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The Access to Higher Education Diploma: What You Need to Know

21st July 20

If you have been searching for ways to go to university without A-levels, you will have no doubt discovered the Access to Higher Education Diploma.

Known for doing what it says on the tin, an Access to HE Diploma will help anyone access higher education. An Access course can even help you progress towards the career you have always wanted.

But before you enrol, there are some key things you need to know about the Access course.

From selecting the right pathway to how your Access to HE Diploma will work, you’ll find everything you need to know about studying your Access to Higher Education Diploma below.

What is an Access to Higher Education Diploma?

Access to HE Diplomas are Level 3, A Level equivalent qualifications delivered by colleges across England and Wales.

The Access to HE Diploma was designed to prepare students without college qualifications for university study. Since its establishment in the 1970s, the Access to HE Diploma has become a recognised and respected alternative route into higher education.

Access courses are therefore perfect for you if you didn’t have the opportunity to go to university when you were younger or didn't have the right grades to apply.

An Access to Higher Education Diploma is your official passport to university without A Levels.

However, this is only the case if your Access course qualification meets university entry requirements. It’s important to check this before you enrol, otherwise, your university application may be rejected. It’s also vital that your Access to HE Diploma is accredited by a recognised awarding body.

One of the most popular awarding bodies for Access to HE Diplomas is Open College Network West Midlands. However, it doesn’t matter who accredits the Access to HE Diploma, providing they are regulated by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).

This seal of approval means that your Access course qualification is recognised by employers and universities alike. It also assures that your Access to HE Diploma has been designed to the highest quality, with you and your future in mind.

university students holding diploma certificates

Do all universities accept Access to HE Diplomas?

Access to Higher Education Diplomas are widely recognised as A Level alternatives and are therefore accepted by many UK universities.

Approximately 20,000 Access to HE Diploma graduates are accepted onto degree programmes in the UK every year.

However, every university will set its own requirements. It’s therefore recommended that you check these with your preferred universities to avoid disappointment.

If you can’t find the relevant information on their website, you can contact the university’s admissions department via phone or email to enquire about applying with an Access to Higher Education Diploma.

Universities sometimes make allowances based on experience and personal background. So, talking to someone directly about your circumstance will help determine whether your application will be successful or not.

It will also help you decide whether the university is the right fit for you too.

students studying in classroom

How will my Access to HE Diploma work?

Access to Higher Education Diplomas will not only qualify you for your chosen degree pathway. The Access course will help to prepare you for undergraduate study and life at university too.

Access to HE Diplomas have been carefully designed to offer you a blend of subject-specific knowledge and academic skills. This ensures that you’re up-to-speed with learning at a higher level and will thrive in your degree programme.

Every Access to HE Diploma programme is broken down into modules. These Access modules are assigned a specific amount of credits, which make up 60 credits in total.

45 of these credits will be taken from your assessed, subject-specific modules. 15 will be taken from skills-based units that prepare you for academic study.

You must pass all of these credits to complete your Access course qualification and demonstrate that you’re ready for your degree.

woman studying on laptop

How do I use my Access to HE Diploma to apply for university?

Every QAA-recognised Access to HE Diploma is worth a certain amount of UCAS points.

These official qualifications tariff points determine what your qualification is worth. As such, they are used by many universities instead of grades to set their entry requirements.

The amount of points you’re awarded on completion of your Access to HE Diploma depends on your achievement throughout the course. You will either be awarded a pass, merit or distinction grades for the graded units included in your course.

The lowest amount of Access course UCAS points you can achieve is 48, with 144 being the highest.

You can find out more about the UCAS tariff system and how to calculate your points here.

woman submitting application on tablet

How do I choose the right pathway for me?

You may know that you want to go to university but aren't sure exactly what degree you want to study.

That’s okay. From social science to education, there are dozens of Access to Higher Education Diploma pathways to choose from. And they can all lead to a range of exciting degrees and careers.

Each Access to HE Diploma covers a large enough scope to ensure that you can pursue any degree in your subject area with confidence.

For example, an Access to HE Diploma (Education) will equip you with the skills and knowledge to thrive in any education-related degree, whether it be childhood studies or a teacher training programme.

So, there’s no need to worry about knowing exactly which degree you want to study in the future when you enrol on Access courses.

Simply pick the pathway that best suits your interests and career aspirations and your Access to HE Diploma will provide you with the foundation for success.

plan spelt in wooden blocks

Where can my Access to HE Diploma take me?

Your Access to HE Diploma is your gateway to university. As such, there are a variety of diploma pathways tailored to suit your interests and future degree programme.

Your Access to HE Diploma can help you unlock a degree in the following areas of study:

Whichever pathways you pick, your Access to HE Diploma will equip you with the subject-based expertise to begin your undergraduate studies with confidence.

Your Access course will also provide you will a host of transferable skills that will aid you throughout your time at university and beyond.

Upon completion of your Access to HE Diploma, you will be equipped with strong research and analytic skills. You’ll also possess excellent communication and organisation capabilities.

As you will likely be studying your direct Access course diploma around work and personal commitments, you will also be able to demonstrate strong time management. You’ll be able to show that you can prioritise your workload, manage tasks effectively and work independently too.

These skills will help you thrive at university and set the foundation upon which you can build your future too.

Many professional opportunities and career paths are only available to you if you have a degree. These include medicine, engineering and nursing, to name just a few.

Because of this, studying your Access to HE Diploma is the first step towards a career you’ll love.

An Access to HE Diploma will not only help qualify for university, but it will also provide you with the professional skillset to begin your undergraduate training in a specific industry.

This is especially the case if you study on a vocation-focused diploma, such as the Access to HE Diploma (Midwifery). The Access to midwifery course marks the start of your professional training and will help you transition from the classroom to the delivery room.

group of people working around desk

Achieving Your Diploma Online

At learndirect, we offer a variety of Access to Higher Education Diplomas.

Unlike at a traditional college, our Access courses are delivered 100% online. This means that you can qualify for university from the comfort of your own home, around your existing commitments.

With flexible payment plans and online discounts too, you can enjoy life-changing education without worrying about your bank balance.

When you enrol on your Access to HE Diploma, you will have immediate online access to our virtual learning platform. Everything you need to study, from your course modules to assessments, will be at your fingertips 24/7 via the platform.

You will also receive guidance and support from a qualified and experienced team throughout your Access course.

So, there’s no need to worry about completing your studies and entering higher education later in life. We will be here to support you every step of the way.


To find out more about the Access to Higher Education Diploma, check out our FAQs here.

Alternatively, if you’re ready to unlock your place at university without A Levels, why not enrol on your Access to HE Diploma today?

Simply click the link below to find the Access to HE Diploma for you or call us on 01202 006 464 to get started!

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