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09 Nov, 2017

Follow your dream with an Access to HE Diploma

‘I left school at 15 years old with no qualifications.’

‘I’d always planned to go on to further study but, what with one thing and another, life somehow just took over.’

‘As a teenager I was convinced that people like me couldn’t go to university.’

If the comments above sound familiar, an Access to HE course could be for you …

When you ask young children what they want to be when they grow up they are often very clear: ‘I’m going to be an astronaut, a princess, a soldier, a doctor …’. Not everyone can become an astronaut or a princess, but for some the dream comes true. Many of you will already have fulfilled the dreams of others – travelling the world in the service of your country. Maybe now it’s time to dream a new dream, or to follow your childhood dream.

Recently we met more than 200 Access to HE students at our higher education fair. Most of them had just started their courses (in September) and they were all enthusiastic about changing career or following their dream. The students talked to university staff about the degree courses available to them and how to make their applications. We hold the fair every year and each time it’s a pleasure to hear from adults changing their lives through education.

One such student is Tommy, who joined the Royal Marines after a brief career as a cabinetmaker. The Services wasn’t just a career, it was his whole life, which made leaving even more difficult when he was medically discharged. Services life was all he knew, but on leaving he trained to work on the oil rigs. It was a chance to work in an environment like the one he had just left, where he could work hard and play hard. Unfortunately, oil prices crashed leaving him with no work. He had a difficult few months of soul searching trying to work out what was important to him. He had seen civilian social work in action with his Services colleagues and realised there was something missing. He began to think about what he really wanted to do and recognised that he wanted to learn to do something to help others.

He says, ‘It wasn’t a quick and easy road to this point. I had to pick myself up and really think about what I wanted to do with my life, as well looking after my health. Most people in the military, myself included, want a quick solution. They want to earn the most amount of money possible straight away and may not know that there are other options that might take a little longer but may be more fulfilling in the long run.’

Tommy made the big decision to invest time and money in his future.

When the time comes for your to leave the Services you might like to take the same route as Tommy and join the more than 350,000 mature students who have already achieved an Access to HE Diploma and gone to university. Many have changed their career or moved up the career ladder. Most Access to HE students have taken a bold decision to go back to education and many have given up work to study.

Service leavers have several options to fund their studies:

  • Enhanced Learning Credits (if you’re registered – you can find out all about that in these pages, of course)
  • the Publicly Funded FE/HE scheme (the higher education course must be done immediately after the Access to HE course)
  • Advanced Learner Loans.

Currently Advanced Learner Loan repayments don’t start until you start to earn more than £21,000 per year. And, if you successfully complete a QAA-recognised Access to HE course, the balance of the loan will be written off when you complete your higher education studies.

Many universities and charities also offer bursaries to provide some financial support for students. It is important to look into your funding options carefully to make sure you make the best choice for you and your family. Access to HE providers, your education officer or transition staff should be able to help you choose the best route.

The Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma is a nationally recognised qualification designed for people who would like to go onto higher education, but who left school without the qualifications needed. The Diploma is taken by people of all ages and backgrounds, although it is designed for adults who have few, or no, qualifications. Many of Access to HE students are looking to transition to a new career.

History of Access to HE and the role of QAA
QAA regulates the Access to HE Diploma by licensing Access Validating Agencies (AVAs) to award the Access to HE Diploma. QAA manages the Diploma specification, which governs the structure of the qualification, and the licensing criteria that detail how AVAs must manage the qualification.

The qualification was established in the 1970s and continues to be designed to increase participation in higher education by individuals who are underrepresented.

Your route map to higher success

Look on the Access to HE website (see ‘Find out more’, below). Read real-life stories and find a Diploma (by location, subject, provider or type of study).

The most popular subjects studied are health studies, social studies, business and education, but there are also courses in engineering and sports studies.

Talk to your education advisors (find out about doing maths and English GCSEs before you start if you don’t already have them). Check your funding options and contact the course providers to get more information.

Education plays an important role in individual personal development. For many Access to HE students the Diploma has changed their lives and helped them pursue a graduate profession or to gain promotion. Recent data show that 90.5% of university graduates with an Access to HE Diploma were employed or doing more study six months after they completed their degree. Research by Bath Spa University also showed that the Diploma also helped Service leavers in their transition from military to civilian life.

Find out more
You may also find these websites helpful:
Access to HE website
Real-life stories
Diploma database
Advanced Learner Loans

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