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The Access to HE Diploma

What are Access Courses?

Access to HE Diplomas are a well established set of qualifications designed for people who do not have the qualifications to enter a university level course but who do have life experience and a willingness to learn. They are mostly offered over a single year on a part-time basis by colleges of further education but some can be taken over two years. Access courses offer an alternative way to university for people who have not had the opportunity to achieve the entry requirements necessary during their earlier education.

Where can I find an Access to HE Course near to where I live?

Use our ‘Access Course Finder’ for LASER validated courses or go to the national online course finder at the QAA Access web site .

Please note you will need to contact the individual college for details of course availability, costs, timings etc.

Are they nationally recognised?

Access to HE Diplomas are now well established as national qualifications which allow students without traditional qualifications to apply for degree courses and enter university. They are regulated by the Quality Assurance Agency for higher education (QAA) which ensures the quality of degree courses at universities.


Laser Learning Awards is the organisation which guarantees the quality and standards of the Access Diploma offered by the centre at which you are studying. We also issue the final Access Diploma certificates at the end of your course. In addition we support Access to HE across all of our centres which are approved to run courses by working with tutors in colleges and admissions staff in universities as well as holding events and conferences. Each year we run an Access learner prize scheme for students who have shown outstanding commitment to or achievement on, their Access course. 

What will it cost to take an Access Course?

Access course prices will vary depending on where you study and on your personal circumstances. For applicants without a full set of Level 2 qualifications (i.e. equivalent to 5 GCSE grades A-C) and for those in receipt of a range of state benefits, the courses are often free. If you do not fall into these categories you will be required to pay and  mature students can apply for the 24+ Advanced Learning Loan - the amount of this loan will be wiped off your student debt on completion of your Higher Education Degree. For further information, please click HERE

Contact individual colleges and centres offering Access courses direct to find out how much will it cost. They will also be able to tell you if you can apply for other grants.

Will an Access qualification enable me to gain a place at a university?

Whilst you are on your Access course, you can apply to universities using the UCAS application process. For one year courses starting in September this means applications are usually made at the end of your first term. Universities will process your application and if they offer you a place this will be based upon successful completion of an Access Diploma and it will be increasingly common for offers to include specific grade requirements for some or all of the Level 3 units studied on the course.

Some universities may ask your tutors for an additional second reference in January or they may ask to see samples of your work. As the pressure on places in higher education increases in the current climate of financial austerity, you can expect to be asked to gain some of your Level 3 units at merit or distinction level. You course tutors will advise you further on how to apply and will give you support with writing your personal statement. In some cases you will be called to interview as part of the application process.

Many Access students under estimate their own potential and abilities having often been out of education for many years, or having had a negative experience in their previous education. However as a more mature student you bring experience and a motivation to studying which many universities value greatly. Be positive in your application to university and remember to draw upon your wider experience of life, always trying to make it relate positively to your chosen degree course.

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