About UK colleges

AoC represents publicly-funded (government-funded) colleges of education. Colleges have a special role in the UK's education system, providing different types of education and training opportunities to different types of students. 

What courses and training do colleges offer?

Colleges in the UK offer many of the programmes that colleges offer in other countries. However the student age range, course range and teaching style can be different. Colleges:

  • Deliver full-time technical (vocational) courses for students aged 16+ looking to progress to employment or to university
  • Deliver full-time academic courses for students aged 16+ seeking university admission (in England these courses are called ‘A-levels’)
  • Deliver training for apprentices employed by local employers (small to large employers)
  • Deliver courses for young people with disabilities and/or learning difficulties
  • Deliver technical, academic and professional (e.g. accountancy, management) courses for young people and adults to improve their qualifications or to reskill whilst they are in jobs, bringing up a family or are unemployed
  • Deliver part-time or online courses during the day or evening time to local community resident

Read more about college teaching and learning here.

What else is important to know about colleges?

Colleges in the UK:

  • Are located in big cities, small towns and rural areas
  • Offer many different subjects of study - traditional subjects such as engineering, construction, hospitality, business studies, I.T. - and specialist subjects such as renewables, football coaching or creative industries
  • Are managed by the college principal and the senior management team, who are employed by the college
  • Also have a board of governors, who are appointed from professions and positions outside of the college, and who help to oversee the strategic direction of the college
  • Are regularly measured on their performance by external inspection bodies appointed by government
  • Have small class sizes
  • Appoint teaching staff who have worked in the industry that they are now teaching about
  • Have hands-on facilities such as training kitchens, workshops and salons
  • Are flexible, inclusive and supportive

Colleges and the UK skills system

Colleges play a central role in delivering skills training. Colleges are part of a broader UK skills system that includes qualification awarding bodies, employers and regulators. Find out more by reading The British Council's Introduction to the UK skills system.