If you want to enrol on a higher education course or degree programme but do not have the A-level qualifications required, an online Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma could be your route into university. These diplomas are designed for adult learners and those who have missed out on their A-level grades first time round that want to progress to higher education.
Our FAQs put all your queries about the diploma to rest, and offers a complete guide to the Access to Higher Education Diploma, from the cost, to understanding the UCAS tariff point system. Hopefully, this post will allow you to make your next steps, with confidence, into the world of higher education.
In this blog you will find the answers to:
What is an Access to Higher Education Diploma?
Access to Higher Education Diplomas
are designed for adults who want to go back to education with a view to going to university, but who do not have A-levels or equivalents. They are ideal for people who have had some distance from learning, or who have had a gap from their studies since school. Access to HE Diplomas get you ready for studying at university, without having to go back to college for two years to study for A-levels.
What are the equivalent qualifications of Access to HE Diplomas?
The Access to HE Diploma is an alternative qualification to A-levels or BTECs (level 3 qualifications) for applications to university. Your Access to HE Diploma will give you a level 3 qualification which is Ofqual
approved. This makes sure that course providers are assessing your qualifications at the right level to prepare you to go to university (in this case, level 3). QAA simply means 'Quality Assurance Agency' for higher education. Ofqual is the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation, a non-ministerial government department who ensure tests and exams in England meet required standards.
Will an Access to HE Diploma allow me to go to university?
Access to HE Diplomas are broadly acknowledged by universities as alternatives to A Levels
. Access to HE Diplomas might allow you to apply to university without A-levels, as long as they are recognised by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). You should check admissions for each course and each institution.
How do I check university entry requirements?
You should check the entry requirements page for the course you wish to study at university, and scroll down to the Access to HE Diploma section, or ‘alternative qualifications’, to check if you would be eligible. The UCAS website
also contains all the information you need about your university application with your Access to HE Diploma.
To be sure about your application, university admissions departments normally welcome emails or phone calls from prospective students. If you email or make a phone appointment, you can always give more detail about yourself and your background in order to gain a clearer picture about your application and the suitability of your qualifications, skills, life and work experiences. Attending an open day and speaking to someone face-to-face can be advantageous too, plus it'll give you a greater sense of how you'll fit into the university.
How can I find out if my Access to HE Diploma will be suitable for an application on a particular course?
If you are studying your Access to HE Diploma to gain a place on a specific degree course, admissions pages or departments will determine whether your diploma, your work experience, your personal background and your grades are likely to get you an offer.
Each university and each course has different requirements, which are also subject to change over time. It is always worth contacting an admissions department for your desired course at university to check that your Access to HE Diploma has the potential to get you an offer. Read admissions pages thoroughly to make sure you understand the entry requirements.
At times, universities update their entry requirements or occasionally make individual allowances on grades, qualifications based upon experience or personal background. Mature students are especially advised to directly contact admissions for advice.
For Access to HE (Midwifery), see our FAQs dedicated to this pathway.
What topics can I do for my Access to HE Diploma?
There are many different topics and pathways for Access to HE Diplomas, all taking you in different directions. There are 19 courses to pick from at learndirect. Most courses will specify the main topic of study in their title. See our list of 19 Access to HE courses below:
Can I study my Access to HE Diploma online or through distance learning?
Yes. There are only a small number of verified Access to HE Diplomas available through distance learning but learndirect offers a vast number (19). Many students chose this option for their diploma as it permits them to continue with their job or fit in their course around their family commitments.
What are UCAS tariff points?
Tariff points are a point scoring system that provides universities and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) with a referencing system. They determine what your qualification is worth so that different institutions can set entry requirements.
Do UCAS tariff points apply to Access to HE Diplomas?
Yes. The UCAS tariff points do apply to Access to HE Diplomas if you obtained your Access to HE Diploma after 2014. After new regulations in September 2014, Access to HE Diplomas (as long as they are recognised by the QAA) are consistent across the board in terms of their course content, so UCAS can now assign these official qualifications tariff points. For more information about tariff points and Access to HE Diplomas, refer to the tariff points for gateway qualifications section on the UCAS website
How do I calculate UCAS tariff points for my Access to HE Diploma?
