Admission to private further education colleges is usually highly selective and a high level of commitment is typically expected from both GCSE and A-level students; however, this allows independent colleges to maintain high standards, so they can offer their students a stimulating environment that is conducive to achieving top grades and gaining admission at top UK universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge.
Students wishing to obtain a place at a private college to prepare for their sixth form/A-level and GCSE exams will usually be required to complete an application form. Additionally, they will be asked to provide copies of recent academic reports, or predicted GCSE grades. For overseas A-level or GCSE students, a personal statement outlining the student's achievements, interests and ambitions regarding their further education may also be requested.
Students will then be asked to attend an interview; for some A-level subjects, an admission test may also be required, such as an audition for drama students. Interviews for a place at an independent college of further education are usually held at the college; however, for overseas students wishing to apply for a place at a private college in the UK, interviews may take place in the student's country of residence or over the phone. The interview focuses on the A-level or GCSE student's ambitions and interests, not only concerning the academic curriculum, but also beyond it. In interviewing the student, the aim of the college staff is to determine that the student has been and will be able to achieve above-average grades.
Open Days or Open Evenings are often offered by the college to further education students and their parents. At these meetings, parents and students have the opportunity to meet teachers and college staff and to attend presentations and exhibitions of students' work. This allows them to get a feel of the activities offered by the independent college they are considering to enrol at.
A full range of courses in all A-level subjects is usually available at private further education colleges: arts and media, finance and computing, humanities, languages, social sciences and traditional sciences. At GCSE level, courses are available in core subjects (maths, science, English literature, English language and ICT) as well as subjects such as arts and languages.
Additionally, exam revision courses may be offered over the Easter period to both GCSE and A-level students.
Private further education colleges for GCSE and A-level preparation typically provide extra services to their students. For example, classes and tutorials are held in smaller groups; this makes it possible to offer GCSE and A-level students more individual attention as well as a more stimulating and interactive environment, with the aim to improve their learning ability and skills. For example, at Ashbourne College, an independent A-levels and further education college in Kensington, Central London, group sizes rarely exceed ten. Additionally, private further education colleges usually offer a great choice of facilities (such as computer, media or arts equipment) as well as a range of extracurricular activities to their pupils, like sports, cultural visits and international travel.
Costs vary depending on the length of the course. Courses available at independent further education colleges may range from two-year A-level courses to one-year and 18 month A-level courses, two-year GCSE courses, one-year GCSE courses, etc. There are also Examination and Tuition fees that the parents of students wishing to pursue further education at a private college need to take into consideration.
However, bursaries and scholarships are often offered to highly achieving A-level and GCSE students who wish to study at an independent college of further education and would otherwise be unable to afford a place. As well as outstanding academic ability, a strong interest towards further education and an ambition to be admitted at a top UK university (such as Oxford or Cambridge) is required to qualify for a further education scholarship at a private A-levels and GCSE college. So, students who can demonstrate the ability to comfortably achieve top grades at their GCSE and A-level exams, which makes them more likely to obtain a place at top UK universities, will typically be eligible for an A-level or GCSE scholarship.
So, although the admission to private further education colleges is selective and preparation for A-levels and GCSE exams at these colleges usually comes at a high cost, high-achieving students who wish to obtain a place at a top university may still qualify to receive a scholarship and enjoy the benefits offered by independent colleges, such as smaller class sizes and a stimulating environment, which will help them make the most of their academic abilities.