What is an HND or HNC?

An HND and HNC are both forms of higher education qualifications in career subjects you can study in the UK. Find out more…

If you’re considering your next education move, you’ve probably heard about various different qualifications you can do and paths you can take. But what’s the difference between them and how do they all work?

In this series, we’re aiming to break down the confusion and make everything a bit clearer for you. That way, you’ll be armed with all the information and can make the best decision for you.

Today, we’re looking at HNDs and HNCs. Let’s dive in!

What are HNDs and HNCs?

HND stands for Higher National Diploma, and HNC stands for Higher National Certificate. They are both forms of higher education qualifications that you can study for in the UK and some other countries.

They are a great option for those who want to undertake specialised training in preparation for a particular career path, as well as for those who might want to move on to a full three-year degree programme.

You can study an HND or HNC at many universities and colleges throughout the country. Some institutions also offer remote and distance learning courses.

What are the main differences?

The main differences between an HND and an HNC are the qualification level and how long it takes to study for one.

An HND is a level 5 qualification, or the equivalent of the first two years of a degree. Studying for one takes 2 years full-time. An HNC takes 1 year and is equivalent to the first year of university. It is a level 4 qualification.

What kinds of subjects can I study?

You can study an HND or HNC in all kinds of subjects. In general, these courses are hands-on in nature and focused on providing you with the skills you need to excel in a particular career or industry.

Here are just a few of the subject areas in which you can study an HND/HNC:

  • Engineering/electrical engineering
  • Business management
  • Computing
  • Photography
  • Performing arts
  • Health and social care
  • And many more!

How much does an HND or HNC cost, and is there financial support available?

An HNC costs between £4000 and £8000 depending on the subject. Around £6000 is the average. HNDs cost a similar amount per year, but remember that a full-time HND course is two years – so you’ll be looking at a total cost of between £8000 and £16,000.

HNC and HND students in England are eligible for tuition fee support through Student Finance England. This is the same as a student loan for university fees, meaning you will only start paying it back once you earn above the repayment threshold.

HNDs and HNCs are cheaper in Scotland, costing around £1285 per year for Scottish students and £3000 per year for other students studying in Scotland. You might be eligible for funding from the Student Awards Agency Scotland.

Who is an HND or HNC suitable for?

For most HND and HNC courses, you’ll need to have completed A-Levels or an equivalent qualification. An HND or HNC is ideal for someone who wants to pursue some higher education but does not want to attend university for three years or go for a full Honours degree (or isn’t sure if they want to commit to three years of study.)

An HND or HNC can be a great choice if you know what career you want to do and are looking for the most direct entry route.

If you’re a hands-on person who learns through doing, you’re likely to thrive in an HND or HNC course. They are practical and career-oriented courses, training you up in the skills you’ll need for your professional career. In some programmes, you’ll even get to do work experience with relevant employers as part of your course.

Do employers value HNDs/HNCs?

Yes. HNDs and HNCs are recognized qualifications that are valued by employers in many industries. Because HNDs and HNCs tend to be based around practical and hands-on subjects, they can make you highly employable.

Because some courses also include a placement or work experience, you might also have a chance to learn “on the job”. This looks great on your CV and can give you a real boost early on in your career.

Can I upgrade my HND or HNC to a full degree?

Often, yes.

Since an HNC is equivalent to the first year of university, you might be able to enter a university programme in a closely related subject in the second year. This means you’ll only need to complete two years of further study to obtain your degree.

If you enjoy your HND and decide you want to upgrade it to a full degree, many universities will allow you to enter in the final year of study to complete the qualification.

Not sure yet if you want to go for a full degree? That’s fine. Your HND and HNC credits stay with you, so you can apply at a later date. Some universities, including the Open University, are known to accept HNDs and HNCs many years later.

How is an HND or HNC assessed?

You’ll take various tests and assessments throughout your programme. These might include written assignments, practical examinations, and exams. At the end of your course, you’ll be awarded either a Pass, a Merit (higher than a pass), or a Distinction (the highest possible grade.)

Is an HND or HNC right for me?

You’re in the best position to know what is right for you. Are you interested in higher education but unsure you want to commit to a three year course? Are you practical and hands on? Do you have a fairly good idea of what career you want to do?

If the answer to all these questions is yes, then you might be an ideal candidate or an HND or HNC. If not, check out our other guides to learn more about the different paths you can take.

Good luck!

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For more information, please email info@youthemployment.org.uk or call 01536 513388.

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