Level 4 and level 5 and higher education in further education (HE in FE)

Consultation opened on 15 December 2022. Closing date 09 March 2023.


This consultation is seeking views on level 4 and 5 provision and higher education in further education (HE in FE) – these are higher education courses and qualifications, such as foundation degrees, HNDs and HNCs, undertaken by learners aged 18 and over. This provision is primarily vocational in nature, is offered in a range of subject areas and is delivered mostly by further education colleges in partnership with universities and awarding bodies. Qualifications at this level can lead directly into employment or on to further study, including to undergraduate degrees. Level 4 and 5 provision and HE in FE is therefore critical in helping to ensure the widest possible range of people can access higher education and it also provides a vital pipeline for our economy to help our businesses grow and adapt.


Consultation description

There are many strengths in our current system of higher education in further education (HE in FE) but it is also clear there will be changes needed to ensure we meet the needs of the economy and of students. A review of Level 4 and 5 provision and higher education in further education was therefore undertaken to ensure a flow of skills which aligns with our Skills Strategy, future skills needs and which underpins our 10X Economic Vision. A report outlining the findings and recommendations emerging from the review is published at:

Many of the recommendations outlined in the report relate to strategy and policy and it is these recommendations we wish to consult on.

This consultation document sets out the background to the review and explains what level 4 and 5 qualifications are and what HE in FE is. The consultation seeks views on the purpose and principles of level 4 and 5 provision and HE in FE as we want to establish a framework to guide future delivery and policy. It is also seeking views on a number of policy issues such as whether we should have a preferred qualification at level 4 and 5 collectively, the characteristics associated with some of those qualifications, whether further education colleges should have more flexibility to deliver level 6 undergraduate degree qualifications and what level 4 and 5 qualifications should be eligible for higher education student support. 

If you require access to this consultation paper in hard copy, or in a different format or in a minority ethnic language, please contact us and appropriate arrangements will be made as soon as possible.

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