Is Sixth Form College Classified as Higher or Further Education?

Higher education

Many students may be unsure about what exactly constitutes higher education. While university is often the first thing that comes to mind, there is another option that falls somewhere between secondary school and university: sixth form.

There is often confusion surrounding sixth form and whether it qualifies as higher education. With a variety of educational pathways available, it can be difficult to determine where sixth form fits in the mix.

In this article, we will look at the concept of sixth form and its place within the education system. We hope to provide clarity on the role of sixth form in a student’s educational journey.

What is Sixth Form?

Sixth Form typically refers to the final two years of secondary education in many countries’ education systems, including the UK. It serves as a transition phase between secondary school and higher education.

During these years, students usually study for advanced-level qualifications, such as A-levels or International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas, which are essential for college or university admission.

Sixth Form offers a more specialized and focused curriculum compared to earlier years of secondary school, allowing students to explore subjects in greater depth.

It’s an important time for academic growth and personal development, as students often gain greater independence and responsibility.

Sixth Form provides a stepping stone to higher education and various career paths, equipping students with the skills and knowledge needed for future success.

Read: How Long Is a College Semester? How Many Hours is Full-Time College?

What is a Sixth Form College?

A Sixth Form College is an educational institution that specifically caters to students in the last two years of their secondary education, commonly known as the sixth form.

Unlike traditional secondary schools, Sixth Form Colleges focus exclusively on post-16 education, offering a more specialized and advanced curriculum.

These colleges provide students with the opportunity to study for advanced-level qualifications like A-levels or vocational courses, preparing them for higher education or entering the workforce.

Sixth Form Colleges offer a bridge between secondary education and higher education, helping students develop not only academically but also personally and socially.

They often provide a more mature and independent learning environment, fostering critical thinking and helping students transition smoothly into the next phase of their educational journey.

What is the Difference Between Sixth Form and Sixth Form College?

The terms “Sixth Form” and “Sixth Form College” are closely related but refer to slightly different educational entities.

“Sixth Form” generally pertains to the final two years of secondary education, where students prepare for advanced qualifications like A-levels or IB diplomas. It’s a phase within a regular secondary school.

On the other hand, a “Sixth Form College” is a specialized institution focusing solely on post-16 education. It provides a distinct campus and learning environment separate from traditional secondary schools.

These colleges offer a diverse range of advanced courses and subjects, often with a broader choice than typical schools, and are attended exclusively by students in their last two years of secondary education.

In essence, while “Sixth Form” refers to the specific educational stage, “Sixth Form College” refers to an institution exclusively dedicated to providing education to students in their Sixth Form years.

The latter offers more specialized resources and support tailored to the needs of students in this crucial transitional phase.

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What is Higher Education?

Higher education refers to advanced learning pursued after completing secondary education, such as high school or its equivalent. It encompasses a range of academic and vocational programs offered by universities, colleges, and institutions.

Higher education aims to provide in-depth knowledge, specialized skills, and critical thinking abilities in specific fields of study. It often leads to the attainment of degrees like bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

Higher education institutions offer a more independent and research-oriented learning environment, encouraging students to engage with complex concepts, conduct research, and contribute to their chosen field.

This educational stage plays a pivotal role in preparing individuals for careers, research, and leadership roles in various professions and industries.

What is Further Education?

Further education refers to post-secondary education that follows the completion of compulsory or initial education. It includes a wide array of courses and training programs offered by colleges, vocational institutions, and adult education centers.

Further education aims to enhance skills, provide practical training, and enable individuals to specialize in specific careers or fields.

It offers qualifications such as diplomas, certificates, and vocational qualifications, which are valuable for entering the workforce or advancing within it.

Further education is flexible, catering to a diverse range of learners, including adults seeking to acquire new skills or change careers. It plays a crucial role in equipping individuals with the practical knowledge and expertise needed to excel in their chosen professions.

What Education Level is Sixth Form?

Sixth Form is an education level that falls within the secondary education phase. It typically refers to the final two years of secondary school, usually for students aged 16 to 18.

