What Are Sixth Forms Colleges in the UK?

What Are Sixth Forms Colleges in the UK

After successfully passing your GCSE, you might be wondering what’s next. Maybe regular school feels a little…well, regular for you now, and you’re looking for a new challenge.

Sound familiar? If you want to explore subjects you love deeper, then sixth form colleges might be the perfect fit! So, what are sixth forms colleges in the UK?

These colleges are like stepping stones between secondary school and university. Think of it as a bridge to the exciting world of higher education but with a smaller, more focused environment. Sixth form isn’t all about lectures though – you’ll still get loads of individual attention and support to help you thrive.

But with all the different options out there, you might be wondering what exactly sixth form colleges are and how they work. Is it a good choice for you? Let’s talk about it!

What is a Sixth Form College?

A Sixth Form College is a unique educational institution in the British education system. This particular phase of learning caters to students aged 16 to 18, marking the crucial juncture between secondary education and the higher echelons of academia. But what do you actually do in sixth form?

Sixth form refers to the two years of study before entering a university, when students are typically between the ages of 16 and 18.

Students frequently move schools or colleges at this time, possibly for a change of scenery or, occasionally, to concentrate on the specific A-levels, BTECs, IB Diploma, or International Foundation Program they choose to study.

Additionally, a large number of students, both local and foreign, decided to board for the first time during this period.

Students can select the courses in the sixth form that best suit their requirements and interests, and courses can be designed to assist students in achieving their intended professional goals.

Students basically have two options for institutions in the private school sector of the UK:

Unlike the typical comprehensive schools that span a broader age range, sixth form colleges delve into the intricacies of advanced subjects, setting the stage for specialized study paths that align with each student’s passion and career aspirations.

Within these hallowed halls, students are granted the autonomy to immerse themselves in subjects of their choice, enabling deeper exploration of their academic interests.

Whether it be the sciences, humanities, or arts, sixth form colleges are designed to foster a culture of intellectual curiosity, where pupils can hone their skills, cultivate critical thinking, and lay the foundation for their academic journey ahead.

Related Post: Is A-Levels Classified as Secondary Education?

What Age is 6th Form College UK?

The corridors of a sixth form college welcome students as they embrace the age of 16, navigating the critical threshold between adolescence and adulthood.

At this point, young minds step into the final leg of their secondary education, ready to embark on a more focused academic expedition.

The age of 16 marks not just a chronological milestone, but a conceptual one, signifying the dawn of specialized learning that guides them towards their desired professional trajectories.

This juncture in education also embodies the essence of choice and individuality.

As students cross this threshold, they are presented with the privilege of selecting subjects that resonate with their passions and aspirations, thereby fostering a sense of ownership over their academic journey.

This transition, while undoubtedly challenging, is the crucible in which independence is forged, and where the seeds of future accomplishments are sown.

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How Long is Sixth Form in the UK?

The sixth form of education in the UK is interwoven with the threads of academic rigor and personal growth. Typically spanning two years, from ages 16 to 18, this phase is divided into Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth.

The Lower Sixth, often referred to as Year 12, initiates students into the realms of specialized study, setting the stage for the advanced subjects they will delve into.

As the Lower Sixth unfurls its wings, students transition into the Upper Sixth or Year 13, marking the culmination of their sixth form journey.

This phase is characterized not only by heightened academic challenges but also by the meticulous crafting of university applications and the anticipation of what lies beyond the academic cocoon.

With the support of dedicated educators and the camaraderie of peers, students navigate the intricacies of final exams, personal statements, and university selections, emboldened by the knowledge that they are on the cusp of transforming into well-rounded, intellectually adept individuals.

How Many Subjects Are There in 6th Form UK?

The sixth form experience in the UK extends an expansive array of subjects, catering to the diverse interests and career aspirations of students.

Generally encompassing two years, students undertake in-depth studies in a reduced number of subjects, often specializing in three to four areas.

This contrast to the broader spectrum of subjects in secondary education facilitates a more comprehensive and immersive understanding of chosen disciplines.

Traditionally divided into arts, sciences, and humanities, the curriculum boasts a vast selection of subjects. From mathematics and physics to history and languages, students can embrace their passions while gaining a profound grasp of their chosen fields.

