Around 8–10% of the English undergraduate population study in further education colleges. Colleges in the post-compulsory sector have offered a variety of higher education (HE) programmes for decades, some as articulated ‘top-up’ courses, others as full degrees or vocational programmes such as the Higher National Diploma. Reports from both the press and academic research have reported on those who decide to study for an HE qualification at a local college rather than attending a university. These reports appear to coalesce around a number of common issues: the convenience of combining part-time study with work and familial responsibilities; lower costs and greater responsiveness to students’ needs; and a distinctive learning culture, with a perception of more support from lecturers and smaller classes. It is within the research context that this study was undertaken. The liberalisation the HE market not only threatens the established position of colleges but also impinges on students as they make their choice of study, whether this is campus-based, college-based or distance learning. This study investigated the reasons why 75 students at three colleges decided to study for a higher education qualification in a further education college in preference to a university. The findings contribute to the corpus of knowledge and, in doing so, call for more innovative ways to cater for those future students who would benefit from studying a HE qualification at a college.