Flexible learning that suits you

Over 60 years providing quality distance learning courses including A levels, GCSEs and Professional Courses


Are you a student looking to study online? We have a range of flexible courses to fit your lifestyle.


Are you a parent or guardian wanting to support your child through online learning?


Are you a school or sponsor wanting to expand your course offering but haven't got the teaching capacity?

Why study with NEC?

Established in 1963 as a not-for-profit distance learning provider, the National Extension College (NEC) has a strong, proud heritage in widening access to education.

Our courses can be studied flexibly, at any time and anywhere, and offer each student an exceptional level of support to achieve their future ambitions.

We are widely recognised as a specialist in online learning and continue to seek out new areas for innovation.


NEC have dedicated tutors that are qualified teachers committed to supporting all of our learners.


At NEC, we believe that everybody deserves a chance to achieve their learning goals, no matter their circumstances.


For many of our online distance learning courses, you’ll have to sit exams to get your qualification.

What our students say

"NEC were incredibly responsive and knowledgeable and the only online provider who went the extra mile to check on potential exam clashes and practical endorsements. We did a lot of research and found NEC the most helpful, experienced and also not pushy at all. I can’t recommend them enough – best company, service and content we have come across for a long time and true educators."

"I decided to re-enrol with the NEC to study for a Spanish A level after successfully completing a Spanish iGCSE with them last year. The person I contacted was very friendly and helpful. I asked if it was possible to have the same tutor as last year (as she was so good) and this was arranged quickly and efficiently. I'm really looking forward to studying for my A level with NEC as I had such a positive experience with them previously."

"Great course! The user platform is very easy to negotiate and the content is easy to follow which is exactly what you need when studying."

"Great learning materials from NEC. Detailed examples and lots of practice questions. The student forum is useful too as the tutors will respond to you on there also."

"I was looking for a way to improve my French, but as I work full time it has to be flexible. So I after researching I found this college and its A level French course. The customer service were extremely helpful about answering questions I had about the course before I committed. Now I'm on the course I find the materials and exercises really good and easy to follow step by step and the tutor has given me really helpful feedback and tips. I would definitely recommend this college to others, especially if you need a flexible way to study, or to study at your own pace."

What's new on the NEC blog?

Talking about educational opportunity

Photo credit: Press Association Yesterday, Prince Charles said he was pleased the valuable work of NEC has been recognised after all this time. We spoke briefly about the English historian Peter Laslett, not only a close associate of NEC’s founder Michael Young but also Prince Charles’ tutor when he was an undergraduate at Trinity College […]

Another chance to take legacy AQA A level exams

AQA, one of the UK’s largest awarding organisations of qualifications, has made a welcome announcement following the recent Ofqual consultation over whether there should be a resit opportunity for A level subjects that changed in September 2015. As well as agreeing that there will in fact be a resit opportunity in 2017 for the outgoing […]

Mount Etna erupting at night

Experiencing Mount Etna: A Journey of Natural Wonders and Learning

Written by NEC Chief Executive Esther Chesterman As the CEO of the National Extension College, I often find myself engrossed in the world of education, striving to bring the best learning experiences to our students. However, nothing could have prepared me for the breathtaking and humbling experience of witnessing Mount Etna’s eruption up close during […]

young female on laptop taking gcse resit course

Are GCSE Resits Beneficial?

Written by NEC Chief Executive Esther Chesterman – explaining the benefits of GCSE resits. If your exams haven’t quite gone to plan and you are considering taking a resit course, you are not alone. There’s no denying that the exam period can be a stressful time for students, especially when you are relying on a […]

male teacher in classroom education setting since new government manifesto

Labour Party’s Education Policies: Transforming Schools and Enhancing Social Mobility

As the CEO of the National Extension College (NEC), I am excited about the Labour Party’s education manifesto becoming a reality under the new government. These transformative changes will significantly impact schools across the UK, promoting inclusivity, equity, and social mobility. Reflecting on our founder Michael Young’s vision, it is clear that NEC’s mission to […]

Frequently asked questions

How does an NEC course work?

