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Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently asked questions
What is an Access to Higher Education (HE) course?

Access to HE courses prepare adults for study at university level. Courses are designed, in particular, for people who have been out of education for some time, especially those who left school with too few qualifications to be able to go straight to university. Access to HE 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.

A student who successfully completes all course requirements is awarded the Access to HE Diploma.

Is the Access to HE Diploma recognised by universities?

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

Universities are involved in the development of new Access to HE courses to make sure that course content is appropriate, and the framework for the approval of Access to HE courses is managed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). QAA's Access to HE logo appears on all Access to HE Diplomas, so that universities can be confident that a student has completed the requirements of an approved Access to HE Diploma.

Why study online?

There are many advantages to online study, but the main advantages have to be cost and flexibility. There is no need to attend classes and so online distance learning makes working towards your qualification a more convenient method of study.

Why are you a lot less cheaper than other companies?

Because your studying is carried out online then we do not have to pass on large overheads that other companies have for classrooms and equipment and we do not employ a large sales team which keeps our costs low and yours too!.

Are Access to HE courses available in different subjects?

Yes. Courses leading to the Access to HE Diploma are available in many different subjects, providing a preparation for a wide range of university programmes. The title of the Diploma indicates the subject focus of the course, and all titles have a standard format: 'Access to HE Diploma (subject/subject area)'.

Some courses have a specific subject focus, such as Access to HE Diploma (Law), Access to HE Diploma (Nursing), or Access to HE Diploma (Business Studies). Others provide a preparation across a wider range of subjects, such as Access to HE Diploma (Social Studies) or Access to HE Diploma (Combined Sciences). Diplomas with more general titles often have a range of options available, so students on the same course are able to choose different options to suit their individual interests, plans for further study, or career ambitions.

Diploma titles are agreed as part of the formal approval process to ensure that the title provides an accurate description of the actual course content.

Do I need to be a UK citizen to study?

No you do not need to be a UK citizen but you do need to have a UK residential address to study this qualification.

I'm a UK student but I want to apply to overseas universities - will they accept my Access to HE qualification for entry purposes?

The Access to HE qualification was designed for the purpose of entry to higher education in the UK, where it is widely recognised and accepted. There can be no certainty that the qualification will be similarly recognised overseas, as there are no transnational agreements about the acceptability of the Access to HE qualification in any other country. If you intend to apply to a university overseas you should contact the university to discuss your situation as early as possible. Your tutor and/or the Access Validating Agency should be able to provide you with detailed information about the course content, should this be required. You may also wish to refer the university to this website for further information.

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

The Access to HE Diploma is a full level 3 qualification. Study on the Access to HE Diploma makes academic demands that are at an equivalent level to those of other level 3 qualifications. Examples of other level 3 qualifications include A levels and Scottish Highers.

How do I know whether the Access to HE course that I choose will meet the requirements of a particular university?

If you have a particular university destination in mind, it is especially important to check what areas of study the university expects Access to HE students to have covered, and what grades they will expect you to achieve on the Access to HE Diploma, for you to be offered a place on your preferred course.

You can check entry requirements for particular course(s) by looking at universities' prospectuses or websites, or by checking their Entry Profiles, listed on the UCAS course search. Different universities' requirements for Access to HE students' achievement vary. More popular courses may require higher grades and some university courses receive applications from many more students than they can offer places to. It is therefore wise to consider courses offered by a variety of different universities and, if at all possible, to apply to courses at several different places.

How is the Access to HE Diploma assessed?

The Access to HE Diploma is assessed principally by coursework undertaken by students throughout the course. A range of assessment methods are used, according to the subject, including essays, presentations, laboratory work, research projects and exams. Each unit is individually assessed by one or more assignments.

Assignments are assessed by a course tutor, and marks are internally moderated by another member of staff at the same institution. All courses have an external moderator who reviews students’ work and assessment outcomes. The moderator acts on behalf of the Access Validating Agency to ensure that standards are maintained on different courses.

Can I study an Access to HE course online or by distance learning?

Yes. There are a small number of courses available for distance learning or online study.

What does an Access to HE Diploma involve?

An Access to HE Diploma course involves completing a certain set of units of study which are relevant to the overall Diploma subject. The whole package of units is designed to equip students for university level study in that subject or subject area. The detail of course content on individual courses depends on the subject of the Diploma, but all courses: require study of relevant academic subject(s) at university entry level give students the opportunity to learn how to approach study at university level and develop techniques to help them to be successful students. The set of units required for any individual Diploma, and any permitted options, are defined in the 'rules of combination' for that particular Diploma.

I finished school a long time ago, and I haven't done any formal study for a long time. Will an Access to HE course be suitable for me?

You can expect the course to be challenging, but you will be taught how to study, and the whole purpose of an Access to HE course is to help people in your situation to be successful. Many people are nervous when they start an Access to HE course, particularly if they haven't been in a classroom for some time. Tutors are aware of this and take it into account in their teaching: you won't be thrown in at the deep end or tested on things that you forgot years ago.

