Many people think that the only route into university is via A-levels, but this is far from the case. Most universities and colleges will accept BTEC qualifications too, with Level 3 National BTEC qualifications converting readily and easily to UCAS points. Under this points system, you can gain entry using either A-levels, BTEC qualifications or a combination of both.
BTECs are practical, vocational, work based courses, which also include key theory elements. They are named after the Business & Technology Education Council, which first introduced them back in 1984. They are currently run exclusively by the Edexcel exam board.
BTEC courses cover a wide range of different fields, although as you would expect, these are mainly practical subjects. BTEC courses include areas such as:
BTEC qualifications have various levels, from introductory BTECs at level 1, through Level 2 BTECs which are the equivalent of GCSEs, Level 3 BTECs, also known as Nationals, which are the equivalent of A levels, to level 5 BTECs, also known as Higher Nationals, which can be the equivalent of a degree.
BTEC levels beyond this also operate; these tend to be shorter courses aimed at working people who wish to maintain their continued professional development or CPD rating.
Under the previous National Qualifications Framework (NQF) system, BTECs were classified as a Diploma, a Certificate or an Award until 2010 depending on the number of units undertaken, with each unit graded as a Pass, Merit or Distinction. These were then replaced with a new Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) classification, with a new Distinction* grade.
The new BTEC classifications are as follows:
|New QCF classification||Old NQF classification|
|90 Credit Diploma||N/A|
The type of award, and the grades for each unit, with dictate how many UCAS points a BTEC is worth, with a Level 3 Subsidiary Diploma Pass worth 40 UCAS points (equivalent to an A level grade E), and a Level 3 Extended Diploma with triple Distinction* being typically worth 420 points (equivalent to three grade ‘A*’ A levels).
BTEC courses suit students who are more practically minded, allowing them to demonstrate their skills and understanding outside of the purely academic, exam focused arena. BTECs give credit for real life experience, rather than just book learning, including work experience, hands on training and industry placements.
BTEC courses are designed in conjunction with industry, to ensure that students are given the training and knowledge that industry needs. Universities also have an input into BTEC course design, with the aim of helping less ‘academic’, but still highly talented, students to progress to university and on into successful careers.
As BTEC courses do not place all their emphasis on written exams, they offer an alternative route into university for students who do not perform to the best of their ability under exam conditions, but who are still very able and capable individuals.