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Certificate of Higher Education in Healthcare Practice

This certificate of higher education enables healthcare support staff to develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to underpin effective practice. You’ll develop a wide range of practical skills and competencies, while exploring essential biological, social, political, ethical and psychological concepts. You’ll also build valuable numeracy, literacy, IT, communication and cognitive skills.

Key features of the course

  • Designed for healthcare support workers, aspiring assistant practitioners and aspiring nursing students
  • Includes a strong work-based element, for which you must be supported by your employer
  • Theoretical aspects studied mainly online
  • Includes work-based and academic assessment
  • Builds a solid foundation for further study

A nationally recognised qualification in its own right, this certificate of higher education is also equivalent to the first stage of a foundation degree or an honours degree.

Course Summary



  • Widely recognised qualification.
  • Equivalent to the first third of an honours degree.
  • Study for interest or career development.
  • Shows that you can study successfully at university level.
  • Count it towards further qualifications such as a foundation degree, DipHE or honours degree.
Course code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
How long it takes
Part time – 2 years
Full time – 1 year
Time limit – 7 years
Study method
Distance learning

Course details

This certificate of higher education has one stage, comprising 120 credits.

Optional Access module – visit Entry requirements to find out about starting this course with a preparatory Access module.

Stage 1 (120 credits)

You’ll be introduced to the study of health and social care, together with underpinning knowledge, understanding and skills. You’ll consider care in a variety of settings, alongside work-based study of the factors influencing health in different service user groups. There is a strong focus on person-centred, compassionate care and the development of practice-based skills to meet patient/client needs.

We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 20 March 2019.


We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The Certificate of Higher Education in Healthcare Practice uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:

  • studying a mixture of printed and online material – online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
  • using mathematical and biological expressions, notations and associated techniques
  • working in a group with other students
  • using and/or producing diagrams and/or screenshots
  • undertaking practical work (patient/client care)
  • finding external/third party material online
  • in addition to the above, the regulatory body for the nursing programme (the NMC) has guidance on health and disability relating to fitness for professional practice.

For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support with any of the elements above, visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer. Please contact us as soon as possible to discuss your individual requirements, so we can put arrangements in place before you start.

Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills

The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.

Read the detailed learning outcomes here

Credit transfer

If you have already studied at university level, you may be able to count it towards your Open University qualification – which could save you time and money by reducing the number of modules you need to study. At the OU we call this credit transfer.

It’s not just university study that can be considered, you can also transfer study from a wide range of professional or vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs.

You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. We will need to know what you studied, where and when and you will need to provide evidence of your previous study.

For more details of when you will need to apply by and to download an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.

On completion

On completion of this undergraduate course, we'll award you the Certificate of Higher Education in Healthcare Practice.

Recognition in your country

If you intend to use your Open University qualifications to seek work or undertake further study outside the UK, we recommend checking whether your intended qualification will meet local requirements for your chosen career. Read recognition in my country.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website. 

Entry requirements

You must have the support of your employer for the work-based module Enhancing your healthcare practice (K117). It is also a requirement that you:

  • remain in employment while studying towards this certificate
  • work in a healthcare setting for a minimum of two days per week
  • are involved in the direct delivery of care or providing interventions for patients/clients
  • provide confirmation of your employer’s support for your studies
  • have a workplace supervisor qualified in the same area of practice to support and assess your work-based learning
  • have access to a computer and the internet.

Please note you cannot apply online for this qualification – for more information about how to register, employers and individuals should contact us

This certificate also forms part of the Foundation Degree in Healthcare Practice. The Foundation Degree meets the Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England (SASE) as determined by the Sector Skills Council (Skills for Health). It is eligible as a combined pathway within the Higher Apprenticeship in Health (Assistant Practitioner) in England only.

Employers who would be interested in exploring the potential for delivery of this Higher Apprenticeship should contact in the first instance.

How much time do I need?

  • Most of our students study flexibly, completing 60-120 credits a year.
  • Depending on the agreement with your employer you can complete this qualification in 1-2 years.

Your next step

Call us on +44 300 303 0266 or book a call back. Our friendly team of advisers will discuss your study options with you, and help you decide on the best starting point for you. 

In this section:
How much will it cost?
Ways to pay for your qualification and other support

How much will it cost in England?

We believe cost shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your potential. That’s why we work hard to keep the cost of study as low as possible and have a wide range of flexible ways to pay to help spread, or even reduce, the cost.

  • Fees are paid on a module-by-module basis – you won't have to pay for the whole of your qualification up front.
  • A qualification comprises a series of modules, each with an individual fee. Added together, they give you the total cost.
  • If, like most OU students, you study part time at a rate of 60 credits a year, you'll take six years to complete an honours degree.
  • Our current fee for 60 credits is £3,012*.
  • Our current fee for 120 credits – which is equivalent to a year's full-time study – is £6,024*.
  • At current prices, the total cost of your qualification would be £6,024*.

*The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2020. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees.

Skills for career development

The certificate builds key employability skills in areas such as communication, IT, problem-solving, planning and organisation. It also prepares you for further academic study (it’s the first stage of several other qualifications, including the Foundation Degree in Healthcare Practice (X16) or the Diploma of Higher Education in Healthcare Practice (W16).

Career relevance

Although this certificate provides no guarantee of promotion in the workplace, it is designed as the first step to prepare healthcare support workers for the role of assistant/associate practitioner. Your employer is required to provide a workplace supervisor/mentor who will support and assess you in the workplace. Following completion of this qualification, you may wish to pursue further study opportunities leading to, for example, a Foundation Degree in Healthcare Practice and ultimately an honours degree in health and social care or, possibly, as a registered practitioner in your respective field of practice.

If you want to progress to nurse training, we offer a unique work-based pre-registration programme for adult nursing and mental health nursing. Successful completion of the Certificate of Higher Education in Healthcare Practice allows access to Stage 2 of the pre-registration nursing programme, subject to successful selection and meeting the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s (NMC) minimum entry requirements.

Exploring your options

Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice – including online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser. Some areas of the careers service website are available for you to see now, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.

In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point (note that most careers will require further study, training and/or work experience):

  • Adult nurse
  • Mental health nurse
  • Social worker
  • Health promotion specialist
  • Counsellor
  • Advice worker
  • Practice manager
  • Child protection officer
  • Youth worker
  • Probation officer
  • Community development worker
  • Care home manager
  • Health services manager
  • Child protection officer.


To register for this qualification, please refer to the entry requirements and contact us (online registration is not available).

Next start date Feb 2020 - Registration closes 09/01/2020
Credit transfer: apply by 05/12/2019

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