Skip to main content

Birkbeck short courses and Cert HE explained

Our courses

Birkbeck provides a wide range of flexible short courses and Certificates of Higher Education (modular enrolment), where you can book early and pay in instalments; a number of our short courses are held in London, while other short courses are available online. 

Short courses

  • Check our full list of short courses.
  • We offer over 150 short courses.
  • Some short courses are part of a Certificate of Higher Education (modular enrolment), so you can build up credits to complete a certificate if you wish. 
  • A number of our short courses have no formal entry requirements and are open to all, whatever your qualifications or educational background.
  • You may have to fulfil specified prerequisites for some intermediate - and advanced-level courses - check your short course online before you enrol. 

Certificates of Higher Education

  • Check our full list of modular Certificates of Higher Education.
  • Certificates are standalone University of London qualifications, which also offer a flexible route into university. They are usually held on just one evening a week, so they are easy to fit into your busy schedule. 
  • Certificates are taught at first-year degree level and can comprise a mixture of compulsory and option modules. You can build up your credits to progress to degree study at Birkbeck if you wish (you must successfully complete 120 credits to gain a Certificate of Higher Education).  
  • Most of our certificates have no formal entry requirements and are open to all students, but it is advisable that you can read, write and speak English fluently. 
  • There are two types of certificate - modular and programme: 
    • Modular: Modular certificates are flexible. You study at your own pace, usually taking one or two short courses which are also modules for that course each year. They are usually one to two years in duration and you build up your credits to gain the full Certificate of Higher Education. (Note: if you wish to apply for a student loan, you must be studying modules worth at least 30 credits a year.)
    • Programme: Programme certificates last one or two years and are structured like undergraduate degrees. You have to complete requisite compulsory and option modules in a particular order and complete an application form for entry to the whole programme. You can find these types of Certificates of Higher Education on our undergraduate prospectus.
  • Some certificates prepare you for direct entry to degrees, in particular Life Sciences for Subjects Allied to Medicine prepares you for a wide range of BSc degrees and related professional training.

Credit or non-credit bearing

At Birkbeck, we offer a wide variety of short courses across many schools and subject areas. Along with a description of what you will be studying on a course, you will also see that courses are described as 'credit-bearing' while others as 'non-credit bearing'. Here, we explain what this means for you.

credit bearing courses

  • Our credit bearing courses are of high quality and taught by academic staff who are experts in their field. As well as the opportunity to explore and discuss a subject of your choice, you will have access to appropriate materials for your courses including our vast digital resources. You will also be able to use our library and borrow books as well as other resources if you wish.
  • In addition, credit bearing courses have formal assessments such as essays, presentations or exams that you can choose to complete. If you satisfactorily complete the assessment, you will be awarded the appropriate number of credits of formal study at university level (see more information on this below). The number of credits and the level will be clearly indicated on the course description.
  • Some courses will also indicate if they are part of a programme of study that you could use the credits towards attaining (for example, a Certificate of Higher Education), although this is entirely optional. Because any credit you achieve is linked to a nationally-recognised system of university credits, this will help to demonstrate your ability and knowledge in a framework that can be transferred. That might be highly desirable both personally and professionally.

Non-credit bearing courses

  • Non-credit bearing courses are of the same high quality as that of our credit bearing courses. You will have access to appropriate materials and resources for your courses, as well as access to our vast digital resources (including relevant databases and online journals) where you can explore and research your course further if you wish.
  • Non-credit bearing courses are taught at introductory, intermediate and advanced levels indicating the level of demand and the previous experience required to fully engage with the course. The level a specific course will be taught at is clearly indicated in the course description.
  • Non-credit bearing modules are not formally assessed, and you will not have to complete coursework or exams. However, if you meet the requirements set for the specific course, you may be eligible to receive a 'Certificate of Attendance' (please check with your course lecturer for further details).
  • Non-credit bearing short courses can be extremely useful in developing your knowledge and understanding of a particular subject area for both personal interest and for professional development where formal assessment is not a requirement.

Level of study

  • Credit bearing courses at Birkbeck, University of London, are taught at:
    • Level 4 - equivalent to the first year of a full-time degree
    • Level 5 - equivalent to the second year of a full-time degree
    • Level 6 - equivalent to the final year of a full-time degree
    • Level 7 - equivalent to postgraduate or Master’s level.
  • The level of the course and the previous experience required to study a course (if any) will be clearly indicated on the course description.


  • Each credit bearing short course description will indicate the number of credits that it equates to. Our credit bearing courses are typically 15 or 30 credits depending on the demand of the course and the numbers of hours study required to satisfactorily complete it. For comparison, one year of full-time study at Level 4, 5 and 6 (undergraduate degree) is 120 credits.