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Access to HE explained: an alternative route into university

Access to Higher Education (HE) Diplomas are designed to prepare students without traditional qualifications for degree studies. QAA – the organisation that regulates Access to HE courses – explains more…

Want to go to university, but left school without the right qualifications or the grades you needed? The Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification that will enable you to progress to university and a degree regardless of what you did (or didn't) achieve first time round.

Delivered in further education colleges in England and Wales, there are nearly 1,200 Access to HE courses available in a wide range of different subjects, from business studies to nursing.

What do you need to study an Access course?

Many people worry that they’re too old to do an Access to HE course, or that they’ll need lots of GCSEs to be accepted. In fact, there’s no upper-age limit, and most Access to HE courses require few if any prior qualifications, although you may be asked to complete a pre-course assessment.

You can search for courses on the Access to HE website to see what’s on offer.
Everyone on the course wanted to be there and worked hard, and the tutors were supportive, encouraging and understanding. The coursework was great as I was able to enjoy a wide range of modules. The content was very theoretical and involved writing essays and completing assignments. It taught me how to meet deadlines and to cope with the pressure of being a full-time student, which was excellent preparation for university. Yvonne Brissett | Broadcast Journalist And Former Access Student
Plus you can find out a bit more about Access to HE courses in this video...

Do universities recognise the Access to HE Diploma?

The Access to HE Diploma is widely recognised by UK universities. Indeed, some have policies to encourage applications from Access to HE students, who are often valued for their maturity and willingness to contribute to discussions.
When I hear that an applicant to my course is an Access student, I feel very reassured because I know they will have a good grounding in knowledge and study skills to prepare them for programmes in higher education. Dr Sarah Goode | Senior Lecturer - University Of Winchester

Each year around 20,000 Access to HE Diploma students go on to apply for a degree course at a UK university. They go on to study for a variety of degrees, including law, education, nursing and business.

Access to HE as an entry requirement

Most universities make offers to Access to HE students based on achieving the Diploma with certain grades. If you don’t see the Access to HE Diploma listed as an entry requirement for a particular course, just call the university and seek their advice. More often than not, you’ll find that they’ll be happy to consider your application.

The Access to HE Diploma doesn’t appear in the Ucas tariff, so again, if you’re interested in applying for courses that only mention Ucas points in their entry requirements, call the university directly to discuss your qualifications.

The framework for approval of Access to HE courses is managed by the universities' own quality assurance organisation, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).

Which? University provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from QAA, the independent body set up to safeguard standards and improve the quality of UK higher education.

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