Access to HE Student

What is an Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma

Access to HE Diploma courses – often simply known as ‘Access courses’ – are specially designed for people without the qualifications necessary to gain direct entry to HE. Access courses provide a good foundation in the knowledge and skills required for studying at HE level.

Some providers offer a Pre-Access course if you are not quite ready to study an Access course. These courses prepare you for an Access course and your journey into HE and usually include studying maths and English, developing your study skills and building your confidence in a learning environment.

Why consider an Access course?

Many people are anxious about returning to learning, particularly if they haven't been in a classroom for some time. Tutors on Access courses are very aware of this and take it into account in their teaching. You won't be 'thrown in at the deep end'. Although you can expect the course to be challenging, the whole purpose is to help you succeed. You will be taught skills and techniques to prepare you for HE-level study. 

How do Access courses compare with other qualifications?

An Access to HE Diploma is a Level 3 qualification. It is equivalent, for instance, to A levels or BTEC Nationals. (Level 4 is equivalent to the first year of undergraduate study and an Honours Degree is a Level 6 qualification).

What subjects are available?

Some courses have a specific subject focus, such as law, nursing or teaching. Others provide a preparation across a wider range of subjects, e.g. social science, humanities or combined sciences. Diplomas with more general titles enable students to keep their options for the future open.

How long do Access courses take?

Most Access courses are full time and take one academic year to complete. Some courses can be taken part time over two years. There are also other study modes, including distance learning. 

What are the entry requirements for Access courses?

Access courses are designed for those with few qualifications, but some colleges ask for GCSE maths and/or English at grades 4/C. If you don’t have these qualifications (or if they are not required for entry), you may be able to take them as part of your course or you may be asked to complete some kind of written assessment, to identify whether you are likely to cope with the demands of the course and meet the standard required. 

When considering applications, colleges want to ensure that you are committed to studying, have the necessary enthusiasm, motivation and organisational skills to succeed, and that you have explored appropriate HE-level courses and their entry requirements.

How do I apply for an Access course?

Once you’ve found a course you’re interested in, simply contact the college offering the programme who will explain what you need to do next. You will need to complete an application and you may be invited to the college to discuss your aims and whether an Access course is the most suitable route for you.

How do I pay for an Access course?

Advanced Learner Loans are available for those aged 19+ to help with the cost of an Access to HE course. You may also be eligible for a bursary or grant through your local Adult Education Budget.

If you take out an Advanced Learner Loan and subsequently complete a higher education course, any balance you owe on your Advanced Learner Loan will be written off.

You pay back your loan plus interest in small instalments when you’ve finished your course and start earning over the threshold of £27,295 a year. 

How can I find out more about Access courses?

The Access to HE website has lots of information including frequently asked questions and a course search facility. You can also find out more through your local college.

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