This qualification has two stages, each comprising 120 credits.
- You’ll start Stage 1 with two modules that explore how children learn; and the importance of children’s play.
- Then, in Stage 2, you’ll study a module that further develops and broadens your knowledge and understanding of young children’s lives and learning, followed by one from a list of options.
Optional Access module – visit Entry requirements to find out about starting this course with a preparatory Access module.
You’ll develop an understanding of early childhood from a range of perspectives. Drawing on theory and research, you’ll examine how children grow, develop and learn. Your study in this stage completes with a specific focus on young children’s play and creativity within the context of the family and early childhood settings.
You’ll start Stage 2 with a module that investigates critical issues in early childhood and extends themes introduced in Stage 1. For your final Stage 2 module, you’ll have a choice of education, childhood and youth options.
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 21 March 2018.
We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The Diploma of Higher Education in Early Childhood uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:
- studying online – some modules have a mixture of printed and online material, and others are entirely online. Online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
- face-to-face tutorials/day schools/workshops and/or online tutorials
- working in a group with other students
- practical work
- finding external/third party material online
- using technology for research purposes involving access to catalogues and databases online
- continuous and end-of-module assessment in the form of essays, short answer questions, and in some cases an examination
- using feedback: continuous assessment involves receiving detailed feedback on your work from your tutor and using this feedback to improve your performance
- engagement with learning and assessment within a pre-determined schedule or timetable – time management will be needed during your studies and the University will help you to develop these skills throughout your course
- some modules may require you to attend a residential school
For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support, visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer. 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; e-learning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.
Read the detailed learning outcomes here
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 of this undergraduate course, we'll award you the Diploma of Higher Education in Early Childhood.
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.
There are no formal entry requirements to study this qualification.
You do not need to be working with young children in order to study this qualification; however to enhance your learning in core practice-focused modules, it is strongly recommended that students gain direct experience with young children (birth to 7 years, 11 months). Students not working with young children (employed or in a voluntary capacity) will need to negotiate opportunities to gain such practical experience. It is your responsibility and that of your employer – not the OU’s - to ensure the necessary Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (or equivalent if not working in England) required for the setting and country in which you’re working is obtained and that you meet the ‘fit person’ criteria for work with young children. If you are in any doubt about your eligibility, or to find out more, contact the relevant agency in your country.
How much time do I need?
- Most of our students study part time, completing 60 credits a year.
- This will usually mean studying for 16–18 hours a week.
Counting previous study
You could save time and money by reducing the number of modules you need to study towards this qualification, if you have:
- already studied at university level (even if you didn't finish your studies)
- other professional or vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs
Find out more about credit transfer
Skills for career development
This diploma of higher education is designed to contribute to the development of a highly skilled and effective workforce and to integrated coherent services for young children and their families. In addition to specialist knowledge and understanding of early childhood, you’ll also develop a range of key communication, IT, numeracy, analytical, critical thinking and time management skills – all attributes that are highly valued by employers across all sectors.
This DipHE is relevant for existing early years practitioners (normally with a Level 3 early years qualification) or those interested in finding out more about young children’s learning and development. It provides a foundation for entry to a range of careers working with and for young children and their families. It is also suitable for those wanting to move into careers in teaching, health or social work.
England only: if a Level 3 early years qualification is not held on entry, this course is not deemed ‘full and relevant’ to enable you to count in the staff:child ratios at Level 3.
Scotland only: if a Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) qualification for registration as a day care of children’s services staff (support worker or practitioner) is not held on entry, this qualification does not lead to registration.
GCSE passes at Grade C or above in English and Maths are normally required for post-graduate study and for teaching a GCSE Grade C pass in Science is also a requirement.
Further information about Early Childhood qualifications can be found:
- For England, on the Department for Education (DfE) website;
- For Wales, on the Care Council Wales (CCW) website;
- For Scotland on the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) website;
- For Northern Ireland, on the Department of Education (DENI) website;
This diploma qualification may also be helpful if you’re interested in primary teaching (3-8 years) with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). However, since the OU doesn’t offer teacher training for this age range, we cannot guarantee automatic progression to ITE training programmes. Check with your local ITE training provider about their entry policy. For up-to-date information visit the Department for Education website in England; the Teach in Scotland website in Scotland; the Department of Education in Northern Ireland; and the Teacher Training & Education in Wales website.
Many graduate-level jobs are open to graduates of any discipline, particularly in business, finance, management consultancy and the public sector. Some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree.
In addition to improving your career prospects, studying with the OU is an enriching experience that broadens your horizons, develops your knowledge, builds your confidence and enhances your life skills.
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 some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience):
- family support worker
- child psychotherapist
- careers adviser
- advice worker
- probation officer
- social worker
- education welfare officer
- learning mentor
- community development worker.