Moreover, sixth form colleges commonly promote interdisciplinary approaches, encouraging students to explore intersections between subjects, and nurturing critical thinking and innovation.

Also, read: When Does Sixth Form Start in 2024?

How Much is Sixth Form College in UK?

The cost of attending a sixth form college in the UK varies based on several factors, including the institution, location, and the choice of subjects. Unlike secondary education, sixth form colleges often entail fees, reflecting the specialized and focused nature of the education they provide.

Tuition fees can range from a few hundred pounds to over a thousand pounds per term, posing a financial consideration for families. Scholarships and bursaries are frequently offered to alleviate these costs, ensuring that students from diverse economic backgrounds can access quality education.

It is noteworthy that the investment in a sixth form education translates into a profound intellectual and personal development that can greatly influence prospects.

Is College the Same as Sixth Form in the UK?

While the terms “college” and “sixth form” might appear synonymous to an outsider, they denote distinct phases of education in the UK context. Colleges, in the broader sense, encompass a spectrum of institutions providing tertiary education, offering vocational courses, A-levels, and degrees.

Sixth form colleges, however, are a subset of colleges dedicated specifically to the penultimate two years of secondary education.

Unlike universities, which confer degrees, sixth form colleges primarily prepare students for A-level examinations—a pivotal qualification for university entrance.

The environment in sixth form colleges is a delicate balance between the support structures of secondary education and the independence expected at university, cultivating a unique transition period.

Related Post: Is Sixth Form Compulsory in the UK? Why You Should Consider A Sixth-Form College

Is Sixth Form Better Than College?

The perennial question of whether sixth form trumps college or vice versa lacks a definitive answer, as the choice between the two hinges on individual aspirations and learning styles.

Sixth form colleges furnish a well-structured, focused approach to learning, providing an environment akin to secondary education while honing essential skills for university and beyond. The smaller class sizes and tailored attention foster a nurturing academic atmosphere, ideal for those seeking a smoother transition to higher education.

Conversely, colleges offer broader exposure to a diverse array of subjects, often with more independence and flexibility. This can be advantageous for students who have a clear sense of direction and are prepared to manage their studies more autonomously.

College environments can mirror university settings, better preparing students for the more self-driven nature of tertiary education.

Is Sixth Form Mandatory?

The notion of mandatoriness concerning sixth form colleges casts a shadow of ambiguity. Unlike the foundational stages of education that require attendance by law, sixth form attendance does not carry the same obligatory weight.

However, it is important to fathom that it is compulsory to continue education or training until the age of 18 in the UK. This can encompass various pathways, including sixth form colleges, further education colleges, apprenticeships, or vocational courses.

Related Post: Sixth Form Explained: from GCSEs to A-levels

What Are the Best Sixth Form Colleges in the UK?

1. Eton College, Berkshire

Nestled in the idyllic landscapes of Berkshire, Eton College resonates as an emblem of academic excellence. Its historic legacy is akin to a compass guiding students toward intellectual enlightenment.

The ensemble of esteemed educators, state-of-the-art facilities, and comprehensive extracurricular offerings render Eton College an undisputed cradle of scholastic advancement.

2. Oxford International College

Oxford International College is a top sixth-form college in the UK and is just a short stroll from the city’s historic core, which has been a hub of academic brilliance for about 1,000 years. This college offers its students a wide range of electives and innovative educational strategies that equip them for an exciting and fulfilling career.

3. Winchester College, Hampshire

Situated amidst the quaint charm of Hampshire, Winchester College emerges as a beacon of holistic education. This institution’s commitment to fostering character alongside intellect is enshrined in its very foundations.

The seamless interplay of academic rigor, artistic pursuits, and athletic endeavors cultivates individuals poised for comprehensive success.

4. King’s College London School of Mathematics

One of the best institutions in the UK to study mathematics is King’s College London. By enrolling in Oxford or Cambridge after graduation, students who attended the King’s College London Mathematics School have been able to proceed further in their academic careers.

In addition to teaching arithmetic, King’s College emphasizes writing and presenting abilities as ways to prepare students for future employment.

