

  • Find out more about our Level 3 qualifications on our find a qualification page. You can also find answers to the most frequently asked questions in our useful learner handbook.

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