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Can I Go to University Without A-Levels?

22nd June 20

If you’re contemplating going to university, you will no doubt be looking at your options to make it a reality. If – for whatever reason – you left school without A Levels it may appear that your options are painfully few.

A-Levels have been the benchmark qualification since the 1950s, so not having any can make it seem like your educational prospects are limited.

However, there are two key things to consider before you abandon your aspirations of an undergraduate degree.

The first is that increasingly universities are considering the work experience and professional qualifications applicants hold. They recognise the value of having mature students with real-life experience studying alongside school leavers.

Secondly, you can enrol on an Access to Higher Education Diploma. This will give you the qualification and knowledge you need to study at degree level.

If it has been some time since you last sat in a classroom, going back to studies may seem intimidating. However, online Access courses may hold the key to opening the door to university.

Your A Level Equivalent Qualification

Specifically designed to help those without relevant qualifications go to university, the Access to HE Diploma is a Level 3 qualification. It is therefore equivalent to A Levels and other qualifications at this level (e.g. Welsh Baccalaureate).

As such, Access to HE Diplomas are widely accepted by education institutions across the UK as an alternative route to university. Approximately 20,000 students a year go to university with an Access to HE Diploma under their belt.

An Access to HE Diploma can provide the key you need to unlock your future in higher education. Fortunately, beginning your journey to university with one couldn’t be easier.

learndirect | Can I Go to University Without A-levels | Your A-level Equivalent Qualification

Getting Started

From nursing to education, there are dozens of Access to Higher Education Diploma pathways to choose from. This is so that you can tailor your Access course studies to suit the requirements of the degree you would like to study at university.

Whichever Access course pathway you pick, your Access diploma will equip you with the perfect mix of academic skills and subject-related knowledge. This ensures that you’re ready to study successfully in a higher education environment, so there’s no need to worry about falling behind in your seminars.

Having such skills will also demonstrate to universities that you’re committed to your subject and are an independent learner – two qualities that are essential in an undergraduate student.

To enrol on your Access to HE Diploma, all you need is an internet connection and a computer or laptop to get started. It is also advised you have GCSEs in English and Maths at grade C (now a grade 4-5) or above, or an equivalent qualification by the time you apply to university. There are no other barriers to enrolment.

Because Access to HE Diplomas are delivered online and studied via distance learning, there’s no need to wait until September to enrol. You can start your Access course learning whenever you’re ready to.

What’s more, there’s no need to leave your home to study your Access course. Everything you need to qualify is accessible online, 24/7. This means that you can study Access courses whenever it suits you and qualify around your commitments.

learndirect | Can I Go to University Without A Levels? | Getting Started - Access courses

What to Expect

Deciding to go to university can be daunting, especially if you’ve been out of education for a long time, but, there’s no need to worry.

Access to HE Diplomas have been carefully designed with this in mind to ensure that all students thrive in higher education settings.

Alongside your subject-specific modules, you will study units that boost your academic writing and independent research skills in your Access course. Although not assessed, these Access course units are essential as they prepare you for university life and ease you into a higher level of study.

Throughout your Access to HE course study programme, you will also receive expert support from a dedicated tutor to help you with your university application and the UCAS process.

Each Access to HE Diploma consists of up to 600 learning hours. As you can study online at your own pace, you could achieve your qualification within 12 months. However, you will have up to 2 years to complete your Access course study programme, so there's no need to rush. 

learndirect | Can I Go to University Without A Levels? | What to Expect - Access courses

What You Need to Know

Before you jump in and enrol on your Access to Higher Education Diploma, there are some key things you need to know.

The first is that an Access to HE Diploma is designed specifically to get you into university. This means that you must have the intention of going to university to study a degree when you enrol on Access to HE courses.

Another is that, whilst an Access to HE Diploma can help you get into university, being accepted at the university of your choice isn’t guaranteed. Every university has its specific entry requirements, so check that they accept Access to HE Diplomas before you apply to avoid disappointment.

It’s also important to have your desired degree pathway in mind before you enrol on your Access to HE Diploma. Although there are exceptions, you’ll have a greater chance of securing a university place if you choose an Access to HE Diploma in a subject related to your desired degree programme.

For example, if you complete an education-related Access to HE Diploma but then decide to apply for a university midwifery programme, you won’t possess the right skills or knowledge to fulfil your university’s entry requirements. Make sure you know where you want your education to take you before you invest in your future.

And finally, check that your Access to HE Diploma is regulated by Ofqual/Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). This seal of approval assures the quality of your qualification and signals that it’s an official qualification, recognised by higher education institutions across the UK.

learndirect | Can I Go to University Without A Levels? | What You Need to Know

Is University for Me?

Even if you think an Access to HE Diploma is the right qualification for you, it can be hard to know whether going to university is the right step.

It’s normal to feel some trepidation but there are some key benefits to studying at university.

It can unlock your future career

Although all degrees equip you with transferrable skills for the workplace, some are essential for entering specific professions. These include midwifery, nursing and teaching, to name just a few.

It’s a chance to pursue your passion

When you start an undergraduate degree, you will have 3 – 4 years to really get stuck into your subject and focus on developing your skills. It’s a chance to focus on you and what you love, which is so important, especially if you’ve spent years focusing on others.

It boosts your employability

According to figures published by the Department of Education, graduates earn up to £10,000 more per year than non-graduates. They are also more likely to secure full-time employment than those without higher qualifications.


If this sounds like the right path for you why not take the first step in going to university today? At learndirect, we offer dozens of Access to HE Diplomas that you can study at your own pace, in your own time.

To find out more, simply follow the link below or call our course experts on 01202 006 464 today!

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