Course levels explained

Petroc offers courses from Entry Level to Level 7. Below is a guide to help explain the course levels available to you. Please note that each level has specific basic entry requirements.

Entry Level courses give you access to Level 1 qualifications and employment. Petroc offers several Entry Level programmes designed for school leavers and young adults with individual learning needs and differences who want to develop their employability and softer skills in a safe learning environment.

Level 1 courses offer you the opportunity to acquire a broad range of knowledge and practical skills that will enable you to access a Level 2 qualification (including vocational qualifications, Functional Skills and apprenticeships) or employment. They are hands-on qualifications providing an introduction to an industry of interest.  We focus heavily on developing your employability and softer skills to allow you to thrive in your chosen industry.

Level 2 courses provide focus on a subject/s that can support the transition to a Level 3 qualification, apprenticeship or employment. Qualifications include GCSEs, vocational qualifications and apprenticeships.


Petroc offers GCSE courses in Maths and English as additional qualifications for students following academic and vocational programmes. Most employers and many of our programmes at Level 3 and above require a GCSE grade C/4 or higher in both English and Maths, so re-takes are available if you need them. We also offer GCSEs in Biology and Science for adult learners.

Vocational Qualifications

These are one-year courses aimed at developing core theoretical knowledge and practical skills. We offer a broad range of qualifications to choose from, each enabling you to progress into your chosen field.


Apprenticeships develop your knowledge and gain skills to further your career while you work. Level 2 apprentices develop hands-on, practical learning in the workplace and consolidate this whilst studying at Petroc. Apprentices who don’t have a grade C or equivalent in English and/or Maths will be required to pass Functional Skills Level 1 and work towards Functional Skills Level 2 as part of their apprenticeship.

Level 3 courses will set you on a path to university, higher apprenticeships or skilled employment. Qualifications include T Levels, A Levels, vocational qualifications, advanced apprenticeships, and Access to Higher Education Diplomas.

A Levels

These are two-year academic programmes and learners usually select three A Level subjects with subject combinations that are based on their intended career pathways. Our specialist interviewing team will give you bespoke advice and guidance as to what combinations work well for different career pathways. We have an outstanding record of A Level achievements, with many learners progressing to Oxford, Cambridge and top Russell Group universities, as well as prestigious apprenticeship pathways and employment. 

T Levels

T Levels are two-year technical programmes, equivalent to studying three A Levels. As part of the full programme of study, you will also complete a minimum of 315 hours (approx. 45 days) in an occupationally specific industry placement, focussed on developing practical and technical skills. 

Vocational Qualifications

These are one- or two-year vocational qualifications which blend practical, career-focused skills and academic study to prepare you for direct entry into employment or enable you to move on to higher education, apprenticeships or higher apprenticeships. Dependent on the size of the qualification it will be equivalent to 1, 2 or 3 A Levels. These courses also embed employability skills and industry-appropriate Maths and English and bespoke tutorial support. An Extended Certificate is worth one A Level and an Extended Diploma is worth three A Levels.


These work-based training programmes give you the skills, knowledge and competencies needed to progress in your chosen career or industry. Advanced Apprentices work for an employer and earn a salary, as well as taking an NVQ and Diploma at Level 3 through Petroc, attending college part-time. Apprentices who don’t have a grade C or equivalent in English and/or maths will be required to pass Functional Skills Level 2 as part of their apprenticeship.

Access to Higher Education Diplomas

Access to HE diplomas are for adult learners (aged 19 and over) who wish to take a university-level course but do not have the normal entry requirements. Access to HE courses will prepare you for higher education.

These are university-level (higher education) qualifications:

Petroc offers Higher Education opportunities in a range of subjects for students with Level 3 qualifications.

Higher National Certificates (HNCs) take one year, full-time, to complete, whilst Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) take two years.

Foundation Degrees (FdA/FdSc) normally take two years and are a qualification in their own right, and a Bachelor Degree (BA/BSc) is usually a three-year course.

Foundation Degree graduates can top up their studies to Bachelor Degree level by spending a further year at the University of Plymouth or through one of the BA Honours programmes at Petroc.

Petroc also offers higher and degree apprenticeships, for those wishing to take work-based study to the next level.

Need further assistance?

Please get in touch with the Advice & Guidance Centre:

North Devon
01271 852422
01884 235330