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Everything you need to know about the Access to HE Diploma

Date: February 18 - 2020

QAA has ensured that Access to HE qualifications meet the highest quality standards since 1997, making us the right people to help you find out everything you need to know about this unique qualification. 

What is an Access to HE Diploma?

The Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification which prepares people without traditional qualifications for study at university. Access to HE Diplomas are delivered by a wide range of colleges and organisations in England and Wales, and are available in a variety of different subjects, including medicine and nursing, social studies, law, and art and design. It is a full Level 3 qualification (like an A Level and Welsh Baccalaureate) and is regulated by QAA.

How do I find an Access to HE course?

It’s really easy to find an Access to HE course near you. The Course Search on the Access to HE website allows you to search by subject and by location - so you can find your ideal course in your ideal place. You can also find out what course suits your ideal career through the Career Coach.

How do I apply for an Access to HE Diploma?

To apply for a place on an Access to HE course, you’ll need to contact the course provider directly who will give you details of the application process. Start dates and application periods can be different depending on the institution where you want to study, but most courses begin in September and start recruiting new students in January. Distance learning courses are available for registration anytime. You can find out more about the application process on the Access to HE website.

What are the benefits of an Access to HE Diploma?

If you’ve been out of education for some time, or if you don’t have the traditional qualifications that a university might expect for an application, Access to HE might well be for you. Access to HE Diplomas are Level 3 qualifications like an A Level and a Welsh Baccalaureate, so should carry the same weight in university applications. They offer an excellent foundation in the skills and knowledge you’ll need if you’re looking to apply to university. 

According to the latest statistics, 90% of graduates with an Access to HE Diploma are employed or in further study six months after graduation.

Are Access to HE courses free?

Access to HE courses are not free and fees will vary by college. You can find out more about course fees and what they might mean for you from the Access to HE provider you’re looking to apply to.

If you are aged 19 or over you may be expected to pay full fees, but in England you’ll be able to apply for a loan under the government's Advanced Learning Loans Scheme to cover the cost of these fees.

Loan repayments start when you earn over £25,725 per year. However, if you complete a QAA-recognised Access to HE course and then go on to complete a degree or other recognised higher education course, you won't have to repay the remaining loan for the Access to HE course. However, you may be paying the loan back if you’re working while you study and are earning more than £25,725 per year. More information about fees and funding is available on the Access to HE website.

Is Access to HE an A Level?

The Access to HE Diploma is a full Level 3 qualification. Study on the Access to HE Diploma makes academic demands that are at an equivalent level to those of other Level 3 qualifications.

Examples of other Level 3 qualifications include A levels and Welsh Baccalaureate. This comparison relates to the level of the qualification - there is no standard measure of 'equivalence' that relates to the volume of the qualification.

Each year, over 20,000 Access to HE students achieve the Access to HE Diploma and progress to university courses across the UK.

Is Access to HE full-time?

You can study Access to HE full-time over one year. Diplomas studied full-time in college will require you to attend college for between 12 and 15 hours a week. You’ll also need to do private study at home.

You can also study part-time over two or more years, or through distance-learning or evening sessions.

What are the most popular Access to HE subjects?

The top five Access to HE Diploma subjects are nursing, social sciences, business, education and arts.

But there are over 1,200 subjects to choose from including medicine and engineering.

How long does it take to complete an Access to HE Diploma?

Most Access to HE courses can be completed in one year. However, you can also study part-time over two or more years, or through distance-learning or evening sessions.

How are Access to HE courses graded?

Access to HE Diplomas are made up of 60 credits. 45 of these are at Level 3 and graded. The remaining 15 credits are not graded and may be at Level 2 or Level 3. You must successfully achieve 60 credits to be awarded a Diploma.

Who regulates the Access to HE Diploma?

QAA maintains and manages the scheme for the recognition and quality assurance of Access to HE Diplomas in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Our Recognition Scheme is the regulatory framework through which Access to HE courses are recognised and regulated. We license Access Validating Agencies (AVAs) to develop, quality assure and award Access to HE Diplomas.