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access courses

What are access courses and when do you need them?

Are you a mature adult?

Do you want a second chance at a graduate career or to study for a university degree?

The Access to Higher Education Diploma is the right way to go as it will prepare you for higher education. Also, you do not have to worry about being too old as students of all backgrounds and ages can take these courses.

This article will discuss everything you need to know about access course programs in the UK, from the learning objectives to the different courses involved.

So, let’s get right to it.

What are Access Courses Programs in the UK?

Access to Higher Education courses are nationally-recognized Level 3 qualification courses that enable people without recognized qualifications and those who have missed out on school to have the qualifications they need to study at a university. For example, if you don’t have A-Levels and want to attend university, these courses are the best solution. Besides, these courses are a bridge back into education, and UK universities recognize them as an alternative to customary entry qualifications into undergraduate courses.

Typically, these courses can be completed in a year, but if you decide to study part-time, it can take two or more years. For a course to have the “Access to Higher Education” title, it must be recognized by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Access courses have been designed to provide students with the necessary academic subject knowledge.

However, you must be 19 or over to take any of the Access courses.

Why do you need the Access to HE Diploma?

You need the Access diploma if you want to go to university, and you have been out of education for a long time, and you don’t have the traditional qualifications, like A-Levels, needed for higher education study.

It can be challenging to re-enter education after a long period away, but Access courses provide the skills and knowledge needed to prepare you for university study. There are no upper age limitations to access these courses, and a number of them don’t require prior qualifications.

Although, some of these courses require you to complete a pre-course assessment.

Generally, you will be required to have Level 2 numeracy and literacy skills. Plus, you need some experience, whether voluntary or paid work, in your chosen study area. If you do not have the required skills for an Access to HE Diploma, you may be required to study on a Pre-Access to HE Diploma to prepare you for the selected subject.

Some other reasons why you need the Access to Higher Education Diploma include:

  • The courses are flexible
  • Multiple subjects to choose from
  • Different colleges and training organizations teach Access to HE courses in the UK.
  • Access courses are on par with A Levels and BTEC courses
  • Over 50% of Access to HE Diploma graduates get employed or further their education after graduation

What are the learning objectives of Access to HE courses?

The main objective of Access to HE courses is to provide students with the academic skills and knowledge foundation needed for higher education. Some of the skills you’ll develop are written skills, presentation skills, note-taking, and essay writing. You’ll also explore a wide range of related subjects, allowing you to discover your main interests.

These courses encourage enthusiasm and confidence in your chosen subject, enabling you to easily achieve university-level standards. Plus, the courses are credit-based, and most credits can be gotten from assignments and continuous assessments. You need to get 15 ungraded credits at level 2 or 3 and 45 graded credits at level 3, summing up to 60 credits.

If you have achieved all the learning outcomes and criteria, then you have passed the unit. Besides, you can get a Pass, Merit, or Distinction grade for each unit.

Which courses are classified as access?

More than 1,000 recognised Access to HE courses are available in multiple subject areas, including law, art, social studies, business, nutrition, education, nursing, and medicine. If you have a career in mind, you can check the Access to HE website to find the course of your choice. So, let’s take a look at some of the Access courses you can enroll in.

  • Access to Computing

Access to Computing is an intensive access course perfect for anyone considering an IT career. This course will enable students to develop their technical skills and further their education in any computing course at any UK university. In this course, some of the units you will learn include programming, networking, computing mathematics, software development, cyber-security, hardware, data security, website development, and database design. However, some of these units and entry requirements will differ depending on the university or college administering the access course.

  • Access to Nursing

This access course will provide you with the skills needed to start your career in the health profession. Mature adults who have an interest in a nursing career and want a change of direction can take this access to nursing course. It is an intensive program that will lead to a degree-level study progression in courses like paediatric nursing, midwifery, adult nursing, clinical physiology, mental health nursing, paramedics, radiography, etc. Some of the subjects that you will learn are human biology, psychology, anatomy and physiology, and sociology. Besides, some of the access to nursing courses require Level 2 functional skills or grade A*- C GCSE.

  • Access to Nutrition and Dietetics

Access to Nutrition and Dietetics courses provides students with the Level 3 units needed for entry into university nutrition and dietetics degree courses. Some of the units involved in this course include academic writing, researching, information literacy, nervous system, chemistry and society, chemistry for drugs, and health and disease.

  • Access to Humanities

In this course, students will be introduced to psychology, sociology, history, and English, and it is the best course for those who want to study a humanities degree in a course like law, history, and sociology. Although no formal academic requirement is needed to apply for this course, most of them require that you have good spoken and written communication skills.

