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Understanding qualifications and progression 

The world of qualifications can be difficult to understand. This page will help dispel any myths about qualifications and how you can progress through the levels.  


Vocational qualifications lead to a career in a chosen field or study at university. The learning is more focussed on a practical level, working towards being able to carry out a particular job. Vocational qualifications often lead to university study. For instance 100% of our Games Development students progress directly on to university.


Our courses are designed to enable you to progress through the levels. Where you start depends on GCSE results. In general, a level 3 course requires 6 GCSEs including English and Maths. English and Maths GCSE are very important. If you do not have these GCSEs when you join us you will be required to start at level 2 or below to ensure you improve your skills and progress.



Levels Explained


E 1, E2, E3  (Entry Level qualifications)

These qualifications concentrate on basic skills and understanding, they do not involve a vocational skill, i.e the part that leads to a specific job. They do build confidence and help people to prepare for further learning, work and independent living.


L1 (Level 1 qualifications)

At City College these are called City Horizons courses. They are designed for someone under 19 years old to develop skills required to move on to a Level 2 course.

Level 2 courses are similar to GCSEs. Level 1 courses or City Horizons are ideal for those who have not quite got the grades they need for a level 2 course and just need a little longer to improve basic skills in Maths, English and IT. At City College you will hear these skills described as Functional Skills. As part of a level 1 course you will study a vocational course alongside your functional skills. For more information about City Horizons, click the link on the left menu bar.


L2 (Level 2 qualifications)

These qualifications are roughly the equivalent of GCSEs.  You are deemed to have a level 2 qualification if you have gained one of the following:


  • National Vocational Qualifications at Level 2
  • GCSEs achieved at grades A*- C
  • The Higher Diploma
  • The BTEC First Diploma
  • City & Guilds Intermediate Awards
  • Apprenticeships

Most employers use this level as their minimum entry requirement.


L3 (Level 3 qualifications)

These qualifications are the equivalent of A Levels and you can go to university with one, if you are successful. Unlike A Levels, you are graded with a Pass, Merit or Distinction.


  • National Vocational Qualifications at Level 3
  • AS and A Levels
  • The International Baccalaureate
  • The BTEC National Award
  • City & Guilds Advanced Awards


L4 L5 L6 L7 L8 (qualifications at Levels 4 to 8)

These qualifications include:

  • National Vocational Qualifications at Levels 4 and 5
  • Foundation degrees
  • Honours degrees
  • Higher National Certificates and Diplomas
  • Specialist professional qualifications
  • Postgraduate qualifications