Computing and Systems Development Higher National Diploma (HND) Top Up

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Prepare for an exciting career in cyber security with our specialist HND programme

This qualification prepares you for employment within the growing industry of cyber security. It offers a progression route into a number of roles in IT and computing professions. 

You will have access to the latest computing technology, including a Cisco networking lab, NAO robots and Lego Mindstorm robots. 

TEF Silver

Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that Activate Learning delivers high quality teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It consistently exceeds rigorous national quality requirements for UK higher education.

Our career pathways show you a typical route through the various stages of learning, what you will learn along the way and the careers these programmes could lead onto.

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What I'll learn

Level 4 (year 1) develops your underpinning knowledge and skills of computing through units such as Mathematics for Computing and Programming. You will have the opportunity to develop skills in database design and begin to assess the risks to IT security and Network Security Infrastructure, such as NAT, DMZ and Firewalls. 

Level 5 (year 2) focuses on more advanced skills, such as Forensics and Cryptography. You will conduct digital forensic rnvestigations whilst delving into the world of artificial intelligence and robotics. All students will also complete their own independent project, developing research from a given topic and presenting a final solution. 

Each module carries equal weighting of 15 credits with the exception of Computing Research Project which carries a weighting of 30 credits.

Students complete a total of 240 credits. Your overall grade for the certificate is based on grades obtained for all modules taken. 

Year 1 

Programming- Networking- Professional practice- Database design and development- Security- Managing a professional computing project- Website design and development- Maths for computing 

Year 2 

Computing research project- Business intelligence- Cryptography- Forensics- Information security Management- Robotics- Virtual and augmented reality development 


How I'll learn



  • Year one: Monday and Wednesday
  • Year two: Tuesday and Thursday 

*Note these days are subject to change. 
A typical day runs from 9am-6pm. Timetables are usually available one month before registration. 

You will be taught through a combination of lectures, online learning and practical sessions. You will have the opportunity to work on live case studies in collaboration with local employers providing you with a unique experience and industry insight. 

Online learning is designed to facilitate your own learning and provide a platform to gain knowledge at your own pace, alongside your scheduled lectures.

Class sizes are usually around 12 students, providing the opportunity of full interaction and discussion between the group. 

In addition to your taught lectures, there will be tutorial sessions. These are a combination of taught tutorial time, focusing on the progression of your academic and employability skills, one to one tutorials with your tutor, and a series of seminars and guest speakers to aid your learning and introduce you to new and exciting concepts within your field of study.

You will receive around 16 hours contact time per week, typically consisting of: 

  • 15 hours lectures
  • 1 hour seminars or tutorial time

When not attending guided learning time, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. This will involve reading journal articles, books, working on projects and preparing coursework. 

Your total qualification time (TQT) consists of guided learning hours (GLH) such as taught sessions, tutorial time, guest lectures, practicals and assessment activity. With the addition of independent learning, project work and online learning.
40% of your time is spent in timetabled teaching and learning activity 
Teaching, learning and assessment: 960 hours
Independent learning: 1,440 hours 
Total Qualification Time: 2,400 hours 

Academic support 

If you do not have a recognised disability or specific learning difficulty, but feel that you require additional support with your studies, you may be eligible to access some discrete sessions in one of the following areas: 

  • assistive software training
  • IT upskilling
  • essay planning and structure
  • proofreading and editing written work 
  • bibliographies and referencing
  • time management and personal organisation 
  • revision and exam tips
  • presentation techniques

N.B. Your eligibility for any of the above support will be reviewed with your course tutors and a member of the study support team on your campus.


How I'll be assessed

Each module will provide you with the opportunity for ‘Formative’ assessment. This allows you to gain feedback on your work before submitting for final assessment. Formative assessments are developmental and any grades are solely indicators of your progress and so not count towards your overall module grade. 

There is a formal or ‘summative’ assessment at the end of each module. This will provide you will an overall module grade. 

Modules have set ‘Learning Outcomes’ which are assessed through 100% coursework. You must achieve all learning outcomes in all modules. Coursework is made up of a variety of assessment methods including; written reports and essays, online tests, practical examination, portfolios, presentations and a final year project. 
Your overall module grade will count towards your final diploma grade.

For information about learning outcomes and grade calculations, please see the Pearson BTEC website.

You will receive feedback on all formative and summative work submitted. Formative feedback may be provided in a variety of ways such as verbal, peer review and 1:1 meetings. Summative feedback will always include a written summary, and you encouraged to discuss feedback with your module tutor. We aim to provide you with feedback within 15 working days of hand-in.


Entry Requirements

A typical offer is 64 UCAS points. This may be from:

  • Two A-levels at grade A-C (7-4), with maths and IT related subjects
  • Level 3 National Diploma grade MM 
  • Level 3 Extended National Diploma grade MPP, with Maths at Merit
  • Access to HE Diploma; MPP

In addition, applicants should possess GCSE English and maths at grade C (4) or above (or equivalent). 

We also welcome students returning to education who possess strong industry related experience. We support widening participation and encourage applicants with non-standard qualifications. 

Applicants whose first language is not English must also demonstrate that their level of English is acceptable, by achieving a score in a recognised test, such as: 

  • British Council IELTS: normally a minimum level 6.0 overall with a minimum of 6.0 in the reading and writing components; 
  • TOEFL minimum score of 550 paper-based or 213 computer-based or 80 internet-based. 

Applicants with prior certificated or experiential learning may be admitted with credit for up to a maximum of 120 credits at Level 4.


How to Apply

Please apply via UCAS:

UCAS code: 13II.  Institution code: O25