Skip to main navigation Skip to content
Accessibility|Text only| Text size: A A A| Display: Default / High contrast
RSS icon

We use cookies on this website. If you continue to use the website, we will use cookies to maximise your experience and help us to improve.

To find out more about cookies, how we use them and how to remove them, see our privacy and cookies statement.

Frequently asked questions: Further education staff

Where can I find out more details about the national requirements and regulations relating to Access to HE Diploma courses?

More information about the national requirements for the design of Access to HE Diplomas is given in QAA's Access to HE Diploma and credit specifications.
Regulations relating to grading are included in QAA's grading scheme handbook. All of these publications are available in our Publications library.

Individual Diplomas are approved at local level, so different courses include different units of study, with different types of assessment. For detailed information about requirements for individual Access to HE courses, contact the course provider or the relevant Access Validating Agency (AVA).

Is the Access to HE Diploma included in the UCAS Tariff?

Access to HE Certificates and Access to HE Diplomas started before September 2014 cannot be allocated UCAS points. This is because the Tariff methodology could not be applied to a qualification, which included a degree of flexibility for providers to design their courses. The current UCAS Tariff calculations involve a grade, volume and level of study and therefore the following Access to HE qualifications are not included in the Tariff:

  • Access to HE Certificates – as these were ungraded they are not included in the Tariff
  • Access to HE Diploma (2008-2009/10) – as these Diplomas included a mixture of graded and ungraded credit and different unit sizes they are not included in the Tariff
  • Access to HE Diploma (2010-2013) – while these Diplomas were graded, aspects such as the mixture of unit sizes mean that they are not included in the Tariff

 Access to HE Diplomas started from September 2014

The current (2013) specification, implemented in September 2014, has increased the consistency of structure and volume of academic content in Access to HE Diplomas. This, coupled with the new approach to the UCAS Tariff, which uses a qualification's size and grades, means that Access to HE is therefore included in the new UCAS Tariff tables, which will be used for entry from September 2017.

This means, only Access to HE students starting a higher education programme in September 2017, who have studied the 2013 specification (available from September 2014 onwards) will be able to use the new UCAS Tariff system.

Further information is available on the UCAS website:

UCAS and QAA both provide other kinds of information about the Access to HE Diploma for HE admissions staff, such as the Toolkit for HE admissions staff, and the qualification is widely recognised and accepted as an alternative entry qualification for adult students, by all types of higher education institution and for all kinds of courses.


Can I do an Access to HE 'top up'?

There is currently no specific Access to HE Diploma 'top up' option. However, you could approach an Access to HE provider to ask for further advice about the options available to you and work together to establish what you could do to meet the requirements of the higher education provider.

 It may be that another Access to HE Diploma is the most straightforward option, and in some cases there can be credit awarded for work previously completed. However, this depends on each individual situation. The provider will be able to advise you about this. Alternatively, the provider may have suggestions regarding other courses that may be more appropriate for you, including where there are specific requirements in terms of the need for level 2 (for example, GCSE) English and mathematics.

How is the Access to HE Diploma graded?

Access to HE Diplomas are graded according rules set out in the Grading Scheme Handbook.
You will be awarded a grade for every graded level 3 unit that you complete successfully. A grade of Pass, Merit or Distinction is awarded for each unit. No overall, or composite, grade is given for the Access to HE Diploma.

The grade awarded for each unit is shown on the achievement transcript issued with your Access to HE Diploma. The transcript also shows how many credits were awarded for each successfully completed graded or ungraded unit.

The unit grades have no numerical equivalents. They are not derived from or converted into numerical marks. The regulations permit a restricted use of numerical marking (Grading Scheme Section C, annex C1). Numerical marking is being withdrawn from the grading scheme and will no longer be permitted on Access to HE Diplomas started after 1 September 2020. (Please note: while numerical marking will be permitted under the scheme until 2020, it may not be available on some Access to HE Diplomas before this date).

Access to HE Diplomas comprise 45 credits from graded level 3 units, and 15 credits from level 2 or level 3 units that are not graded.

What guidance does QAA provide about GCSE equivalence?

From the academic year 2014-15, the claim to GCSE equivalence will no longer be regulated by QAA and any claims to GCSE equivalence are not supported by QAA.

However, some Diplomas may continue to include, within the 15 credits of ungraded units, some level 2 units that relate to English or maths, if this has been agreed through the development and validation process to be the most appropriate use of those units to support the intended progression. Individual higher education providers may decide that such units, where offered, meet their requirements for achievement in English and maths.

I'm an Access to HE course provider: how do I show that my course has national recognition?

Access to HE courses that have been approved by a licensed AVA are listed in the Access to HE courses database and can be described as 'QAA-recognised' or 'recognised by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education'. 

Approved centres may use the Access to HE logo, but this should not be copied from this site. For further advice on use of the logo and promoting your course, contact your Access Validating Agency

Is there any guidance for HE admissions staff in dealing with applications from Access to HE students?

Yes, we've produced guidelines for higher education admissions staff. 

The guidelines give an update on recent Access to HE qualification developments, some general guidance and recommendations for institutions about how they can express their entry requirements and make offers to Access to HE students. Copies of the guidelines can be found on this website in the Publications library.

Ensuring that your requirements for Access to HE applicants are transparent and publicly available will help students make appropriate choices in their applications. UCAS also encourages universities and colleges to specify their requirements for Access to HE students in their Entry Profiles. 

Where can I find statistical information about Access to HE?

QAA publishes annual statistical reports about Access to HE.

Every year we publish a summary of statistical data in our Access to HE Key Statistics and the more detailed Joint Agency Statistical Report. Our reports include a wide range of information, supplied by several national statistical agencies, including data about:

  • the number and types of Access to HE course providers
  • the number and subjects of courses available
  • the number of Access to HE students
  • Access to HE student profiles and characteristics
  • completion and success rates on Access to HE courses
  • number of Access to HE students who apply to university and the subjects they apply to
  • the number of former Access to HE students
  • universities with the largest numbers of former Access to HE students
  • staying on rates and employment rates of former Access to HE students once they have graduated. 
More detailed information is available in the Statistics section of this website.

Are there any statistics available about individual course providers?

We do not hold data about individual Access to HE courses or providers.

Comparable information on all publicly funded providers in the further education (FE) sector is available on the FE Choices comparison site. The information provided is based on a core set of data relating to key performance areas, including Success Rates, Learner Destinations, Learner Satisfaction and Employer Satisfaction. The latest Ofsted grade for each provider is also given.

What are the national benchmarks for QAA-recognised Access to HE provision?

QAA is the regulator for Access to HE Diplomas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and publishes data for achievement across Access to HE Diplomas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland based on data received from the Access Validating Agencies it licences and the agencies that fund the provision.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)(opens in new window) and Welsh Government (opens in new window) produce benchmark data for their areas of operation.

The data included in QAA’s key statistics publications includes data on flexible and non-traditional types of delivery.

Where can I find out about news and recent Access to HE developments?

Access to HE news, and information about Access to HE developments, are available on this website.
Visit our news and events pages to find out more.
You can also subscribe to our RSS feed to have updates emailed to you when they happen.
Contact us information