What is higher education?

What is higher education – the definition of higher education explained

Many students are confused by the terms further education (or FE) and higher education (or HE). Further education refers to students post GCSE/BTEC level and above the age of 16 years. Higher education refers to students that choose to study after the age of 18 after completing qualifications obtained during the further education phase. Examples of these being diploma, AS levels and A levels.

Many pupils begin to discuss the potential to go to university initially with family and friends when at secondary school as they begin to find favourite subjects and interests which they see themselves wanting to take further.

For this reason secondary schools address classroom discussions answering questions such as:

  • What is higher education?
  • How can I qualify to study in higher education?
  • Where can I study higher education courses?
  • And how do I get in?

It is never too early to consider higher education as an option, or to make future plans or visits to open days and evenings.

Every student is individual and their educational pathway is unique to their interests, needs and wants. There is also a variety of courses available to study in higher education institutions, from degrees, to diplomas and doctorates (both full and part time).

definition of higher education

Definition of higher education

As per the official Wikipedia pages, the definition of higher education is the education path chosen by pupils who wish to achieve an academic degree qualification.

Higher education, often referred to as HE and post-secondary education is an optional study usually for those targeting a specific career or topic area of interest as opposed to mainstream education for years 1-11 which is a broad mix of subject areas including the two compulsory non academic subjects of sex and relationship studies and religious studies.

Historically only the rich and royal had access to such education and it was only since the 1966 act brought in by the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (article 13) that changed this stating: “Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education.”

Further to this, the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (introduced in Europe in 1950) made it a human guaranteed right to receive education. This increased the higher education study opt in rate of 15% to up to 16-50% of the population.