About Access to HE - Student

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

Approximately 35,000 to 40,000 students undertake an Access to HE Diploma every year in England and Wales. Access to HE students are highly diverse. Nationally, close to half of Access to HE students are aged 25 and over; one in three students are from ethnic minorities; one in four are from a disadvantaged area; and one in five live with a disability and/or learning difficulty (source: QAA annual statistics 2018-19).

Access to HE students tend to perform similarly to students who gained other level 3 qualifications. In 2019, QAA found that 65% of Access to HE students achieve a first or upper second class degree, opposed to 69% of students with other level 3 qualifications. The Office for Students found that Access to HE students achieve first or upper second class degrees at a higher proportion than students who studied a foundation year.

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

Students that completed their course achieved their Access to HE Diploma
Progressed into higher education
Students believed their course prepared them for their future course of study
Students rated their experience on their Access to HE course 4.5 out of 5
Student stories

Access to HE Diploma (Social Science)


After raising a family I decided to pursue my ambition to go to university. The course was intense (five days a week), but this helped the class to forge strong relationships and work together. The course overall was fantastic, there was ample support from tutors, and I received excellent feedback on my first assignment, which really boosted my confidence. I’m now in my final year of a criminology degree, with further ambitions to apply to work in the probation service.

Access to HE Diploma (Business and Law)


I chose an Access course after deciding A Levels weren’t really for me. The Access course [at West Notts] was great as it gave me the skills and knowledge needed to progress on to university- level study. I’m now in my second year of a law degree at Sheffield Hallam University, with the aim of becoming a solicitor.

shutterstock_13sdf16614319 copy

What is an Access to HE course?

An Access to Higher Education Diploma is a 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 qualifications such as A levels. The Diploma is recognised by all UK universities and higher education colleges as the entry standard to a degree programme.

Access to HE students are from a wide range of backgrounds and ages. Students may have missed out on education and left school to get a job or have a family. Formal qualifications are not necessarily required to get onto an Access to HE course, and age is not a barrier. Your life experience will be valuable on the course.

You do not need any qualifications to enrol on an Access to HE course. However, individual colleges may have their own entry requirements (often English/Maths GCSE).

Most Access to HE Diplomas can be completed in a year or less. Colleges try to be as flexible as possible: some offer intensive six-month courses, others offer evening courses, while others offer part-time courses over two years. Why not check with your local college to find out what choices they can offer?

Most courses start in September each year but some offer the opportunity to join at different times.

There will normally be an application form and a face-to-face meeting to explore your interest in the course. Most colleges have Open Days where you can find out more. Contact your local college about a course and how to join.

Courses are often free for 19-24 year olds. Students over the age of 24 can obtain an Advanced Learner Loan which can be written off if the degree is completed.

Please visit the courses area of the CAVA website: www.cava.ac.uk/courses. This lists the subjects available and the colleges in your area that offer them.

The Access to HE Diploma was added to the UCAS tariff for all courses starting from September 2017 onwards. Further information is available via this link.

The QAA have some useful information about the Access to HE Diploma on their website: Everything you need to know about the Access to HE Diploma.

Please email admin@cava.ac.uk. In the email please provide your name (at the time of study), college, Diploma title, year completed. We will then respond with full details of the replacement order process.