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.
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 a higher education institution, becoming a CAVA member will enable you to:
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Access to HE students tend to perform well at university, we are always keen to have more. It is a real benefit of working with CAVA that our staff are able to input on and shape Access to HE courses through the validation process that dovetail into our undergraduate degrees.
We are a firm believer in Access to HE and we highly value it as a route for mature students to progress to university. The CAVA team is lovely and welcoming. There are lots of ways to get involved with CAVA’s work, there is always a clear focus and it is highly valuable.
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.
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 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.
Higher education (HE) staff play an important role in the development and quality assurance of Access to HE Diplomas. HE staff can serve as external moderators, which involves sampling coursework to ensure academic standards, and monitoring the course to confirm a positive student experience and outcomes. Moderators also provide advice on course development and approve course modifications. HE staff also sit on validation panels, which involves the review of new Diploma proposals and proposals for continuation of existing Diplomas, and assessing the ability of providers to deliver their Diplomas.
Through these opportunities, HE staff can: play a key role in the development of high-quality Access to HE Diplomas which prepare students for study at HE level; meet widening participation targets by supporting mature students; develop staff skills through external moderation and validation training; and build networks and partnerships with local FECs.