Student Advice

What is a Diploma of Higher Education?

Ben Maples  · Dec 5th 2023

What is a Diploma of Higher Education? What is a diploma worth? What can I use it for? How do I apply for a DipHE? We’ve got everything you could ever need to know about the Diploma of Higher Education right here…


A Diploma of Higher Education is an essential vocational qualification for students at university or college. This qualification gives you something to stand apart from other candidates when it comes to applying for jobs.

Diploma of Higher Education

What is a Diploma of Higher Education?

A Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) is an accredited professional qualification highly respected by employers in the UK and abroad. Like a Higher National Diploma (HND), a DipHE is equivalent to the first two years of a university degree, holding the same points value. Sometimes awarded to students leaving a degree programme before their final year, a DipHE is a next level up from a Certificate of Higher Education.

A DipHE provides a strong foundation in a specific subject area, combining academic knowledge with practical skills. It typically takes two years to complete if studied full-time or around four years if studied part-time. This diploma serves as a standalone qualification or a stepping stone towards a full bachelor's degree, making it ideal for career-focused individuals or those looking to progress further in their studies.

What is a DipHE worth?

A Diploma of Higher Education is typically worth 240 UCAS Tariff Points, with 120 of those points earned at Level 7, and at least 80 from Level 8. Because an undergraduate degree is worth 360 credit points when all three years are completed, a DipHE is essentially the first two years of an undergraduate degree.

What is a Diploma of Higher Education equivalent to?

A full-time, two-year DipHE course is usually equivalent to the first two years of an undergraduate degree. Because of this, it can sometimes be used for entry to the third year of a related degree course, if a student wishes to go on to gain an undergraduate degree.

A DipHE is also equivalent to a Higher National Diploma (HND); they are parallel routes, with a slight difference.

What is the difference between an HND and a DipHE?

A Diploma of Higher Education, just like a Higher National Diploma, takes two years to complete when studying full-time. They are both university-based vocational courses (meaning they prepare students for the world of work), and they both carry the same points value.

The difference between the two qualifications comes down to the method of assessment. A HND is mostly practical in the way it assesses students (through presentations, projects etc.) whilst a DipHE follows the more traditional assessment route of academic essays, whether this is to be submitted as coursework, sat as final exams, or a combination of the two so you get the best of both worlds.

What is the purpose of a Diploma of Higher Education?

The DipHE offers an excellent entry point into certain careers. At two years, rather than three or four, it’s a speedier and more direct route into vocations such as nursing or counselling, but it still equips you with the expertise that the job requires.

University Diploma of Higher Education

What subjects can I study in a Diploma of Higher Education?

When choosing a Diploma of Higher Education, there are dozens of vocational routes to follow. They all help prepare students for the world of work, so the diploma subjects have very close links with specific career paths. Available subjects include, amongst others:

Are there any distance learning DipHE routes?

Yes, most universities offer their Diplomas of Higher Education as distance learning options. One of the most well-known and popular distance learning providers is the Open University, who offer the ‘Diploma of Higher Education Open’, allowing students to pick and mix modules to gain a wider span of knowledge.

This may be a good option for students who haven’t yet settled on a career path and want to keep their options open, as it’s possible to study broader subjects. If, however, you have already decided on a career that you intend to pursue, it would be better to choose a course specifically tailored to the skills and knowledge required (e.g. DipHE Sport and Fitness).

Uni Diploma of Higher Education

What entry requirements do I need to study a Diploma of Higher Education?

This really depends on whichever university you’re looking at, and the course itself. Some DipHE courses don’t require any particular qualifications as a prerequisite to entry.

Others might specify that students need A-Levels, BTECs or equivalent to join their DipHE course, as it’s the next step on from that academic level. Students should therefore check beforehand to see what the entry requirements are for the Diploma of Higher Education.

How do I apply to study a Diploma of Higher Education?

Students can apply via their chosen institution, usually online or sometimes by post, the same as you would if you were applying for apprenticeships abroad. For more information, interested students should contact their college.

What is a diploma equivalent to?

Normal entry-level qualifications are often equivalent to studying at Foundation Diploma level. A level 1 qualification is equivalent to the GCSE grade D-G level. A level 4 qualification is equivalent to a normal BTEC Diploma.

A level 5 qualification is equivalent to HND or foundation degree level, however, a level 6 National Vocational Qualification is the equivalent of a normal standard Bachelors degree.

Uni Student Diploma of Higher Education

How am I assessed?

Depending on the subject being studied, students on a DipHE course will be assessed through written work, assignments, projects and practical elements. It might include coursework, exams, or both. Check the individual course information to confirm which assessment route your diploma will take.

You won’t receive a degree classification (such as ‘first’, ‘2:1’ etc.), because it’s not a complete degree. You’ll be graded in tiers of fail, pass, pass with merit, or pass with distinction.

What can I do with a Diploma of Higher Education?

Students can either choose to enter the world of work, as this type of qualification prepares students for a particular career sector, or choose to gain admission onto a Bachelor’s degree.

You can normally convert your Higher Education Diploma to a full degree with an extra year of study if the subjects are closely related, meaning you simply join the degree programme at the start of its third year.

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