You can check how many tariff points you have depending on the grades you get during your Access to HE Diploma. UCAS have provided a table which shows you what each combination of grades would give you, as well as a tariff points calculator. You will only know what tariff points you have once you have completed all your Access to HE Diploma assessments. The amount of points you obtain depends on your grades (pass, distinction or merit). UCAS points obtained through an Access to HE Diploma range from 48-144, depending on your grades.
What are credits and modules in Access to HE Diplomas and how do they work?
Your Access to HE Diploma will be broken up into units, or modules. Each module will be assigned a certain number of credits. Access to HE Diplomas are worth 60 credits. 45 credits are for graded, subject-specific, modules (at pass, merit, or distinction), depending on your performance, and the other 15 credits are for ungraded modules that prepare you for studying for university.
How is the Access to HE Diploma assessed?
The Access to HE Diploma contains assignments for all units, all marked and sent back by your tutor with constructive feedback.
Access to HE Diplomas at learndirect are assessed in accordance with the Ofqual and QAA regulations. This ensures that the Access to HE Diploma is matched at the same level as other level 3 qualifications (such as A-levels and BTECs).
You can normally tell if an access course is QAA assessed because the title follows this format: Access to HE Diploma (subject). All learndirect Access to HE Diplomas follow this framework.
Do I need GCSEs to study for an Access to HE Diploma?
All learners on Access to HE Diplomas must hold or be working towards GCSE in English and Maths or a Level 2 qualification. Many universities require you to have English and Maths GCSE
at grade C and above. Some courses will accept Functional Skills Level 2 Maths or English
as an equivalent to GCSE. It is vital you check with different institutions to make sure your qualifications count.
How long does the Access to HE Diploma take?
The majority of Access to HE Diplomas can be undertaken at your own pace if you study online. The average completion time is 10 months. QAA regulations state that the minimum course completion is six months. Some students chose to study at a college, where you will have to attend class for on average at least 16 hours a week.
An increasingly popular option, because of its flexibility, is studying for the same regulated Access to HE Diploma through distance learning. Unlike a college in a fixed location, you can do as many hours per week as you wish, either working as a full-time or a part-time student. The distance learning route might be better suited to someone who has family or work commitments.
Is there an age restriction for the Access to HE Diploma?
There is no upper age limit for an Access to HE Diploma, nor for applications to universities. You have to be at least 19 years of age. Many universities stipulate that they accept mature applications with Access to HE Diplomas only if it has been some time since applicants completed their GCSEs.
Access to HE Diplomas are ideal for someone with work experience in the field, or who have had a gap in their studies. For example, if you have been working as a Healthcare Assistant, and wish to go into nursing but do not have A-levels, an Access to HE Diploma (Nursing), in combination with your own work experience, might assist your application.
Will I cope with my Access to HE Diploma if it is a long time since I finished school?
The Access to HE Diploma
is structured around assisting you through the challenges of going back into learning at a higher level. It will push you, but you will be guided through the process.
Can I afford my Access to HE Diploma?
You could be eligible for a 19+ Advanced Learner Loan, with an enrolment fee of only £4.95. With a 19+ Advanced Learner Loan (ALL), you would not need to pay anything back until you are earning over £25, 000. Upon successful completion of a degree course, you may get your 19+ Advanced Learner Loan repayments written off completely.
How can I pay for my Access to HE Diploma?
There are several options to assist you with payment. At learndirect
1. Pay in full
2. Pay in instalments at 0% repayment
3. Apply for a 19+ Advanced Learner Loan (ALL)
Does my Access to HE Diploma course help me prepare for university?
Yes, your Access to HE Diploma will prepare you for academic university work and writing assignments at this level. There will also be assistance and advice on applying to university and the process involved, including making your application through UCAS.