Good Practice from Standards Management: Loughborough College

Analysis of student outcomes across the CAVA membership has shown exceptionally high pass rates on Access to HE Diplomas. This demonstrates a close relationship between retention and achievement - if students stay until the end of their course, they tend to achieve their full Diploma. We have been exploring retention good practice with our CAVA members. Loughborough College has a wide variety of ways in which they support their students. The Curriculum Manager for Access to HE sat down with Georgia Green, CAVA’s Communication and Events Officer, to share their good practice and give an insight into some of the ways they are supporting their students.


Loughborough College starts to support their students before they are accepted onto the Access to HE Diploma. During the application process, a member of staff conducts a phone call with each student where they discuss topics such as why they have taken a break from education, their family structure, and whether they have a reliable support system in place. Given the intense nature of the Access to HE Diplomas offered, Loughborough College is keen on identifying students who possess the necessary skills and behaviours to thrive in the academic environment.

This call aims to provide preparatory support and ease any apprehensions and uncertainties that students may have, ensuring that they can demonstrate their potential during the interview. Students are also encouraged to bring examples of their experiences that demonstrate qualities like resilience, collaboration, teamwork, or problem-solving skills - traits highly valued by the college.

If successful, students are then given the opportunity to participate in taster mornings which are conducted in small groups. During these sessions, students get the chance to connect with peers, socialise, explore the campus, meet the faculty, and address any queries they may have. These events also provide a platform to discuss available financial and mental health support, demonstrating the college's commitment to fostering a supportive and inclusive learning environment.

Prior to starting

Once a student accepts their place, they sit down with a dedicated member of the learner services team to discuss any perceived barriers or indicators that may impact their learning. These discussions serve as an initial understanding of the individual’s needs. The college conducts assessments based on these conversations, enabling them to tailor support mechanisms to suit each student's unique requirements.

In cases where it is thought beneficial, the college extends an invitation for an additional taster day. These extra taster days not only provide students with an opportunity to become more familiar with the college environment but also help in establishing a sense of security and belonging before the official induction week begins.

Induction week

Induction week at Loughborough College is a structured, comprehensive process designed to ensure students feel comfortable, informed, and supported from the very beginning. The Access to HE Diploma timetable runs over three days. However, for induction, students are invited in for the full week so they can start to foster strong relationships with staff, have an excellent experience, access the whole campus, meet students from other courses, and receive information, advice and guidance regarding topics such as finance and childcare.

The week also contains a range of informative lectures, ice breakers, socialising activities and a comprehensive skills audit which lasts 45 minutes. During the audit, the students are asked to rate themselves on essential skills such as digital proficiency, confidence levels in both group and independent work, and research skills - fundamental skills for their courses. For those who self-assess lower in any area, additional support is immediately put in place.

The audit provides a platform for students to share personal aspects of their lives, including mental health and personal challenges. Any overlooked issues are brought to light during this process, enabling the college to connect students with external support resources when needed.

Students are also asked to write five hundred words about themselves including where they have come from, why they want to study on the Access to HE Diploma, their preferred learning methods and what they are interested in doing after the course. Staff use this information to support students further throughout their studies.


Loughborough College have thoroughly thought through their timetable, ensuring it is created to support students academically and personally. There are designated slots specifically allocated for essential support, and while attendance is not mandatory, appointments are scheduled to match students with the assistance they require. Some students may need extra guidance, and in such cases, staff members accompany them, offering introductions and gradually transitioning to independent support. This approach is crucial as it helps students overcome any fears or hesitations they may have about seeking help.

A dedicated counsellor and wellbeing coordinator is available on-site during the days students are required on campus days. Students can book an appointment to see either one within a day's notice.

Access to HE students are grouped with Loughborough College’s HE students, which gives them access to the HE facilities including study rooms with stronger wifi and access to different degree areas.

The Access to HE students also have two workshop slots within their timetable. During these students can talk to their tutors to gain more feedback, discuss upcoming assignments or review research they have found. Another way they can spend it is by furthering their study skills such as confidence, resilience or interview skills. There are also chances for students to listen to lecturers and presentations, either virtually or in person, around financial or wellbeing advice.

Additional Support

In addition to traditional first-aiders, Loughborough College also has mental health first-aiders on campus. Each student has a lanyard with contact numbers on the back and if they call the mental health first-aiders, one can be with them within five minutes. They would then go to a designated quiet room to decide what they needed. There are a range of options including laying down with a weighted blanket, mindful colouring or walking the therapy dog.

The college also offers LGBTQ+ support, financial advice, budgeting support, and access to a food bank within the HE common room which any student can benefit from. Every day students can have a free breakfast, but twice a week there are additional social events - ‘Breakfast and Chats’ and ‘Coffee and Cake’ where students are encouraged to come together to talk and enjoy free food.

This year Loughborough College has implemented a social action project for all Access to HE students, working alongside ‘PACE UK’ where students carry out charitable actions for their community. This was triallied last year with a small group and the results were beneficial so it has been extended to all Access to HE students. This also offers students an additional action to discuss during university interviews which has proved useful.

Students also have access to a 24-hour confidential helpline called ‘Health Assured’. This is a student assistant programme where they can access professional advice regarding stress & anxiety, debt management, relationships, legal advice, lifestyle addictions or they can self-refer to a counsellor. They can access the programme by telephone or through a ‘My Healthy Advantage’ smartphone app. The App also has online personalised wellbeing content, including videos, webinars, mini health checks and health coaching.

Loughborough College has found that by making these changes they have had an increase on their retention rates and a significant increase in the Access to HE Diploma students attendance.

The CAVA team would like to congratulate Loughborough College for their hard work and thank them for sharing their good practice.