April 24, 2012
Higher, post-secondary, tertiary, or third level education is the stage of learning that occurs at universities, academies, colleges, seminaries, and institutes of technology. Higher education also includes certain collegiate-level institutions, such as vocational schools, trade schools, and career colleges, that award academic degrees or professional certifications.
The right of access to higher education is mentioned in a number of international human rights instruments. The UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966 declares, in Article 13, that “higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means, and in particular by the progressive introduction of free education”. In Europe, Article 2 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, adopted in 1950, obligates all signatory parties to guarantee the right to education.
Higher education is an educational level that follows the completion of a school providing a secondary education, such as a high school, secondary school, or gymnasium. Tertiary education is normally taken to include undergraduate and postgraduate education, as well as vocational education and training. Colleges, universities, and institutes of technology are the main institutions that provide tertiary education (sometimes known collectively as tertiary institutions). Examples of institutions that provide post-secondary education are vocational schools, community colleges, independent colleges (e.g. institutes of technology), and universities in the United States, the institutes of technical and further education in Australia, CEGEPs in Quebec, and the IEKs in Greece. They are sometimes known collectively as tertiary institutions. Completion of tertiary education generally results in the awarding of certificates, diplomas, or academic degrees.
Rupert I founded the University of Heidelberg in 1386
Higher education includes teaching, research, exacting applied work (e.g. in medical schools and dental schools), and social services activities of universities. Within the realm of teaching, it includes both the undergraduate level, and beyond that, graduate-level (or postgraduate level). The latter level of education is often referred to as graduate school, especially in North America.
In the United Kingdom and certain other countries (e.g. Ireland), post-secondary school education below the level of higher education is referred to as “further education”. “Higher Education” in the UK generally involves work towards a college-degree-level or foundation degree education.
NVQ at level 4 (graduate level) and NVQ at level 5 (post graduate) are deemed “Higher Education”.
In many developed countries, a high proportion of the population (up to 50%), now enter higher education at some time in their lives. Higher education is therefore very important to national economies, both as a significant industry in its own right and as a source of trained and educated personnel for the rest of the economy. College educated workers command a significant wage premium and are much less likely to become unemployed than less educated workers.  .
There are two types of higher education in the U.K.: higher academic education, and higher vocational education. Higher education in the United States and Canada specifically refers to post-secondary institutions that offer Associate’s degrees, Bachelor’s degrees, Master’s degrees, Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degrees or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees, or their equivalents, and also higher professional degrees in areas such as law, medicine, optometry, and dentistry.
Such institutions may also offer non-degree certificates, which indicate completion of a set of courses comprising some body of knowledge, but the granting of such certificates is not the primary purpose of the institutions. Tertiary education is not a term used in reference to post-secondary institutions in the United States or Canada.