5. Westminster School, London

Perched in the heart of London, Westminster School is the epitome of urban academic brilliance. Its urban location infuses an air of cosmopolitanism, intertwining modernity with traditional values.

The school’s steadfast dedication to nurturing intellectual curiosity and global awareness sets it apart as an exemplary institution.

6. St. Paul’s School, London

London’s educational crown jewels would be incomplete without St. Paul’s School. This institution resonates with a commitment to scholarly pursuits that transcend eras.

The juxtaposition of venerable architecture and cutting-edge pedagogical techniques creates an environment where students thrive academically and personally.

7. Wycombe Abbey, Buckinghamshire

Tucked away in the picturesque landscapes of Buckinghamshire, Wycombe Abbey stands as a paragon of female education. The institution’s emphasis on empowerment, leadership, and scholastic aptitude engenders a generation of women poised to carve their imprints on the global stage.

8. Brampton College

Particularly for its education programs, Brampton College frequently ranks as one of the best sixth-form institutions in the UK. The institution currently provides GCSE and A-Level programs in a variety of topics.

Study modules are chosen by students, allowing them to be customized to their scholastic requirements.

Additionally, the college maintains modest class sizes, with an average of seven students, to guarantee that every student receives adequate one-on-one instruction.

9. The Perse School, Cambridge

Nurtured within the academic cradle of Cambridge, The Perse School channels the spirit of intellectual inquiry. Its commitment to holistic education, characterized by a diverse curriculum and a wealth of co-curricular activities, equips students with the mettle to excel in an ever-evolving world.

10. Cardiff Sixth Form College

One of the top sixth-form institutions in the UK is Cardiff Sixth Form College. Its national reputation can be attributed to the wide range of courses offered, outstanding faculty, engaging learning environment, and forward-thinking educational philosophy.

11. Manchester Grammar School, Manchester

Flourishing in the vibrant cityscape of Manchester, the Manchester Grammar School shines as a male-only institution with a legacy of excellence. It seamlessly weaves traditional values with contemporary pedagogical methodologies, fostering erudition and integrity in its students.

Also, read: What Happens if You Don’t Attend Sixth Form College In the UK?

How Do You Choose a Sixth Form?

Selecting the right sixth form is akin to crafting a bespoke suit for one’s educational journey. A prudent approach involves a blend of research, introspection, and foresight.

  1. Program Offerings: Delve into the curriculum offerings, ensuring they align with your academic aspirations and desired career trajectory. Some sixth forms have specialized programs tailored to specific fields of study, while others offer a broader spectrum of subjects.
  2. Reputation and Rankings: Scrutinize the institution’s reputation and rankings, as these can serve as a yardstick for academic excellence and student satisfaction. A renowned institution often has a history of producing exceptional graduates.
  3. Extracurricular Activities: Beyond academics, explore the extracurricular opportunities available. A well-rounded education includes avenues for artistic expression, sports, community service, and leadership development.
  4. Support Systems: Investigate the support systems in place, encompassing academic counseling, pastoral care, and mentorship. A nurturing environment enhances both academic performance and personal growth.
  5. Location and Environment: Consider the institution’s location and the environment it offers. Urban institutions may provide exposure to diverse experiences, while rural settings can evoke a sense of focus and tranquility.

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Can I pursue vocational courses in sixth-form colleges?

Absolutely! Many sixth-form colleges offer a diverse range of vocational courses, catering to various career paths

What are the benefits of attending a prestigious sixth-form college?

Attending a prestigious sixth-form college can offer access to top-notch educators, advanced facilities, extensive extracurricular opportunities, and a network of high-achieving peers.

Can international students apply to UK sixth-form colleges?

Yes, many sixth form colleges welcome international students. However, it’s important to check specific admission requirements and visa regulations.


Sixth form colleges stand as a pivotal crossroads in the academic journey of UK students, encapsulating a focused and specialized approach to learning.

Guiding students through the pivotal ages of 16 to 18, these institutions provide a platform for specialized study, nurturing the intellectual acumen and individuality of young minds.

The journey through sixth form is not just a passage of time; it’s a transformative experience that paves the way for promising futures.

Ultimately, the choice between sixth form and college rests upon an intricate interplay of personal preferences, aspirations, and the desire for a balanced foundation toward future success.



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