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Need advice - Level 3 BTEC National Diploma


I just need advice, particularly if there are BTEC students who have 'topped up' to a larger qualification (national diploma to extended diploma), or been in the same situation as me and was dropped to a smaller qualifications in the same level and it's now wrecked everything.

This is my first post here and sorry if I come across as dumb but I just need advice... I'll basically leave some background info so you know what and why I was moved..

I'm currently taking a Level 3 BTEC in IT. When I was on Level 2 IT - BTEC First in IT, including Web and Game Development (In 2020/21), I signed up to move onto the Level 3 course. I passed Level 2 and got D* D* so was moved onto the Full Level 3 course (Foundation Diploma).

A week in the new college year and everything at college was unsettled as half the tutors were off and the timetable was changing every day so I got very stressed out and anxious. I had a lot of anxiety around college because of covid and lockdowns (I was scared to leave the house because I was living with clinically vulnerable family members, one of them being my full time carer) and it showed in my behaviour and attendance (I have moderate ASD (Autism), severe SPD (Sensory processing disorder) and anxiety, and now ADHD, which I just got diagnosed with in March). The previous year, I was working from home most of the time (even when college was open), but I excelled at working from home but needed to come back to college for a routine as I never left the house besides that.

Because of this, they moved me onto the 'lower' level 3 which is the extended certificate, which meant I did less units but remained in the same class for the year (who were doing foundation diploma). It was the first year the college had this new '"lower' level 3 course" and it's designed for students who have to re-sit GCSE English and Maths, which I passed years ago.

I had some time out last year (almost dropped out), but I was given a bit of space and allowed to do the course from home for about a month (My grades are amazing and I do really well in my coursework, and excelled working from home the previous year, but really struggled with being at college when the restrictions came back for a brief period last winter), but I returned once I got my ADHD diagnosis and things got better. I became a different person and I'm in a happier place now and have more confidence in getting out the house and doing things (as stupid as it sounds).

The units I took last year were -
Unit 1: Information Technology Systems (Exam and Mandatory unit)
Unit 2: Database (Exam and Mandatory unit)
Unit 3: Social Media in Business (Mandatory unit)
Unit 6: Website Development

Once I returned, I just cracked on with my coursework, even attended extra lessons and got help with my confidence with LSA staff and by the end of the year, I was a happier person.

When I was asked to sign up for the second year, I was told I would be moved up to the national diploma (120 credit). The main reason I signed up to the Level 3 course in the first place was because I was interested in the creative units (Web development, mobile app development, game development and digital animation). I was aware that I would be doing less units on the national diploma and I did asked what units this would entail and they said Programming, Project Management, Cyber Security (all mandatory units, so I get I have to do them and I'm fine with that) and either gaming or animation, but I'll admit no-one was sure but I was pressured to signing up there and then, so I did. I was also promised I would be staying with the class group I was with at the time.

I got a merit in the Extended Certificate. Now I'm back after the summer and found out on Friday that I'm on the national diploma but have been moved into a different class group and I'm not doing any of the creative units I signed up to do (I'm doing Unit 5 Data Modelling instead). Also, I just found out the course doesn't carry that much UCAS points. I haven't done a Level 3 qualification prior to this one.

I feel like I've been told things just to sign up to the second year and none of them have come true and now I've wasted a year. I've been researching all day on possible solutions.

I'm going to see the college on Monday morning to discuss things but I'm very nervous and my anxiety has been playing up all weekend. I have thought of the things I could enquire about.

1. Would I be able to 'top up' to the extended diploma - if so, would I have to stay at college an extra year to do this (meaning I do the national diploma this year, but do the extra units the extended entails, next year), which I found from the link below may be possible

2 (Maybe a stupid suggestion) Could I not add units to my qualification or just do them for the experience (even if it doesn't go towards my qualification)

3. If all else fails, do I have to repeat the first year, but do the foundation diploma.

4. Find another course, but then I lose my extended cert. qualification, (Although I haven't done any work for this year yet as my first lesson of the year isn't until Monday)

5. Take a year out, which was my plan for after I finished the second year so I don't really want to do this.

Just for the record, my college doesn't allow students to sit more than one course per year (unless it's GCSE Maths/English resits, which I've already passed).

