HND and Other Qualifications

undergraduate qualifications

When it comes to undergraduate qualifications the choices and combinations can seem endless. Should I go from HNC to HND and finally onto a top up? How about a foundation degree? Why not jump straight into a bachelor’s degree?

Here we break down each undergraduate course and give you a clear guide to the benefits of each.


A Higher National Certificate, or HNC, is a one-year (if studied full-time) undergraduate qualification. It marks a step up from A-Levels and is roughly equivalent to the first year of an undergraduate degree course. The HNC courses are vocational based, meaning they are often focused more towards learning specific skills for a range of jobs as opposed to the more academic focus of university courses. For many, HNCs provide an ideal way to transition from A-Levels to higher education, especially if the jump between mandatory and higher education seems intimidating.


A higher national diploma (HND) is, in many ways, similar to an HNC. HND courses are created with practical application in mind. Graduating with an HND may, however, give students a broader range of professional and educational choices than an HNC. It’s been deemed equivalent to the first two years of an undergraduate degree, so students who wish to achieve a full bachelor’s degree can study a final year and graduate with two qualifications in three years. HND courses are created alongside industry experts and employers; in short, an HND aims to fill the practical skill gap the relevant industry has deemed important, making gaining employment the end goal of the qualification.

A typical HND course is two-years of full-time study and costs around £6,000 per year. Those entering a practical based role may find an HND offers better preparation for professional life than a bachelor’s degree.

A typical HND could involve both classroom based study and work placements. HNDs often involve little or no formal examinations.

Bachelor’s Degree

The UK’s most diffuse undergraduate qualification; bachelor’s degrees are available in a wide range of subjects. Typically, a bachelor’s degree lasts for three years, with many educational institutions giving students an opportunity to add an extra placement year to gain practical experience. A bachelor’s degree can be studied as a single subject or can be split between two subjects, for example, English Literature, and Media Production.

Bachelor’s degrees give students a strong theoretical framework and an in-depth knowledge of a particular subject. Bachelor’s degree courses are often less focused on practical knowledge; instead, bachelor’s degrees give students the skills necessary to think critically about subjects.

Each bachelor’s degree falls into a specific denomination depending on the subject. The most common are Bachelor of Arts (BA(Hons)) and Bachelor of Science (BSC(Hons)).

Tuition fees are currently capped at £9,250.  

Foundation Degree

Roughly equivalent to an HND (or a DipHE – see below), a foundation degree once again balances learning practical, work-based skills with gaining academic knowledge. It usually takes around two years to complete if studied full-time, and costs of foundation degree courses can vary between institutions. Unlike the other undergraduate courses, there are no set entry requirements to be accepted on a foundation degree course. For those who’ve already achieved a level of experience in a particular sector, a foundation degree offers a straightforward way to formalise their knowledge.     

A foundation degree can usually be topped up with a final year of study, resulting in a full bachelor’s degree. Similarly to an HND and HNC, foundation degrees focus more on a particular job, or range of jobs, making this a more vocational option than a standard bachelor’s degree.

Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE)

Somewhere between an HND and a full bachelor’s course sits the Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE). The DipHE course has a more academic focus than the vocational qualifications but, like an HND, it runs for two years. Often, students who leave university during the second year are awarded a DipHE. Teaching standard for a DipHE is the same as at full bachelor’s level, making this a good choice for those who want a strong theoretical framework, as opposed to the more practical focus of the various vocational qualifications.    

That’s our guide to the various undergraduate qualifications. If you’re looking for more information, check out, take a look at our What Is HND series or get in touch.  


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