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From courses to study programmes – What’s the difference?

Category: Blogger's Corner, Government, Higher Education, programme, tradition, early career, colleges

text of "early careers"

Due to a recent change in government directive, colleges and higher education institutions all over the UK have rebranded the traditional ‘college courses’ into newly formed ‘study programmes.’ The change comes after decision makers deemed that college courses should no longer focus solely on just the technical and professional skills needed for students to embark on the profession they were studying for, but to develop a holistic programme that develops a rounded set of skills that are ‘more than just a qualification.’


The new ‘study programmes’ format is “specifically designed to prepare students for progression, further study, an apprenticeship or into a paid position of employment” (MidKent College, 2017).


Some colleges such as MidKent College have keenly jumped on board with this initiative, and have suggested, “Study programmes will be relevant to specific industry requirements and occupational standards across a wide range of technical and professional areas to help prepare students for their future careers.”


So, what’s new with study programmes?


Essentially, students are taught critical skills that employers look for as well as technical and professional skills to bolster their job prospects or help them to apply for a place at university. These skills include employability and personal development as well as English and maths as part of their qualification; ensuring they are developing a rounded set of skills that are ‘more than just a qualification’ in employer’s eyes.


Skills, knowledge, abilities! Study programmes are geared to enhance all of these aspects of learning, whereas the previous course dynamic would perhaps just adopt a limited focus on one or two.


There are four key elements of a study programme:

  • Main technical & professional qualification (in subject area of choice)
  • Development of employability skills and relevant work experience
  • Both personal and professional development
  • The study of English and maths


1) Main professional and technical qualification

Students will study a particular subject area in the same way as a traditional course. For example, as a school leaver, students will study subject areas from level 2, eventually to progressing to HND should they stay on at college. Through the study programme, students could be training, for example, for a career in hairdressing and beauty or take a Plumbing study programme to become a plumber. The new study programme format also encompasses work in professional and technical areas such as childcare, healthcare or the public services.


2) Development of employability skills


Employability skills are vital for employment. A student can have all the technical skills needed to be successful, but that alone may not land them the job or help them to get into university.


The new study programmes include a much heavier emphasis on experience and employability. The government suggest that in addition to obtaining a well-recognised qualification, undertaking a study programme will also prepare students for life after College. This will involve:


  • CV enhancements (developed through work experience opportunities)
  • Guidance on how to best find and apply for jobs
  • Greater commercial/industry awareness
  • Improved confidence in professional working environments (i.e presentations and communication etc.)
  • Work ready interviews with industry experts as interview preparation and training.

3) Personal and professional development


Students will also receive help and guidance from a personal development tutor during their studies, providing a point of contact that students can refer to if they encounter any issues with, simply seek advice over their studies. Tutors are in place to support students in every area of their study programme; helping with all aspects of development and progression in both a personal and professional context.


4) English and maths


It’s now generally accepted that most universities and employers demand good standards of English and maths from their applicants. Colleges and training providers have therefore ensured these subject areas are fundamental parts of every study programme.


Some colleges now have special classes to boost English and maths skills and drop in hubs for students to practice what they’ve learnt or to access additional support.


In what was not previously a compulsory part of the old course format, core English and maths skills will now be taught to students at a level that is appropriate to both their previous studies (e.g GCSE grade) and the requirements of their chosen subject. Students aspiring to be an engineer, scientist etc. will, for example, study different modules to those who wish to be a vet or work in creative media.


The level at which students will study English and maths depends on how they’ve done in previous examinations. For example, students that achieved grade C or above in English and Maths won’t have to do any further qualifications but they’ll be required to undertake studies to improve their English and maths skills.


All in all, this is a positive move for our young people, looking at education as a whole and helping them to become well-rounded, young professionals.


If you’re a school leaver looking to study at college, you can find out the difference between a course and study programme for your chosen course by finding your subject area here: https://www.midkent.ac.uk/courses/subject-areas/.

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