What are Access to HE Diplomas and how can you deliver them?

17 November 2022

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17 November is World Access to Higher Education Day – a day that raises awareness of how we can make higher education more accessible for all. It is also the perfect day to shout about the benefits of Access to Higher Education Diplomas.

These qualifications provide an important alternative pathway to higher education and help to improve lives, but many people remain unaware of what they are.

So, what is Access to HE and how does it work?

“Skills and Education Group Access are open to ideas and are willing to bring on other providers as part of the thought and development process.”

— Jason Pimborough, Academy Director, The Sheffield College

What is Access to Higher Education?


The Access to HE Diploma is a type of qualification that prepares learners for undergraduate study at university. It is designed to provide a route to higher education for those who do not have the traditional qualifications required, such as A Levels. Access to HE Diplomas are therefore primarily aimed at adults who want to return to education and study at university.

An Access to HE Diploma is, in most cases, a one-year full-time course, though some Diplomas can be taken part-time over a longer period. The qualification is equivalent to three A Levels, meaning that successful completion of the Diploma enables students to apply to universities. Each Diploma is designed with specific undergraduate courses in mind and provides students with not only the subject knowledge required to study a degree, but also the study skills needed to meet the demands of higher education, such as academic writing, research skills and information literacy.

Access to HE courses are delivered by further and higher education providers throughout England and Wales. Each year, around 20,000 Access to HE students apply to universities across the UK. Access to HE is regulated by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).

“The team is very responsive to centre requests for support. We are able to have access to programme leads who offer us support and guidance.”

— Director of Quality Improvement, Solihull College & University Centre

How can organisations deliver Access to HE Diplomas?


All Access courses have to be approved by an Access Validating Agency (AVA).

AVAs are licensed by QAA to act as awarding bodies and award Access to HE Diplomas. They develop, approve and quality-assure Access to HE courses, working with further and higher education providers to deliver the courses to students.

Each AVA offers a different variety of Access to HE Diplomas and has a different approval process for providers.

“There was lots of wraparound care and support to ensure we had everything that we needed.”

— Marie Neal-Smith, Director of Curriculum, York College

Why choose Skills and Education Group Access as your AVA?


Skills and Education Group Access is a growing AVA which currently has 17 Providers across the country, from colleges such as The Bournemouth and Poole College and The Sheffield College, to training providers such as Hashtag The Wrd Limited. In 2020/21, we helped over 1400 students to successfully complete Diplomas.

We offer 24 Access to HE Diplomas, including Health Science Professions, Medicine, Policing, and Creative Entrepreneurship in Music. And if you want to develop a new Diploma, we will support you with this.

Our team use a collaborative and flexible approach for working with our Providers – we see you as our colleagues and will guide you throughout the whole academic year. You’ll have the freedom to write your own assignments and will be supported by regular visits from our dedicated external moderators.

We’re also part of the Skills and Education Group, an organisation that has been working to advance skills and education for over 110 years. By choosing Skills and Education Group Access as your AVA, you’ll be able to access additional benefits through the wider Group. This includes professional development opportunities for your staff, grant funding to support your learners, and even discounts on your annual fee.

Want to find out more about Skills and Education Group Access? You can browse our Diplomas and find out how to become a Provider. If you have any questions, you can get in touch with the team.

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