Compulsory education might end when you leave school, college or university, but there’s no reason not to carry on learning throughout your life.
People are choosing to return to education no matter what their age, many learning new skills or getting degrees in their later years.
Further education describes education below degree level that takes place after leaving compulsory education. It may include vocational courses, apprenticeships, National Vocational Qualifications and A levels.
For more information, contact your local council website or visit Careers Wales.
Higher education describes learning that leads to a first degree, master’s degree, PhD or professional qualification. It includes Continuing Professional Development modules for those already in the workplace. Degrees and higher degrees are awarded by universities, most of which now offer distance and online learning.
The Complete University Guide provides information on UK university courses and tuition fees, including distance and online courses.
If you are a Welsh undergraduate student studying in the UK, you can apply for a mixture of grants and loans to help with your tuition fees and living costs. The amount you receive will be based on your household income and individual circumstances. For more information visit Student Finance Wales.
Some degree courses are funded by NHS bursaries, e.g. nursing, radiography, midwifery, physiotherapy, paramedics, etc. Most students on these degrees in Wales will be eligible to have their course fees fully funded and will receive a non-repayable bursary throughout their university course.
Social Care Wales awards a limited number of bursaries for social work degrees.
For more information, including what additional help is available for disabled students, visit Student Finance Wales.
Community education generally takes place in settings like schools and community centres. Courses range from GCSEs, business/IT qualifications and languages to non-academic subjects like sugarcraft, needlework, art and computers for fun. Contact your local council for more details.
The University of the Third Age (U3A) offers educational, creative and leisure opportunities for older people. There are local groups throughout Wales.
Distance learning and online courses
If you want to learn without going back to college – perhaps because you have caring responsibilities, a disability or live in a rural location – you might prefer to study at home.
Visit Careers Wales to find out if distance learning would suit you.
Future Learn offers free short online courses from universities around the world. Courses start on a set date to encourage a social experience and typically require three hours a week participation.
You can also find free online courses on websites like Alison and Memrise.