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What is a College Access Course?

10th April 20

The decision to change careers is a big one. It represents a tremendous amount of consideration and a willingness to make some dramatic changes.

It can also mean re-training or returning to education – either full time or part time. Depending on the direction you want your career to go in that education may take the form of a degree.

However, if you don’t have the required relevant qualifications or lack qualifications in general this can be something of an issue.

But all is not lost.

Access to Higher Education Diplomas serve as both a foundation and a recognised qualification, as such, completing an Access course provides you with the missing qualification you need in order to start your degree.

Access courses, as they are known, serve as a gateway for anyone looking to further their careers or go to university in search of a degree.

But before you sign up for a university Access course, it’s important to understand a little bit about how it works and what you’re committing to.

An Overview

The Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma is a qualification designed specifically to prepare you for degree-level study.

Each Access course provides relevant academic knowledge in your chosen subject and the opportunity to learn a degree-level approach to study.

While there is a huge array of Access courses available – especially online - a genuine Access to Higher Education Diploma must be recognised by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA). Without this, any course that claims to offer an Access to HE Diploma at the end of it is misleading you.

So, assuming you enrol on a legitimate Access course, upon completion you will be awarded with an Access to Higher Education Diploma. From there you can apply for a place at university to study your chosen subject.

Access to Higher Education Diplomas are made up of 60 credits. 45 are at level 3 and graded. The balance of 15 credits is ungraded and may either be studied at level 2 or level 3. Only by gaining all 60 credits will you be awarded the Access diploma.

Depending on the Access course and the time you have to commit to it, an Access to HE Diploma can usually be achieved within a year. However, you have up to 2 years to complete the Access course from the moment you enrol.

While unlikely, it gives you considerable flexibility to fit your direct Access course studies around your other commitments.

Learndirect | What is a College Access Course | Work Around Your CommitmentsIs an Access to HE Diploma right for me?

Education is a fundamental human right. A bold but true statement. That means anyone has the right to educate themselves in whatever form they feel would be of most use to them.

So, at a most basic level – an Access to HE Diploma is for anyone who wants to enrol and get the qualification.

Individuals wanting to take an Access to HE Diplomas at college come from all walks of life. There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ Access course student.

With a wide variety of Access courses available, it represents an effective way to gain the relevant qualification needed in order to study at university.

But if what you’re concerned about is:

  • You’ve been out of education for a long time
  • You’ve not studied at that level before
  • You work full time
  • You’ve got children
  • You have challenges in the form of a disability or mental health issue
  • Or some combination of the above

Don’t worry! Studying for your Access to HE Diploma through a distance learning provider affords you the flexibility to accommodate your life as it is. Rather than your life a course planner somewhere would like it to be.

That means you can fit your Access course studies around your life. You’ll also have a dedicated tutor to help you too, so you won’t be alone.

Is it Worth the Paper It’s Printed On?

As mentioned above, most UK universities will recognise an Access to Higher Education Diploma. Providing you have fully completed the Access course within 2-years and it’s relevant to the degree you wish to study.

However, because some universities don’t accept diplomas of this type, always check with the institutes you wish to apply to.

To put your mind at ease – a national framework has been in place since 1989 and, each year, over 20,000 Access to HE students achieve the Access to HE Diploma and progress to university courses across the UK.

Learndirect | What is a College Access Course | Is it Worth the Paper It's Printed On?Furthermore, universities across the country take an active role in developing the Access to HE Diplomas. This is to ensure the Access course material is appropriate to the degrees they relate to.

Which means they take them as seriously as A Levels. So, while a minority won’t accept the Access to HE Diploma, the majority will and will do so gladly.

Just remember, make sure that your Access to HE Diploma is certified by the QAA. Otherwise your Access course qualification really won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.

While no one could take away the achievement, it won’t get you any closer to gaining your degree.

How do I enrol?

Firstly, check that your chosen universities will accept you based on your successful completion of an Access to Higher Education Diploma. Also make sure that there are no other minimum requirements like GCSEs in maths, science and English grades A-C (4-9).

Not all courses require it but some might, so ask the question to avoid a nasty surprise further down the road.

Next, identify the right Access to HE Diploma for you based on the degree you want to study at university. If you’re not sure, we can help you through the process.

Again, choosing the correct Access course is crucial. Some are quite like one another but give access to different degrees upon completion.

Assuming you’re happy with your choice of Access course, all you need to do is get in touch or sign up online. There are flexible payment terms available to help you spread the cost.

You will also have access to a dedicated tutor who will help you through the Access course process. Check out our blog for useful tips on how to get the most out of your Access course study experience.


learndirect offers a wide range of Access to Higher Education Diplomas in order to help you realise your ambitions.

Checkout out our Access courses online or contact a member of our sales team today to learn more and enrol.

Learndirect | What is a College Access Course | Enrol Today

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