About Access to HE - Colleges

An Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma is a full level 3 qualification which prepares students for studying at university. It is designed for people who would like to study in higher education but who left school without sufficient qualifications. Approximately 35,000 to 40,000 students undertake an Access to HE Diploma every year in England and Wales. Nationally, close to half of Access to HE students are aged 25 and over. 

Access to HE Diplomas are typically one-year courses taught at further education providers. The Diplomas are designed to be flexible and bespoke to address local needs. As a result, while the structure and grading are the same across all Diplomas, the content and mode of delivery can vary from provider to provider.

The Access to HE Diploma is regulated by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). The QAA licenses Access Validating Agencies (AVAs) to quality assure, validate, and award the Diplomas.

For more information on Access to HE courses nationwide, please visit www.accesstohe.ac.uk.

Current members

If you are a current CAVA member, you can register or login to our member’s portal to access our:

Guidance resources
Library of units
Subject-specific forums
CAVA member network

Benefits of joining CAVA

By joining CAVA, you will become part of our community of members across England. All of our members have a voice on our CAVA Council and direct the strategy of the organisation.

If you are considering offering Access to HE Diplomas or looking to transfer from another Access Validating Agency, becoming a CAVA member will give you:

  • Access to CAVA’s entire library of Access to HE Diplomas and units.
  • Support with developing your range of Access to HE Diplomas, whether off-the-shelf or bespoke.
  • Our dedicated team of Access to HE specialists, available to offer support via telephone, email, and face-to-face meetings.
  • Tailored staff training delivered within your college.
  • Subject-specialist external moderator visits.
  • Access to CAVA’s annual staff development conference for your Access to HE course teams.
  • Access to CAVA’s regional meetings to build staff skills and network with local providers.
  • Access to the Members’ area on the CAVA website which includes useful guides, resources, and documents.
  • Involvement in CAVA special projects, which are selected and agreed on by members.

Contact our team today and we will be more than happy to discuss how we can bring our bespoke Access to HE Diplomas to your college.

Member quotes

Nottingham College

Throughout the pandemic, CAVA have maintained their high levels of communication and support with the Access to HE Diploma team, making it a smooth process to secure grades for our current students.

Harlow college

Really appreciate the flexibility of CAVA, you can phone the team and always get an answer. The CAVA staff are very friendly, supportive, and responsive. I like that the CAVA team is small enough so you can know the names of the team members and know you will always get the same person when you call. It feels like we are the only college that CAVA deals with.

How is the Access to HE Diploma structured?

There are generic requirements for the achievement of the Access to HE Diploma, which are set by the QAA. The Diploma is a credit-based qualification, comprising units of assessment totalling 60 credits. Of these 60 credits, 45 credits must be achieved at level 3 from graded units, and 15 credits must be achieved at level 2 or level 3 from ungraded units. Units comprise ‘learning outcomes’ which are statements of what a student may be expected to know or do as the result of learning. Students are assessed against ‘assessment criteria’ which describe the requirements that must be met to demonstrate achievement of learning outcomes.

Students must be able to demonstrate all learning outcomes in order to receive a grade for the unit. Ungraded units are recorded as either ‘Achieved’ or ‘Not achieved’. For graded units, students receive either a ‘Pass’, ‘Merit’, or ‘Distinction’ grade. Upon successful completion of an Access to HE Diploma, the student will have demonstrated a standardised level of academic achievement appropriate for level 3. They will receive a transcript with 15 credits of ‘Achieved’ grades and 45 credits of ‘Pass’, ‘Merit’, and/or ‘Distinction’ grades.

Access Validating Agencies (AVAs) quality assure the Access to HE Diploma, in accordance with regulation set by the QAA. AVAs work with providers to create the rules of combination (RoCs) for each Diploma. The RoCs outline the ways in which units must be combined for the achievement of a Diploma. Once a Diploma has been validated, it is internally and externally moderated on at least an annual basis. Any modifications to the RoCs must be externally reviewed and approved before implementation.

Access Validating Agencies (AVAs) validate the Access to HE Diplomas, in accordance with regulation set by the QAA. Diplomas are validated by an external academic panel at least every five years to ensure that the subject coverage, level and structure of the content are appropriate as a preparation for intended HE progression routes. Providers also undergo regular scrutiny and validation to demonstrate their ability to deliver and resource their Diplomas appropriately.

The Access to HE Diploma is regulated by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). The QAA licenses Access Validating Agencies (AVAs) to quality assure, validate, and award the Diplomas. You can find more information and resources on the QAA’s website.