All NEC courses are online, which means that you can study whenever and wherever suits you, without having to attend a regular class. 

When you enrol we’ll send you an email explaining how to log in to learn@nec, our virtual learning environment and your gateway to the NEC community. 

You’ll get support from a qualified personal tutor and will be able to contact them through learn@nec messaging. Your tutor will be an expert in their subject and will be with you every step of the way, from introductory assignment to revision schedule.

All your course materials have been expertly written and designed to guide you through the subject, and carefully selected resources will be signposted within your course. Our course development team are highly experienced and include learning design experts, examiners, teachers and other industry professionals.

You’ll be able to work through the course at your own pace, completing assignments and uploading them to learn@nec for your tutor to mark. Your tutor will then upload their feedback for you to read. There are no deadlines (other than exams and non-exam assessment, of course), so you can work at a pace you’re comfortable with and that fits in around your other commitments.

Will I be able to meet other students on my course?

Through learn@nec you’ll be able to interact with other students in the course forums. Interacting with your peers is a great way of discussing what you’re learning and helping you to really understand it. In a connected world, there’s no need for an online or distance learning course to leave you feeling isolated. We use technology – like the forums – to enhance your all-round learning experience.

Are there any entry requirements to enrol on a course?

To find out about entry requirements, check the Course information page for your chosen subject, before you enrol.

None of our courses require you to have any previous qualifications, but for some we would strongly recommend that you’ve already studied the subject to some extent. We would strongly recommend that you have a GCSE in maths to study A level maths, for instance, to give yourself the best possible chance of success.

If English isn’t your first language, you should be aware that all of our courses require a good level of English comprehension.

For some courses, the assessment uses real experience in the workplace, so you must be working in a suitable setting when you enrol. This mostly applies to our childcare courses, where it is essential for some that you are assessed in a real work situation. For others you’ll be asked questions that relate to your working day.

As courses are online, you’ll need to use a computer to access your course.

If you’re still unsure about any entry requirements, simply get in touch with our friendly and helpful Course Advice Team who will be happy to talk through your situation and help you decide what to do.

Do I have to be in the UK to study an NEC course?

You can study an NEC course no matter where you are: distance learning is perfectly suited to international study. Some courses, though, do have requirements which you’ll need to check carefully before deciding to study outside the UK.

  • If your course leads to an exam, you should make sure that you’ll be able to sit the exam before you enrol. Check with the awarding body to find out where exams are held.  If you need to travel to the UK to take exams, some of our partnership exam centres are conveniently located near airports with excellent transport links. The British Council also often arranges exams in overseas cities, so it may be worth contacting your nearest office to check with them.
  • AQA does not conduct exams overseas, so if you are studying an AQA course you will need to come to the UK to sit your exams.
  • If you are considering enrolling on a childcare course, it’s possible that there will be an element of workplace assessment; this may be more difficult to organise outside the UK and will involve an additional cost. It’s also important to be sure that any professional qualification you gain will be accepted in the country in which you wish to work.

If you’re thinking about enrolling from overseas, the best thing is to contact us for a chat about your requirements first, so we can help you make sure it will work for you.

Do I have to enrol at a certain time of year?

With NEC you can enrol at any time and begin studying whenever suits you best. But it’s worth bearing in mind that if you’re taking a course that involves an exam, exam dates are on fixed dates. So you’ll need to enrol early enough to be able to complete all your assignments and any non-exam assessment in time. For advice on this just contact our Course Advice Team or look at the course information page for your chosen subject(s).

friendly NEC employee at desk. Ready to help NEC distance learning students with their online study
Want to find out more about how we can help you?
Want to find out more about how we can help you?

We have a team of experts on-hand to answer all your queries about our online courses.

We have a team of experts on-hand to answer all your queries about our online courses.