Higher technical qualifications – or HTQs as they are also known – are quality-assured technical qualifications available in England.
In order to help you decide whether an HTQ might be right for you, in this article we answer some questions you may have about these new qualifications. But firstly, here’s some facts about HTQs.
- HTQs are qualifications that have been approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education (IfATE) as meeting the occupational standards for careers in the sector they cover. (Occupational standards are agreed with employers and are also used to determine the content of apprenticeships and T levels). The IfATE’s approvals process for HTQs is rigorous.
- HTQs ensure that when you graduate you are ‘work ready’. This is because they are developed by awarding bodies in association with employers, and cover the knowledge, skills and behaviours necessary for a career.
- HTQs are level 4 or 5 qualifications – sitting on a level between A levels, T levels, BTEC Nationals etc and undergraduate degrees.
- Examples of HTQs are certain foundation degrees, Higher National Certificates (HNCs), Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) or Diplomas of Higher Education (DipHEs).
- HTQs may be new qualifications or existing ones. Pearson, for example, is aligning some of its Higher National qualifications with the IfATE’s requirements to ensure that they adequately cover the occupational standards.
- An HTQ can provide an alternative option to taking a degree or doing an apprenticeship.
- HTQs are primarily delivered in the classroom. Placements are not a particular feature of HTQs, but for some subjects work experience may be involved and/or you will spend time learning in a laboratory, studio, workshop or using industry facilities.
- HTQ courses last one or two years if taken full time.
Why are HTQs being introduced?
There’s a growing demand for skills at levels 4 and 5, yet the number of people achieving qualifications at this level is relatively low in the UK compared with other countries.
The Department for Education is aiming to build a high-quality system of technical education to ensure that students gain the necessary skills and knowledge for their careers, and so that both employers and learners alike can be assured that someone who achieves an HTQ will have had the training they need to succeed. It’s hoped that HTQs will help to address skill shortages, increase productivity and, ultimately, improve the UK economy.
Who are HTQs for?
Although you can apply while you are still at school, you have to be aged 18+ to start an HTQ. HTQs are only available in England. They may be suitable for you if you want to prepare for a skilled job or if you are already in employment and looking to improve your prospects by retraining or upskilling.
What are the entry requirements?
You will have to meet the entry requirements set by the provider for the course you want to take. These vary, but you may need GCSEs or A levels at certain grades and sometimes in certain subjects. BTEC, T level and a range of other level 3 qualifications are likely to be acceptable by many institutions and many use the UCAS Tariff.
What can I study?
It will soon be possible to take a wide range of HTQs. The following are the broad areas that HTQs will cover and, to give you a flavour of what you could study, we’ve included a few examples of occupations that might be aligned to specific HTQs …
- Agriculture, environment and animal care (arboriculturist, vet technician, countryside ranger)
- Business and administration (coaching professional, information manager, school business professional, policy officer)
- Care services (leader in adult care, early intervention practitioner)
- Catering and hospitality (senior chef)
- Construction (town planning assistant, construction site supervisor, facilities manager, civil engineering senior technician)
- Creative and design (journalist, junior animator, post-production technical operator, historic environment advice assistant)
- Digital (network engineer, DevOps engineer, cyber security technologist, software tester, data analyst, applications support lead)
- Education and childcare (early years lead practitioner)
- Engineering and manufacturing (engineer surveyor, space engineering technician, food and drink engineer, process leader)
- Hair and beauty
- Health and science (hygiene specialist, nursing associate, dental technician, healthcare science associate, healthcare assistant practitioner)
- Legal, finance and accounting (payroll assistant manager, insurance professional, actuarial technician)
- Protective services (intelligence analyst, police community support officer, youth justice practitioner)
- Sales, marketing and procurement (sales executive, market research executive, marketing executive, buying and merchandising assistant)
- Transport and logistics (passenger transport operations manager)
You can find a list of HTQs currently approved on the IfATE website.
When can I take an HTQ?
Since September 2022, it’s been possible to take an HTQ in certain digital subjects. Given the digital skills gap, it’s not surprising that these have been the first HTQs to be approved for delivery.
From September 2023, it will be possible to take HTQs in construction, and health and science, and by 2025, it’s envisaged that the broad range of HTQs (as listed above) will be rolled out.
Where can I take an HTQ?
HTQs are delivered by industry experts and are available at universities, further education colleges, and independent training providers across England. Any organisation offering an HTQ must be registered with the Office for Students.
Some HTQs are available through Institutes of Technology (IoTs). IoTs are existing further education colleges and universities that have collaborated with each other and major employers to strengthen the higher technical education they offer. With government investment, IoTs provide learners with a route into STEM-based careers. Each IoT delivers courses in one or more technical specialism.
How can I take an HTQ?
Depending on the subject you want to study, you may have some choice and flexibility in how you study. Apart from doing an HTQ full time, part-time, online and other flexible options may be available, for instance, some courses can be taken by distance learning through The Open University.
How much will an HTQ cost and what about funding?
As with other higher education programmes, full-time tuition fees vary, but are up to £9,250 a year. Government-backed tuition fee and maintenance loans may be available to eligible students through Student Finance England. Those who fulfil the criteria may also be entitled to a scholarship, bursary or grant; find out more about these through the UCAS website and it’s worth asking HTQ providers whether they are aware of any special funds. In some cases, funding is available through an Advanced Learner Loan.
From 2023/24 the Government is extending access to student loans to those taking an HTQ on a part-time basis. If you are working, your employer may help support you to achieve an HTQ.
Student funding is complex, so make sure you get the most up-to-date information and advice.
What can I do after gaining an HTQ?
HTQs allow you to enter skilled jobs in a range of sectors. They can also enable to you retrain or progress in employment. Alternatively, you may decide to go on to further study, perhaps by taking a full- or part-time undergraduate degree.
Find out more
- There’s more information on HTQs on GOV.UK, including a video called Welcome to Higher Technical Qualifications.
- You can also find information about HTQs on the National Careers Service (NCS) website; NCS advisers can help you think through your options – they are available on 0800 100 900 or through webchat.
- Ask local colleges and training providers whether they offer HTQs.
- You can search for HTQs on the UCAS website.
- The HM Government Skills for Life website has information on HTQs and also has advice on developing and using your skills in employment in general.
Making the decision
As HTQs are based on the same occupational standards as apprenticeships, think about your preferred learning style. Would you do better mainly learning in the classroom or in employment? Do you know exactly what occupation you want to follow? HTQs may offer more flexibility than an apprenticeship. And if you’re trying to decide between an HTQ or a degree, bear in mind that undergraduate degrees are at level 6 and HTQs at level 4/5 so can be achieved in a shorter period of time. With further study, it’s usually possible to top up a level 4/5 qualification to a full degree.
If you’re keen to study for a practical qualification that’ll provide you with the skills and knowledge you need for a career, an HTQ may be for you. When researching programmes, look out for courses with the approved HTQ quality mark logo.
Debbie Steel, October 2022
With a background working with apprentices and teaching in further education, Debbie was employed as an in-house careers author before establishing herself as a freelancer. As well as co-authoring numerous careers books, Debbie has produced resources and web content for a range of high-profile clients. She is an enthusiastic proponent of impartial and reliable careers information.