Access to Higher Education Diploma (Science) - Natural Science Course Online | learndirect

Access to Higher Education Diploma (Science) - Natural Science


Natural science involves any aspect of science related to the physical world. Those who choose to enrol on the Access to HE Diploma (Science) – Natural Science Pathway, will study modules in chemistry, biology and physics. As they do this, they will build up a foundation of knowledge, which will prepare them for the demands of studying science at university. Given that this pathway delves into numerous areas of science, it is perfect for those who have not decided which area they would like to specialise in for their degree.

Check that this course is right for you

If you know which university you want to attend, and the degree course you might like to study, it’s worth doing the research and checking that this course meets their entrance criteria. Admission criteria can differ across universities so we recommend you choose carefully.

Whilst studying towards this distance learning qualification, learners work through modules surrounding topics such as the periodic table, human nutrition and optics and sound. As well as this, they are also required to complete a number of additional academic practice units. These extra modules have been included to help our students build on their academic practice skills. They are particularly useful for students who have been out of education for some time.

How does the course work?

At learndirect, our Access to HE Diplomas are all delivered via distance learning. This means that our students can complete all of their studying and their assignments at home. All of our online learning materials can be accessed anywhere and anytime, just so long as the student has access to a computer and the internet. This is great news for busy parents, workers and carers, who may have found it challenging to attend a traditional college course. Once students enrol, they can start learning straight away. They will then have between six and 18 months to complete the work.

This Access to Higher Education Diploma (Science) natural science pathway focuses on an equal balance of all the sciences. The units selected provide a syllabus that forms a foundation for students who wish to progress to a biology, chemistry, physics or natural science degree course. It's been created for learners who've been out of full time education for some time and don't have the required entry qualifications.





Unit 1: Academic writing skills

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Be able to write with relevance in responding to an academic task.
    • Know how to interpret and discuss concepts and debates in responding to a set, academic writing task.
    • Be able to summarise for academic purposes, selecting key points, information or central ideas.
    • Understand the role of reference, allusion and paraphrase to avoid plagiarism.


Unit 2: Independent research

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Be able to plan a piece of research on an approved subject area.
    • Be able to collect research material from different sources
    • Be able to use data to substantiate an argument
    • Be able to record sources of information
    • Be able to present research findings


Unit 3: Preparing a written assignment   

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand how to use key information sources.
    • Understand why sources are acknowledged and referenced.
    • Understand a range of reading strategies.
    • Understand note-making methods.
    • Understand how to plan draft and produce a written assignment.


Unit 4: Preparing to study

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand how study is organised and planned
    • Understand how to apply theories of learning in relation to personal approaches to learning
    • Understand a range of constraints upon study
    • Understand the importance of assessment feedback.


Unit 5: Progressing to higher education

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand potential next steps in education.
    • Understand key sources of information relevant to HE application.
    • Understand personal HE opportunities.
    • Understand the financial implications of further study.
    • Know how to apply for a course


Unit 6: Human nutrition & the digestive system

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand the structure and functions of the organs of the digestive system.
    • Understand nutrients and their sources.
    • Understand how diet may influence health.


Unit 7: The human musculo-skeletal system

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand anatomical terminology
    • Understand the skeletal system and locomotion
    • Understand the muscular system


Unit 8: Cell biology

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand the cell.
    • Understand cellular metabolism.
    • Understand how cells grow and divide.


Unit 9: Human reproduction, growth & development

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand the structure and function of the human reproductive system
    • Understand how hormones regulate the reproductive tract throughout life
    • Understand the sequence of events from conception to puberty


Unit 10: The human endocrine & nervous system

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand the anatomy and organisation of the nervous system and how it co- ordinates the body.
    • Understand the structure and function of nerve cells and other cells in the nervous system.
    • Understand how the endocrine system co-ordinates body functions.
    • Understand homeostasis.


Unit 11: Atomic structure

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand protons, neutrons and electrons in terms of their relative charges and masses.
    • Understand the distribution of protons, neutrons and electrons in an atom given its Atomic number and Mass number, including some isotopes.
    • Understand the number and relative energies of the s, p and d orbitals for the principal quantum numbers and know the shapes of s, p and d orbitals.
    • Understand how ionisation energies of elements relate to reactivity.
    • Understand the position of elements within the periodic table from ionisation energy data.