Most Level 3 courses in the college are only extended diplomas. IT was the same until 2021/22 when the Level 3 Extended Certificate replaced the Level 2.5 course. They run both the national diploma and extended diploma so I wouldn't see why I couldn't do this at the same college.

Just really unsure what to do but feel we all (the college and myself) have made a mess of everything...
Original post by Cocu the Coconut
Just really unsure what to do but feel we all (the college and myself) have made a mess of everything...

So far you've taken Units 1, 2, 3 and 6. That gets you the Extended Certificate, which is equivalent in size to one A level.

You have now signed-up to do the Diploma, for which you need 8 units in total (the four you already have, plus four more). The mandatory units which you don't already have are Units 4 (Programming), 9 (IT Project Management) and 11 (Cyber Security and Incident Management). Your college have told you that you'll be doing these units. The Diploma also requires one optional unit, and you were hoping to some something creative (perhaps Unit 18 Digital Animation and Effects) but it turns out that you'll be doing Unit 5 (Data Modelling) instead.

Does you college even teach Unit 18 Digital Animation and Effects? I guess what I really mean is do they have any teachers which understand this unit well enough to assess it?

Also, do you know why you've been moved into a different class group? What units are your old class group going to be doing?

I would suggest you attempt to persuade the college to let you do the optional unit that you want to do, not the optional unit which is convenient for them to teach.

Then we have the issue of the fact that it sounds like you'd ideally like to be doing the Extended Diploma - for the increased UCAS points. As you have established, you can extend your Diploma into an Extended Diploma by doing additional units in the following year (for a fee, obviously). However, I don't know that all colleges offer this, so you'd need to check with them.

There's also the theoretical option of switching from the Diploma to the Extended Diploma now (if your college will let you) and trying to do the 9 additional units you'd need (on top of the 4 you have) in a single year. That's double the intensity you were expecting, and which you're used to. Is that worth considering (assuming the college would even allow you do it)?

Finally, your mention of UCAS points reminds me of the advice I try to always give: work backwards. Stop focussing on what's immediately in front of you (the BTEC) and look way into the future, working backwards step-by-step to the present day. Given your BTEC choice, and the modules you want to do, would I be right in saying that you're interested in a career in the creative aspects of IT, perhaps animation, game design, or something similar? Given that you've talked about UCAS points, you've thought about gaining a degree in order to help pursue that career - right? So what BTEC qualifications (or UCAS points) to universities require for that type of course?

Your profile says that you're in Lancashire, so let's see what University of Central Lancashire want. Here are some potential courses and their relevant entry requirements:

Animation BA, (Hons): BTEC Extended Diploma: MMM or BTEC Diploma: DD (both of which are 96 UCAS points) - see here.

Animation (Foundation Entry), BA (Hons): BTEC Extended Diploma: MPP or BTEC Diploma: MM (both of which are 64 UCAS points) - see here.

Games Design, BA (Hons): BTEC Extended Diploma: MMM or BTEC Diploma: DD (both of which are 96 UCAS points) - see here.

Games Design (Foundation Entry), BA (Hons): BTEC Extended Diploma: MPP or BTEC Diploma: MM (both of which are 64 UCAS points) - see here.

Computer Games Development, BSc (Hons): BTEC Extended Diploma: MMM-DMM or BTEC Diploma: DD-D*D* (both of which are 96-112 UCAS points) - see here.

Computer Games Development (Foundation Entry), BSc (Hons): BTEC Extended Diploma: MPP or BTEC Diploma: MM (both of which are 64 UCAS points) - see here.

You got a Merit in the Extended Certificate, so if you can get Merit-Merit (MM) in the Diploma, that would allow you to join the Foundation Entry (four-year) version of their Animation, Games Design or Computer Games Development degrees. I suspect you can't get a DD in the Diploma (given that you have a M for the Extended Certificate), but we'd need your per-unit scores to use the BTEC calculators and confirm that fact. Note that I see not unit requirements on any of the pages referenced above, so you will not be at a disadvantage having done Data Modelling over a more "creative" unit.

So, now you have another choice to make (sorry about that): Would you rather do the Diploma this year and extend to the Extended Diploma next year (assuming that's an option at your college), to then join a three-year degree after that? Or would you rather use the Diploma you'll get this year to then join the four-year Foundation Entry versions of one of the above?

(Obviously, other universities are available - I just picked one local to you.)

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