Student Advice

What is a HND?

Becky Kleanthous  · Apr 19th 2024

A Higher National Diploma (HND) qualification uses studying and practical elements to prepare students for a particular job and/or career.


Available in all kinds of specialities, from HND engineering to HND photography, HND business management to HND computing, it’s a vocational qualification to suit all manner of people. Students can apply to study an HND by contacting their college or university and applying directly.

What is an HND and an HNC?

What is a HND?

The HND course is a higher education qualification available in the UK and selected international countries. HND assignments have been specifically developed for the world of work.

As a result, HND courses are valued by companies and employers, and are perfect for individuals who wish to have a more ‘hands-on’ experience with their studies. HND level study can help you progress in your career, and is also valuable in preparing you for life at university.

What level is a HND?

HND is a level 5 qualification, and can be awarded by a number of bodies including BTEC HND and the Confederation of Tourism and Hospitality. A HND is worth 240 credits. That’s two thirds of a standard-length undergraduate degree.

Students who have completed A Levels or equivalent can embark on an HND. We’ve got more info on entry requirements further down the page. They are well suited to people who like to learn through doing. Practical types will thrive on an HND course such as HND electrical engineering.

For people who know exactly what industry or career they want to work in, completing an HND can offer a faster and more direct route into that job.

Many graduate schemes, the Civil Service Fast Stream, and postgraduate teaching qualifications all require ‘complete degrees’.

What level is HND in Scotland?

In Scotland, HNDs are awarded by the SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) and are a level 8 qualification in the SQCF (Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework).

An HND is equivalent in academic level to a foundation degree, or the first two years of a Bachelor’s degree.

How long is a HND course?

A higher national diploma usually takes anywhere between two years (full-time) and four years (part-time), and is usually completed on a part-time basis. It is the equivalent of the first two years of university.

What is the difference between an HNC and HND?

The HNC/HND difference is simple: a HNC (higher national certificate) is a one year course, equivalent to the first year of university. An HND (higher national diploma) is a two year course, equivalent to the first two years of university. An HND is therefore the more advanced qualification.

What’s the difference between HND and DipHE?

A ‘higher national diploma’ may sound like a ‘diploma of higher education’ in name, but the actual HND meaning is quite different to the DipHE meaning. A diploma of higher education (DipHE) is a postgraduate qualification (for completion after an undergraduate degree), whilst the HND is equivalent to a large chunk of the undergraduate degree itself.

what is a HND?

When can I take an HND?

Students usually complete an HND after finishing sixth-form college (A Levels or Scottish Highers) and before university, if they choose to go on to complete an undergraduate degree. As a work-based qualification, many students come to the HND from full-time employment, too.

HNDs can be studied in the UK, Argentina, Nigeria, Ghana, India, Finland and Malta. Classes take place at a local college, university, or by distance learning.

Getting a HND is a great way to establish yourself in a career

What other qualifications are there?

A HND is not the only form of diploma available for university students. Students can also study a Diploma of Higher Education, which is similar to a HND, but is usually studied in the following subjects:

  • Accounting
  • Construction
  • Engineering
  • Nursing
  • Science subjects
  • Technology
  • Textile design

Another diploma type that may prove useful is the Certificate of Higher Education, which is an academic qualification, rather than a vocational one. Though they are similar to a HNC, it only takes a year to complete.

what is a HNC?

How much does an HND cost?

On average, most HND qualifications cost around £6000 a year in tuition fees, which can be paid with a loan from Student Finance England. Fees can range between £4000 and £8000 a year though, so do check directly with the course provider to get the exact figure.

In Scotland, studying an HND costs £1,285 per year, and is eligible for funding by the SAAS (Student Awards Agency Scotland).

Many universities accept applicants with HNDs

What is an HND useful for?

A HND can help you progress in your work life by training you in the specific skills you need to excel in your career.

Additionally, they can give you a taste of higher education study without having to commit to a complete degree. If you enjoy your HND, you can choose to continue it at university, often being able to enter the programme in the final year of study. And there’s no rush, either. You might work for a number of years before deciding to transfer your HND credits into an undergraduate degree (the Open University, for example, accepts HNDs up to 16 years old).

The HND is a well-respected qualification in its own right, and can help you develop confidence, specialist knowledge, and essential skills.

What are the HND entry requirements?

To study an HND, students require some previous qualifications. Most colleges ask for at least one A-Level or equivalent, such as a BTEC. Students should check with their chosen course provider to find out their particular entry requirements.

HND Degree

What subjects can I study in a Higher National Diploma?

There’s a wide array of possible HND subjects and industries for study, including:

  • Engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Computing
  • Business management
  • Photography
  • Performing arts
  • Construction and Civil Engineering
  • Health and social care
  • Agriculture
  • Hospitality management
  • Sport and exercise sciences

How to choose an HND subject

It’s easy to get bogged down in decision-making, but the vital questions to ask yourself are: What do you enjoy? What are you good at? What do you want to do in the future?

Whether your family is applying pressure for you to study a particular subject, or your friends are all leaning towards a particular area, the decision has to come from within you. Consider your strengths, your career hopes, and your interests. It’s your future, after all!

Speak to your tutor, employer or careers advisor if it’s proving tough to make a choice.

Can I do HND distance learning?

Yes, depending on the subject. There are lots of HND distance learning courses, including HND childcare studies, HND animal psychology, HND coaching, HND travel and tourism, HND environmental science, HND Engineering Systems, HND Mechanical Engineering, and more.