  • Access to Accounting

This access course will provide students with the skills and knowledge of accounting practices, terminology, and techniques. This course will enable you to further your university degree in management accounting, forensic accounting, financial accounting, and banking. Some of the topics you will learn in this course include accounting ethics, bookkeeping, business research, business accounting, etc. Some organizations require that you have at least a GCSE grade C in maths or English as an entry requirement.

  • Access to Digital Marketing and Social Media

This access course will prepare you for a university degree and a career in digital marketing. Some of the topics you will learn here include web design, digital marketing principles, social media communications and technologies, business marketing, web media management, digital communication, and advertising. Besides, the entry requirements and course content differ by university or organization.

  • Access to Sports Science

This Level 3 qualification course enables students to further their studies at university in areas like sports science, physical education, coaching, nutrition, physiotherapy, sports management, sports therapy, etc. Some of the modules in this access course include academic writing, cell biology, sports physiology, the human muscular and skeletal system, sports nutrition, fitness, sports ethics, human diseases, the nervous system, and others.

Besides, some accredited organizations require that you have a GCSE Grade A-C in English and maths or Level 2 functional skills.

  • Access to Business Management

If you are interested in a career in business and management, this access course is right for you. This Access to HE Diploma offers students a wide range of topics to support the progression into business management university degrees.

This way, you can find out the modules that most interest you and pursue a career in that field.

Some of the topics taught include human resource management, business law, operations management, quality management, business skills, marketing, consumer legislation, macroeconomics, etc.

Plus, getting your Access to Business Management Diploma will enable you to pursue a business management degree at any university.

Do Universities accept the Access to HE Diploma?

The Access to HE Diploma is recognised widely by different universities in the UK. Most of these universities are involved in developing the Access course, ensuring appropriate course content.

More than 20,000 Access to HE Diploma students apply for graduate courses at a UK university every year, and they study a wide variety of courses, ranging from law to nursing, education, business, and medicine.

As stated before, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education manages and approves all Access to HE courses, and their logo appears on all the Diplomas.

This way, universities can be confident that the students have completed the units required to get a diploma.

Access to Higher Education Student Progression

Successful Access to Higher Education students can progress to getting a university degree, higher national diploma, or foundation degree. The majority of UK universities accept Access diplomas as an alternative to A Levels and other traditional qualifications. Besides, with this diploma, you can start a degree in nursing, teaching, English, arts, nutrition, and other subject ranges.


  • Which level are access courses?

Access to HE courses are full level 3 qualification courses, and they are on par with other Level 3 qualifications like A-Levels and Welsh Baccalaureate.

  • What are the entry requirements for Access to HE courses?

The entry requirements for Access courses vary with the course you are applying for, but you need level 2 literacy and numeracy skills. You also need to have voluntary or paid experience in your chosen study area.

  • Is Access to HE Diploma the same as an A-Level?

The Access to HE Diploma is not the same as an A Level, but they are in the same standing as A-Levels. Access Diploma holders can study for undergraduate degrees like BA degrees, HNCs, LLBs, HNDs, and BSc degrees.

  • How long are Access courses?

Access courses typically last one year if you are studying full time, but they can last over two years if you choose distance or part-time learning.

  • Can I still take an Access course even if I am under 19?

Access courses are typically designed for mature adults aged more than 19 years.

  • What courses help becoming a dietician/ nutritionist?

Some of the courses that help in becoming a nutritionist include biology, chemistry, social science, information literacy, health and disease, bio-psychology, biochemical molecules, and nutrition.

  • Which organization regulates the Access Diploma?

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) maintains and regulates the Access to Higher Education Diploma in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. This organization warrants Access Validating Agencies (AVAs) to develop, award, and maintain the quality of Access to HE Diplomas.

  • How are Access courses graded?

Access courses are credit-based. You need to collect 15 ungraded credits at level 2 or 3 and 45 graded credits at level 3 to sum up to 60 credits at the end of your program to be awarded a Diploma. Besides, you can gain most of these credits via assignments and continuous assessments.

  • What courses help access University sports courses?

Some of the topics you’ll study include exercise, sports nutrition, health and lifestyle, fitness, coaching, skeletal and muscular systems, and energy systems.

  • Are Access to Higher Education courses free?

The course will be funded if you are between the ages of 19 – 23 and do not hold a Level 3 qualification. On the other hand, if you are over 24 or you hold a Level 3 qualification, you can access funding through an Advanced Learner Loan. Plus, if you progress to the university after getting your Diploma, you will not need to start repayment upon your degree completion.

  • How much do Access courses cost?

Access to Higher Education courses typically ranges from £3,022 to £3,928.

  • Can I apply to an international university with an Access to Higher Education Diploma?

Students can apply using this diploma, but it varies depending on the university and the country.