A Diploma of Higher Education (DipHE) is a Level 5 qualification categorised as a university-based vocational course. It is very similar to a Higher National Diploma; they both take a practical approach to study, to directly prepare students for a career.

This Diploma is sometimes referred to as a ‘parallel route’ to an HND because they both take two years study to complete and are generally recognised to be the same level as the first two years of a university course. It is a level up from a Certificate of Higher Education, similar to a Higher National Certificate, which is the equivalent to the first year at university.

There are no set entry requirements for this Diploma as each provider sets their own. What you need to begin usually depends on what type of institution it is and what subject you are studying. Upon completing a DipHE, the institution awards you one of the following classifications: fail, pass, pass with merit and pass with distinction.

One main difference between a DipHE and an HND is that many Diplomas are awarded to students who intended to complete a three/four-year bachelor’s degree but ended up leaving after two years.

Suppose you choose to leave a bachelor’s degree course before you have completed the final year. In that case, you might be able to take away a Diploma of Higher Education. This ensures that two years of hard work at university is not wasted and can be validated by a respectable qualification.

Another main difference between a Diploma of Higher Education and a Higher National Diploma is the method of assessment, and therefore, at times, the practice of teaching.

While they both take a practical approach to learning, an HND is also assessed primarily through practical means. For example, you are marked on presentations, portfolios and any other practical demonstrations. Whereas, a Diploma of Higher Education assesses its student via traditional academic assessment, usually a combination of formal essays and exams.

If you are considering studying one of these Level 5 qualifications, this difference could help you decide which you are more suited to.  Some people struggle with the long-form writing required in an essay or an exam, especially those who are studying more practical subjects which don’t utilise literacy skills as often.

However, for many introverts presenting to a group or speaking in public is an extremely nerve-wracking task. And as the more under-pressure you feel, the less able you are to show off your skills, it can be a bad environment for assessment. Everyone is different, and these two routes will suit different people.

A Diploma of Higher Education is designed to prepare you for the challenges of the workplace. In comparison to a Bachelor’s degree, it is a quicker and more direct route into a career. The qualification and training expose you to real-life examples and case studies, so you feel confident applying your knowledge into practice. There is a myriad of subjects to study at Diploma level, all with close links to specific careers paths. For example:

  • Art and Design
  • Business management
  • Computing and IT practice
  • Construction
  • Counselling
  • Data Analysis
  • Engineering
  • Nursing

Some people go on to complete a final year at university in a related subject to turn their Diploma into a full Bachelor’s degree. This is slightly different from ‘topping-up’ an HND as you do not join a separate one year course for people with Diploma’s, you join a university cohort as they go into their final year.

For more information on university education, visit our page on Undergraduates.