HND Degree at university

What is a HND qualification likely to include?

You’ll combine classroom learning with hands-on, practical work skills. There may be presentations, group work, written assignments and demonstrations or portfolio work. Every HND integrates maths and English skills into its programme. Each HND is built of units, with each unit focusing on a particular area of expertise.

What is a HND course assessment like?

Students are assessed through practical tasks, work projects, assignments and written work during their time on the course.

How are HNDs graded?

If a student successfully completes a Higher National Diploma, the grade is either a pass (P), merit (M), or distinction (D). A merit is stronger than a pass, and a distinction is the highest possible grade.

A higher national diploma usually takes anywhere between two years (full-time) and four years (part-time)

Taking HND resits

It’s possible to re-take HND assignments if you aren’t satisfied with your grade. Speak to your course tutor at the earliest opportunity if you’d like to resit part of your HND course.

What can I do with a Higher National Diploma?

HNDs give students the skills needed for a particular area or field of work, so they can lead straight into a career.

An HND can also permit entry into the second or third year of a degree (depending on the subject studied as a Higher National Diploma, and the degree subject you apply for. More on this further down the page.)

How many UCAS points is a HND worth?

Or perhaps the question should be, ‘Can you get HND UCAS points?’ - because the answer is no! There are no UCAS tariff points associated with HND qualifications, but that’s because an HND is beyond the study level that carries UCAS points. UCAS tariff points come with A Levels, Scottish Highers, IB, and other pre-university courses. As HNDs are a university-level course, they carry university credits instead of having any HND UCAS points.

HND Degree at uni

What is an HND top-up degree?

An HND top-up degree is a qualification that allows you to build on prior learning. It is a course that is designed to provide students with the chance to gain credits and to graduate with an undergraduate bachelor’s degree.

Most HND graduates can complete their final year of an undergraduate course with this. It is not always possible, as some universities may have different entry requirements for their courses that prohibit the use of top-up courses.

What are the benefits of an HND?

An HND is a vocationally focused qualification with a clear path into a career. In today’s workforce, where many applicants have degrees but not experience, this can be an advantage.

It’s a rewarding way to study through ‘hands-on’ methods, which might suit learners who prefer to develop their skills out of the classroom.

Additionally, you can often ‘top-up’ an HND to convert it into a fully fledged Bachelor’s degree.

A HND is a more advanced qualification than a HNC

Can I get onto a degree course with an HND?

HND students quite often go on to university to convert and ‘top up’ their credits into a full degree in a related subject. Because the credits earned on an HND are equivalent to the first two years of an undergraduate programme, many universities can give you a place on the third or final year of a degree course (instead of making you start at the beginning).

You’ll need to apply to a similar course to your HND subject, so that the university is confident about your abilities. They want to be certain that your prior learning sets you in good stead for a third year programme. Additionally, it’s quite likely that you’ll need a Merit or Distinction to follow this route, rather than a Pass.

Not all universities provide an HND top-up, and of those that do, the courses themselves may differ in their routes (e.g. some providers admit HND students for one subject into the third year, but another subject into the second year). It’s essential, therefore, to check with the course provider about how they deal with HND top ups in your subject area.

University HND Degree

Can I get a student loan after an HND?

This one’s pretty important. Because the current student finance system in England only issues full tuition fee loans for a first qualification, you might not be able to get all your funding to top up your credits at uni. That’s because the university course would be considered a second qualification, with the HND being the first qualification. Even if your employer paid for your HND, or you self-funded it, it still affects things.

On the plus side, Student Finance England says that, ‘You may get limited funding if you’re ‘topping up’ a higher education qualification, for example you’ve finished an HNC, HND or Foundation Degree and now want to do an Honours degree.’ Limited funding is better than nothing, and depending on your circumstances, it may be substantial. Contact them to discuss your specific circumstances and find out what help is actually available.

There may also be bursaries, grants, scholarships and other financial support available from the university, so be sure to do your reserch before making a decision.

By the way, in Scotland, the SAAS don’t put such restrictions on undergraduate qualifications; you will continue to be eligible for funding if you top up your HND into a Honours degree.

A HND is worth 240 credits

Can I do a Master’s Degree with an HND?

A Master’s degree requires you to have a complete undergraduate degree before you can apply, but the HND route skips some of the traditional degree programmes. Because some of these academic hoops are missing, not all Master’s degrees consider students who have topped up HNDs. Similarly, many graduate schemes, the Civil Service Fast Stream, and postgraduate teaching qualifications all require ‘complete degrees’.

There are a few exceptions (such as the graduate scheme with National Air Traffic Services, if you are looking at becoming an There are a few exceptions (such as the graduate scheme with National Air Traffic Services, if you are looking at becoming an Air Traffic Controller, so it’s worth checking individual courses and providers, so it’s worth checking individual courses and providers.

Which universities accept HNDs?

Many universities accept applicants with HNDs, including the University of Essex, University of Glasgow, University of Coventry, University of Pembrokeshire, and the University of Edinburgh. That’s just the start: there are plenty more out there.

Check directly with the course provider to find out their entry requirements.

Uni HND Degree

What jobs can I get with an HND?

A lot of jobs require you to have a degree in a specific job, however, certain jobs will become available if you have an HND, such as:

  • Mechanical engineer
  • Sports coach
  • Software developer
  • Ship officer
  • Engineering technician
  • Engineering professional
  • Welfare and housing professional

Going forwards

Getting an HND is a great way to establish yourself in a career, and it’s an active, hands-on way to start earning a degree too.

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