Unit 12: Atomic structure and bonding

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand the structure of the atom.
    • Understand electronic structures.
    • Understand the formation of ionic bonds.


Unit 13: Radioactivity

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand the main types of ionising radiations and their measurement.
    • Understand radioactive decay.
    • Understand the practical applications of ionising radiation and radioisotopes and their use with acceptable safety.


Unit 14: Periodic table

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand the periodic table.
    • Understand periodicity in the elements of period 3.
    • Understand ionisation energy.
    • Understand oxidation and reduction.
    • Understand reactions of the Group 2 metals.
    • Understand the group 7 elements.


Unit 15: Chemical change

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Know how to measure the concentrations of solutions.
    • Understand energy changes during chemical reactions.
    • Understand factors influencing rates of chemical reactions.
    • Understand the concept of chemical equilibrium


Unit 16: Physics

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand the connection between force and motion and be able to use Newton’s Laws of Motion.
    • Understand conservation of energy and momentum.
    • Understand the concepts and vocabulary of wave motion.


Unit 17: Medical physics

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand atomic structure.
    • Understand the nature of alpha, beta and gamma radiation, and X-rays.
    • Understand the main uses of ionising radiation in monitoring and treatment.
    • Understand how radio isotopes are used in health care.
    • Understand the health applications of a selected part of electromagnetic spectrum.
    • Understand how ultrasound is used in health care.


Unit 18: Optics & sound

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand the Laws of Reflection.
    • Understand the Laws of Refraction.
    • Understand the action of convex and concave lenses.
    • Understand the simple optics of the eye.
    • Understand the nature of transverse and longitudinal wave motions.
    • Understand how the ear detects sound waves.


Unit 19: Human immunity

On completion of this unit you will:

    • Understand non-specific defences against disease.
    • Understand specific immunity and the immune response.
    • Understand the biology of vaccination.
    • Understand how immune sensitivity may cause ill-health.




Students planning to enrol on an Access to HE Diploma should all have achieved an English and maths GCSE at grade C or above. This is because most universities will ask for these grades.

While Access to HE Diploma courses fulfil the entry criteria for most universities, we would like to remind learndirect students to make contact with the specific university or universities they plan to apply to first. The reason for this is that many universities have their own specialised set of entry requirements. Examples of such include but are not limited to:

  1. Having gained a specific number of credits at the level of merit or distinction.
  2. Turning up to and passing a face-to-face interview at the university.
  3. Completing a literacy or numeracy test provided by the institution.
  4. Completion of a work placement or period of work experience specified by the uni.
  5. We strongly recommend learners starting an Access to Higher Education Diploma have a GCSE Grade A – C in maths and English (or equivalent Level 2 such as Functional Skills/Key Skills etc.) OR a full L2 NVQ qualification in a related subject.

It is vital that every student researches this thoroughly and makes sure that their diploma fits the entry criteria of their chosen university. Learndirect will not be able to accept any liability for the inability of any Access to Higher Education Diploma student who fails to secure an offer from a higher education institution.





Our diplomas were designed to contain carefully selected units that universities like their future students to have mastered. On completion of each home study unit, students will be required to complete an assignment and submit it for assessment. The tutor will then read and grade the assignment and offer the student useful feedback as well as tips for improvement.

To earn an Access to HE Diploma in natural science, students will need to earn a total of 60 credits. Out of this 60, 45 should be earned by completing graded units which are based on academic content. The other 15 credits will be taken from ungraded units. These modules are concerned with improving the student’s study practices.






Qualification: Open College Network West Midlands Access to Higher Education Diploma (Science)

On successful completion of the Open College Network West Midlands Access to Higher Education Diploma (Science) you will receive a QAA recognised Access to HE Diploma at level 3 (QAA ref: 40008848). This course has also been assigned 60 credits.

Your Access to Higher Education Diploma and the way it is delivered within our innovative learning platform is designed to give you the best possible chance of fulfilling your dream of studying at university. Higher Education Degrees confirm to any employer your intellect, motivation and ability to work independently to succeed not just in your area of specialism but also life itself. A higher education degree is a gateway qualification that will allow you to apply 1,000's of graduate programmes as well as setting you apart from those who don't have a degree.



Need proof of your English and Maths skills? Want to catch up and learn more English and Maths? You can for free when you sign up to this learndirect course.

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