During this stage, students prepare for advanced qualifications such as A-levels, International Baccalaureate (IB), or vocational courses.

While the Sixth Form is part of secondary education, it signifies a more specialized and focused period, allowing students to delve deeper into subjects of interest.

It serves as a transitional phase between earlier secondary education and higher education, equipping students with the necessary skills and knowledge for their next academic or career endeavors.

Also, read: Top 10 Grammar Schools in the UK | Full Review

Is Sixth Form College a Higher or Further Education?

A “Sixth Form College” is typically considered part of further education rather than higher education. The distinction between the two lies in the age group they cater to and the types of qualifications they offer.

Sixth Form Colleges are institutions that provide education exclusively to students in the final two years of their secondary education, usually between the ages of 16 and 18.

They offer advanced courses like A-levels and vocational qualifications, which are part of further education. These qualifications are valuable for immediate entry into the workforce or for preparing students for higher education.

Read: Is University Higher Education or Further Education in UK?

Higher education, on the other hand, refers to post-secondary education provided by universities and colleges. It offers degrees such as bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees, focusing on more specialized and in-depth study in a particular field.

In essence, Sixth Form Colleges are part of further education as they provide advanced qualifications after secondary education, while higher education encompasses universities and colleges offering degree-level education.

Why is Sixth Form College a Further Education?

A Sixth Form College is classified as further education due to its distinct role in the education system. It provides a specialized phase of learning beyond compulsory secondary education but before higher education. Here are key reasons why Sixth Form Colleges are considered for further education:

Age Group:

Sixth Form Colleges primarily serve students in the age range of 16 to 18, a phase after completing compulsory education. This aligns with the typical age for further education, which follows secondary schooling.


The qualifications offered by sixth-form colleges, such as A-levels, BTECs, and vocational certificates, are characteristic of further education. These qualifications equip students with practical skills and knowledge for immediate entry into the workforce or for pursuing more specialized higher education pathways.

Preparation for Higher Education:

While Sixth Form Colleges play a crucial role in preparing students for university, they do so by providing the advanced qualifications required for admission. Universities fall under the category of higher education, where degrees are conferred.

Diverse Course Offerings:

Further education, including Sixth Form Colleges, provides a diverse range of courses catering to various interests and career paths. This diversity aligns with the goal of further education, which aims to equip individuals with a broad range of skills beyond basic education.

In essence, Sixth Form Colleges bridge the gap between secondary education and higher education by offering specialized courses and qualifications, making them an integral part of the further education landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Does Sixth Form College Differ From College?

Sixth Form Colleges cater exclusively to students in the final two years of secondary education, offering advanced qualifications. In contrast, colleges encompass a broader range of post-secondary education, including vocational and academic courses, often leading to degrees.

Are Sixth Form Colleges similar to universities in terms of education level?

No, Sixth Form Colleges are not on the same level as universities. Universities offer higher education degrees, whereas Sixth Form Colleges provide further education qualifications.

Can you earn a degree from a Sixth Form College?

No, you cannot earn a degree from a Sixth Form College. They primarily offer advanced qualifications like A-levels or vocational certificates, which are considered further education qualifications.

Do Sixth Form Colleges prepare students for university?

Yes, Sixth Form Colleges aim to prepare students for higher education by offering advanced qualifications that are commonly required for university admission.


Sixth form can be considered a form of higher education as it provides students with advanced academic courses and prepares them for university.

It offers a more specialized and focused curriculum compared to lower levels of education. Many sixth-form colleges have strong ties with universities and offer opportunities for students to gain valuable experiences that will benefit them in higher education.

Therefore, choosing sixth form can be a worthwhile decision for those looking to further their studies and pursue their academic interests. If you are considering your options after secondary school, don’t hesitate to explore the benefits of sixth form education and see how it can help you achieve your academic goals.


  • – In the UK, what’s the difference between a sixth form, a sixth form college, and a further education college?
  • – What Is The Difference Between Sixth Form And College?
  • – Further education (Colleges and Sixth Form)


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