A sixth form college is an educational institution, where students aged 16 to 19 typically study for advanced school-level qualifications, such as A Levels, Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) and the International Baccalaureate Diploma, or school-level qualifications such as General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examinations. In Singapore and India, this is known as a junior college. The municipal government of the city of Paris uses the phrase 'sixth form college' as the English name for a lycée (Highschool).
In England and the Caribbean, education is currently compulsory until the end of Year 13, the school year in which the pupil turns 18.[note 1] In the English state educational system, pupils may either stay at a secondary school with an attached sixth form, transfer to a local sixth form college, or go to a more vocational further education college, although in some places there may in practice be little choice which of these options can be taken. Some places only provide tertiary colleges, a "combination" between sixth form and further education colleges. In the independent sector, sixth forms are an integral part of secondary schools (public schools), and there is also a number of smaller-scale independent sixth form colleges. In Wales, education is only compulsory until the end of year 11.
Students at sixth form college typically study for two years (known as Years 12 and 13 – Years 13 and 14 in Northern Ireland – or lower sixth and upper sixth). Some students sit AS examinations at the end of the first year, and A-level examinations at the end of the second. These exams are called C.A.P.E. (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination) in the Caribbean. In addition, in recent years a variety of vocational courses have been added to the curriculum.
There are currently over 90 sixth form colleges in England and Wales. Most of these perform extremely well in national examination league tables. In addition, they offer a broader range of courses at a lower cost per student than most school sixth forms. In a few areas, authorities run sixth form schools which function like sixth form colleges but are completely under the control of the local education authorities. Unlike further education colleges, sixth form colleges rarely accept part-time students or run evening classes, although one boarding sixth form college exists, Peter Symonds College, which takes Falkland Islands students for sixth form.
There are a few schools in Brunei providing sixth form education. Five of them are dedicated sixth form colleges, with four located in Brunei-Muara District and one in Tutong District. Belait has yet to have its own sixth form centre and sixth form education is presently housed in Sayyidina Ali Secondary School, sharing facilities with the secondary education. There is no sixth form education in Temburong – prospective students go to sixth form colleges in Brunei-Muara where they may stay in dormitories.
Almost all sixth form schools are government schools. Five of them provide education leading up to Brunei-Cambridge GCE A Level qualification. Jerudong International School is a non-government school which has sixth form education and its A Level is independent of those offered by its counterpart. Along with International School Brunei which offers the program International Baccalaureate Diploma instead of A Levels after the completion of International General Certificate of Secondary Education in their lower secondary year.
Another school, Hassanal Bolkiah Boys' Arabic Secondary School, is a government sixth form centre for students in the specialised Arabic stream. Instead of A Level subjects, students generally learn subjects pertaining to Islamic knowledge in Arabic medium. The schooling culminates in the sitting of Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Ugama Brunei (STPUB), translatable as the Higher Certificate of Brunei Religious Education. They may then proceed to Islamic universities, locally or abroad such as Al-Azhar University.
In the English-speaking Caribbean, there are many sixth form colleges, usually attached to secondary schools. Students must usually attain a grade A-C in 1–3 in the Caribbean Examinations Council (C.X.C) CSEC examinations before proceeding onto the sixth form to sit the CAPE examinations. Students that fail these exams are not accepted into the sixth form program and can do either: courses in other further education facilities, or begin work with high school degrees.
The first comprehensive intake sixth form college in England was established in 1966 in Luton, Bedfordshire; Luton Sixth Form College took its first intake of students in September that year. Since then sixth form colleges have spread across England and have proved popular with students, their parents, and other groups in the community. By the start of 1976, 22 non-metropolitan counties had sixth forms, totalling 68 colleges; three of these counties had tertiary colleges. From 1991, sixth form colleges were permitted to provide some vocational courses approved by BTEC.
Until 1992, these colleges were controlled and funded by local education authorities (LEAs), but the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 transferred all institutions within the sector to the Further Education Funding Council for England (FEFC), a national agency with strategic responsibility for the operation of general further education (FE) colleges. This effectively made them legislatively indistinguishable from further education colleges. Later the FEFC's functions were taken over by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), a reorganisation that included changes in the funding and supervision of sixth form colleges.
These colleges take responsibility for their own employment, pensions and pay arrangements with the support and advice of the Sixth Form Colleges' Association (SFCA, formerly SFCF). The SFCA is made up of representative principals from SFCs across the UK. The SFCA sets up several committees to deliver its range of support services for SFCs as well as facilitating lobbying work with the central government. Colleges for the most part do not charge full-time daytime students; however, adult students (most of whom attend evening classes) may have to pay a fee (for examinations, tutors' time and other costs).
There are also some sixth form colleges in the independent sector, specialising in A levels for which fees are paid; these are unconnected with the SFCA.
Scotland does not, in general, have separate sixth form colleges (or, indeed, the same concept of the terminal two years of secondary education as being distinct from the other time spent there); as such, Scottish students who opt to remain in full-time education will typically remain in the same school for fifth and sixth year (the equivalent to the English lower- and upper-sixth forms), studying Higher Grade and Advanced Higher qualifications. Higher Grade qualifications can be taken in both the fifth and sixth years.
In Wales, sixth form education falls under the remit of the Senedd (the Welsh Parliament), and sixth form colleges are sources of further education alongside FE colleges and sixth forms integrated into secondary schools. They typically offer the Welsh Baccalaureate and Key Skills qualifications.