Varndean College


Varndean College is a popular and successful Sixth Form College based on the northern outskirts of Brighton with approximately 1600 students aged 16 to 19. It offers a wide range of Advanced and Pre-advanced academic and vocational courses, as well as being the only state-funded college in the area to offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma.

In the evenings, it opens its doors to the community by offering an extensive programme of Adult Education courses, as well providing Family and Community Learning at several outreach centres within the City. Full-time Access to Higher Education Diploma courses also offer places for up to 40 mature students.

The College not only draws from Brighton and Hove’s main secondary schools, but also many other schools throughout East and West Sussex, from as far north as Haywards Heath and as far east and west as Eastbourne and Worthing. A number of students also come from the independent sector and from overseas. This all makes for a lively and cosmopolitan mix of students.


Varndean College specialises in the provision of academic and general vocational education to the 16-19 age group. At Level 3, it offers over 30 A level subjects alongside a choice of vocational qualifications, as well as the increasingly popular alternative to A Levels, the International Baccalaureate Diploma. At Level 2, approximately 140 students each year follow various vocational courses and a range of core GCSEs.

In addition to examination courses and tutorial work, a broad programme of enrichment activities is available to students, including sporting activities, art, drama, music, political and environmental issues, work experience and volunteering. There is an extensive range of day, residential and international trips. A thriving Student Union also enables students to contribute to the development and improvement of the College, as well as the organisation of social and fund-raising activities. The work of the College in the areas of environmental and international education has been recognised through national awards.

Students have a rich, broad and enjoyable experience throughout their time at Varndean and College Principal, Dr Phil Harland, says “Instead of telling students they have to fit into a narrow curriculum, our provision here is wide enough to be able to tell them we will make the curriculum fit them.”


The College has a distinguished record of achievement over a number of years. In 2017 the A level pass rate was 97.8% with more than half of our students obtaining A*-B grades and over 78% achieving A*-C grades. More than two thirds of subjects achieved 100% pass rate. Students on the International Baccalaureate programme achieved some of the best results in the UK with an average score of 36 points, which is the equivalent to 3 A grades at A level. In 2017 two students gained an outstanding 44 points putting them in the top 1% of over 90,000 students worldwide. Success rates and high grades for vocational courses are similarly high.

Value Added

The College is particularly proud of the fact that, at Varndean College, students do significantly better than expected based on their GCSE results. In the 2017 Department for Education “16-18 Schools & Colleges Performance Table for Added Value”, the college was ranked 2nd out of all sixth form colleges in the country. In the league table for all providers of A Levels (2,770 of them), Varndean College was placed 217th (in the top 9%). Within Brighton & Hove, Brighton College was next in the table at 234th. ‘Value Added’ scores are government calculations which provide a measure as to how much more or less successful students have been by declaring how much 'value' has been added to their results.

Varndean’s Mission Statement is: ‘through the quality of its provision and support for a diverse community, to encourage and inspire all its students to fulfil their potential’.


In January 2018, the College staff consists of 113 full and part-time teaching staff and 102 full and part-time support staff, plus an additional 50 Adult Education tutors. The Principal, Dr Phil Harland, is currently supported by a Deputy Principal and two Directors. Curriculum subjects are organised into five areas each led by a Head of School, with two Assistant Heads of School. Programme Leaders are responsible for individual subject areas within the schools and are supported by departmental technicians, IT technicians and administrative staff. The Additional Support Team provides in-class support and individual support to students. Support staff teams include Registry, Library and Careers, HR, Finance, Marketing and Site Maintenance.

Other Information



  • Teachers have worked successfully to ensure that progress made from starting points by students on A Level courses remains outstanding and that progress on the International Baccalaureate course is also outstanding.
  • Students studying at Level 3 benefit from a broad curriculum choice that allows a good range of combinations of academic and vocational courses, in addition to the highly successful International Baccalaureate programme.
  • Students enjoy being at the college and value very highly the inclusive, tranquil atmosphere.
  • Teaching, learning and assessment are of a consistently high standard and students enjoy the vibrant and challenging lessons they attend.