How long does it take to complete an Access to HE course?

Most Access to HE Diplomas can be completed in just under a year.

What should I do if I’m not happy with an aspect of the course or if I want to make a complaint?

If there are any areas in which you are not satisfied with the course, it is important that you raise your concerns as soon as possible, and raise them directly within the college so that concerns can be addressed promptly. For complaints or concerns that cannot be resolved more informally, the college will have a formal complaints procedure which must be followed. If this does not resolve your concern you may raise it with the Access Validating Agency for your course.

What qualifications do students need to start an Access to HE course?

Access to HE courses are designed to meet the needs of people who have few formal qualifications, though some courses may require GCSEs in English and/or maths. Courses which don't require any specific previous qualifications normally ask applicants to complete some kind of written assessment, to identify whether they are likely to cope with the demands of the course and be able to meet the standards of the Access to HE Diploma. This kind of assessment is usually designed to test applicants’ skills in written English. For some courses, there may also be a numeracy test, if skills in this area are important for the particular Diploma.

Is there a maximum or minimum age limit for students on Access to HE courses?

Almost everyone considering Access to HE worries that they may have left it too late, but there is no maximum age limit for starting a course. Access to HE courses are intended for mature students who have been out of education for some time. This generally means that students should be at least 19 when they start the course. Universities and colleges expect Access to HE applicants to have acquired a certain amount of life experience before they start an Access to HE course, so applicants who have only recently left school may be advised to follow a different route into higher education.

What are units and how do they work?

Units are the building blocks of the Access to HE Diploma. Each unit is worth a certain number of credits. As the student progresses through the course, they accumulate credits for the successful achievement of each unit. When added together, the credits achieved from the different units provides the total of 60 credits required for the award of the Access to HE Diploma.

All units specify a set of particular ‘learning outcomes’ and ‘assessment criteria’. These define what a student must demonstrate in their work to be awarded credit for the unit. The unit also defines the ‘grade descriptors’ that are to be used in grading the work for that unit. If the work submitted by the student meets the learning outcomes, a certain number of credits and a grade of Pass, Merit or Distinction is awarded for that unit. The set of all grades achieved by a student across the course is known as the ‘grade profile’.

What are credits and how do they work?

Students achieve a certain number of credits for each unit of the course which they complete successfully. Units may be worth three, six or nine credits - according to the amount of study required on the unit - and many courses include a combination of units of different sizes. For all Access to HE courses, the credits earned from the different units build towards the overall total of 60 credits which are required for award of the Access to HE Diploma. The number of credits awarded for a unit gives a general indication of the amount of learning required for the unit, so a nine-credit unit will require more study time than a three-credit unit. For Access to HE, one credit represents the amount of learning that an average learner can be expected to achieve in approximately 10 hours of study, including learning that takes place as a result of both directed and private study.

How many credits does a student need in order to achieve an Access to HE Diploma? Is this different on different courses?

The total number of credits required to achieve the Access to HE Diploma is 60. This is the same on all Access to HE courses, regardless of the duration of the course, the number of hours spent in college, or any other consideration.

Can students be awarded anything if they withdraw early from the course or if they don’t achieve all requirements for the Access to HE Diploma?

Yes. If a student does not complete the full course, so does not achieve enough credits to be awarded the Access to HE Diploma, they will be awarded the number of credits that they have achieved from the units which they successfully completed before they left.

What happens when I've finished my Access to HE course? What information do I have to provide to the universities I’ve applied to?

Once external moderation and final awards boards have taken place, Access to HE Diplomas are prepared and issued for each student, along with the achievement transcripts which show the details of credits and grades achieved for each unit. This usually happens during July or the first few days of August. It is essential that you find out from your college how and when you will get your Diploma and transcript. In particular, if you are planning to go away, you must make arrangements to ensure that you receive your Diploma and can inform universities of your results as quickly as possible.

If you’ve met the conditions of your offer and have provided the necessary evidence of your results to the university, the university will be able to confirm your place. This normally happens without difficulty, but it does not happen automatically. It is your responsibility to provide the necessary information to the HE institution for your place to be confirmed.


How long does the Access to HE qualification last for? Will it still be accepted if I apply to university now?

Once you have been awarded an Access to HE Diploma, you have the qualification for life: the qualification itself doesn't expire after a certain date. However, you should check with the university/ies before applying. Some universities have entry criteria that require applicants to demonstrate evidence of recent study, so the Diploma may have a limited ‘shelf life’ in this respect. In addition, some subjects evolve and develop (particularly in technical subjects), and the content of Access to HE qualifications achieved many years ago may become dated. Such Diplomas may therefore not be considered to provide evidence of a suitable preparation for university-level study.


What if I am not happy with Firm Training, the course or the support I am receiving?

Please contact us on 020 8923 0266 and email your complaint to contact@firmtraining.com.

We will respond to your complaint within 48 weekday hours