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9 May 2022

Access to Higher Education: An alternative pathway to study Medicine


Dr Enamul Ahsan

Deputy Head of the School of Medicine, Anglia Ruskin University

Access to HE students are known for their ability to prioritise, complete numerous tasks, manage time effectively - just some of the qualities that admissions tutors look for when identifying the next potential doctor. However, it is far from easy for students without the standard A-level type qualifications to even get an interview for Medicine.

The last decade has seen change in how medical schools select their students and there has been a major focus on widening participation to recruit people coming from a range of backgrounds and experiences. As such, the Access to HE Diploma in Medicine, designed in collaboration with medical schools, allows opportunity for students to follow such dreams.


At Anglia Ruskin University Medical School, we have taken on applicants who have come through the Access to HE pathway, and they are amongst the most successful students on our course. Hardworking, dedicated with a hunger to learn, these students have been setup for the rigours of a five-year medical course and as such are a credit to Access to HE.


However, don’t just take my word for it! Two of our students, now in Year 3 of their Medicine degrees, have this to say about what the Diploma has done for them in pursuing their chosen career pathway.

‘Access to HE (Medicine) gave me a solid knowledge of the basic sciences that allowed me to confidently begin studying Medicine. The short but intensive course covered everything necessary while also allowing for recognition of further knowledge achieved through self-directed study. Access to HE also gave me an insight into how I might fare at medical school with regards to handling the workload; management of my own study schedule and motivation to achieve. Personally, I think the Access to HE (Medicine) course is an overlooked source of potential. A non-linear journey to Medicine should not be a disadvantage, and I’d love to see the Diploma be a widely recognised gateway that universities are confident and excited to include in their entry pathways.’


Scarlett Darling - Year 3 MBChB Student

‘I studied an Access to HE (Medicine) course at Sussex Downs College (now known as East Sussex College). As a mature student with a variable background in science, the Access to HE course equipped me with everything I needed to be on a par with science graduates and school-leavers. I was able to re-introduce myself to higher education and ease myself in before embarking on my career in Medicine. I met some amazing friends on the course who I am still in contact with even now. They attend a variety of medical schools across the country and so are able to provide different perspectives on medical education. The Access to HE course equipped me with a solid grounding in the science needed for a degree in Medicine and has helped me understand the content over the last few years - which would have been much harder without this. It also prepared me for the scientific writing necessary for the projects we have undertaken so far. It got me ready for the transition from full-time work to full-time education and has led to me building a good work-life balance going into my 3rd year of Medicine.’


Amy Matthews - Year 3 MBChB Student

Our two students demonstrate powerfully the important role that Access to HE has played in supporting their journey to becoming a doctor. Moving forward, I hope to see Access to HE Medicine become a more widely recognised and established mode of entry to Medical School for adult learners.