Skip to main content Accessibility Statement

Brandon Layton

Current Durham University student

The Access to HE Diploma has changed my life. It’s a steppingstone for bigger things, teaching me skills that I will use for the rest of my life. The course gave me the confidence to achieve my goals, and made me look at myself in a new, more positive way.

Brandon's story

It was while studying at Derwentside College that I first heard about Access to HE. I had spent a couple of years at the College completing courses in Business Admin and IT, but I got the sense that IT wasn’t the right path for me, and so I began considering new opportunities and where I saw my future heading. Without A-levels, I thought university was an unrealistic aspiration and so turned my sights to employment. I found a job I really liked in the retail sector, but sadly I found it difficult to secure a permanent role.  


That’s when the Careers Advisor at my College guided me to Access to HE. They were really helpful in providing me with information on my options, and eventually I was convinced. I chose to enroll on the Access to HE Humanities and Social Sciences Diploma - quite a change from IT! 


My first impressions of the course were that it was very well organised, with fewer students in my class than I was used to, which was great. Overall, I found the course challenging, but I really enjoyed it.  


COVID-19 certainly made studying more difficult, as I found it difficult to concentrate at home during lockdown. That said, the teachers were very supportive and easy to talk to - they made the course a pleasure to study. 


Access to HE provided me with the right skills for university - skills that many that have gone through the traditional A-level system don’t have. For example, it encouraged me to hone my skills in writing essays and literary reviews, which have been particularly valuable at university. One of the biggest positives of Access to HE was that what we learnt there had a meaning - not only was the content transferable to university, but the course felt like it was going somewhere, and that made it fulfilling. The course helped me to achieve my goals and to grow as a person. 


My tutor put me forward for the 2020 Festival of Learning and I was honoured to be named the National Winner in the Outstanding Individual Learner Award category! 


I received offers from all the universities I applied to and accepted a place at Durham. It was good to see that Access to HE really does put you on a level footing with students who have taken other qualifications.  


Access to HE had prepared me well for university, partly because of the similarities in the teaching style. At a personal level, Access to HE helped me develop my social skills and was an opportunity to make a totally different group of friends, from all walks of life.  


When I finish my course, I hope to work in international relations - maybe the United Nations or the Foreign Office. That’s a while away though! 


The Access to HE Diploma has changed my life. It’s a stepping-stone for bigger things and taught me skills that I will use for the rest of my life. The course can’t teach you everything, but it teaches you how to learn and how to develop yourself and become a self-starter. The course gave me the confidence to achieve my goals and made me look at myself in a new, more positive way.  


For anyone thinking about enrolling in Access to HE, I would say give it a go! Do your best and see where it takes you. There are always options out there, Access to HE is just the beginning!