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Expand your education options

Expand your education options


12 Apr, 2023

If your future plans call for a higher-level qualification, or you want to try something new and change direction when you make the transition from Service life, an Access Diploma could be just what you need to open wide your window of opportunity …

What is an Access Diploma?

To give it its full name, the Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification that prepares students for study at degree level. It has been designed to give you relevant academic subject knowledge, and the opportunity to learn how to approach study at university level and develop techniques to help you succeed.  

There is no such thing as a typical Access to HE student. Access to HE Diplomas are taken by students of all ages and backgrounds. Access to HE courses are usually completed in one year, however you can also study part-time over two or more years. There are more than 1,200 recognised Access to HE courses available and you can find full details here

If you successfully complete all course requirements you’ll be awarded an Access to HE Diploma. This is made up of 60 credits; 45 of which are at level 3 and graded. The remaining 15 credits are not graded and may be at level 2 or level 3. You must achieve 60 credits to be awarded a Diploma.

Is it right for me?

Access courses are designed for those who have been out of education for some time, especially those who left school or another job – say, in the Services – with too few qualifications to enrol for an HE course. The courses provide a good foundation in the knowledge and skills required for studying at university level, so that students are confident and well prepared when they go on to higher education.

How does the Access to HE Diploma relate to other qualifications?

The Diploma is a full level 3 qualification. Examples of other level 3 qualifications include A-levels and the Welsh Baccalaureate.

Do universities recognise the Access to HE Diploma?

The Diploma is widely recognised by UK universities, and many actively encourage applications from Access to HE students. A national framework for Access to HE courses has been in place since 1989 and, each year, more than 20,000 Access to HE students achieve the Access to HE Diploma and progress to university courses across the UK.


It’s important to think carefully about your finances and make sure you research costs thoroughly before you enrol on an Access to HE course. As well as course fees, you should think about the implications for your own living costs, perhaps including childcare and travel, and any course-related costs such as books and equipment. If you are claiming job-related benefits, you should seek further advice. It is essential to contact the Access to HE course provider for information about their charges and how these will apply to you.

Course fees and loans

As a member of the Armed Forces, you may be able to use your ELC towards the tuition fees for an Access to HE Diploma. You may also be able to use the Publicly Funded Further/Higher Education Scheme to pay for an Access to HE Diploma, which is immediately followed by a degree or other higher education course. Service education officers or transition staff should be able to help you choose the best route.

If you are aged 19 or over you may be expected to pay full fees, but in England you will be able to apply for a loan under the government’s Advanced Learner Loans scheme to cover the cost of these. Click here to read the full details. However, if you complete a QAA-recognised Access to HE course and then go on to complete a degree or other recognised HE course, you won’t have to repay the remaining loan for the Access to HE course. You can read more information on Advanced Learner Loans and repayment arrangements here

Ready to find out more?

Visit these websites for further details: