For many providers, using an Advanced Learner Loans Facility to deliver Access to HE Diplomas is an attractive proposition, but is an Access to HE Diploma right for you and your learners?

This article provides you with information to help you make an informed decision.

What are Access to HE Diplomas?

Access to HE Diplomas are qualifications designed to prepare people, without traditional qualifications, for study at university.
Aimed primarily at those who have not been in education for some time, Access to HE Diplomas provides learners with the knowledge, skills, and understanding required to move on to study at university.

Who can study for an Access to HE Diploma?

Access to HE Diplomas are designed to meet the needs of adults who have not been in education for some time and who have not achieved the traditional qualifications accepted for entry to universities. This would generally apply to learners over the age of 19 when they start the course.

There is no requirement for learners to have achieved prior qualifications or prior skills, knowledge or understanding before undertaking an Access to HE Diploma. However, learners would be expected to be able to demonstrate the skills and ability to study at Level 3. Most universities require learners to have achieved GCSE English and Maths at a grade of at least 4/5 or C; you need to think about how you can help learners meet these requirements if they have not already achieved these.

What are the requirements for approval and to deliver Access to HE Diplomas?

Before commencing delivery, all providers must be approved by Gateway Qualifications. The following are a sample of the requirements that apply to all Access to HE providers:

  • One of the key requirements for Access to HE is that both the provider and the learner must be based in the UK (or BFO) – if you or your learners are based overseas, we cannot approve you to deliver Access to HE Diplomas.
  • You must have arrangements in place to provide pre-course guidance to applicants, including the criteria for selection and admission to Access to HE Diplomas, and must be consistent with QAA requirements regarding admissions. You must also have the expertise and resources to provide information, advice and guidance on HE applications and progression opportunities.
  • You must have expertise and resources to ensure the capability to deliver the Diplomas and/or units. This is especially important when applying to deliver specialist Diplomas and/or units. Diplomas will not be approved for delivery without the appropriate expertise and resources in place.
  • You must ensure that teaching staff have the professional competence, skills and subject expertise to teach and assess all the units of each diploma they deliver.

Our Access to HE Centre Handbook provides further information on centre requirements. Apply to become a recognised centre if you haven’t already been approved by Gateway Qualifications.

What else do I need to think about?

Recruiting the right learners is vital. Think about how you will recruit learners and demonstrate to potential learners that you are a viable place to study Access to HE.

Potential learners will want to know that they can successfully achieve their goals by taking an Access to HE Diploma with you. Case studies on the success of former learners are a great tool to show potential learners how you can help them thrive.

To give potential learners the confidence that they can achieve their goals by taking an Access to HE Diploma with you, you should consider how you can demonstrate that you have a history of successfully delivering Level 3 qualifications.

Learners need to be registered within 42 days of starting their Access to HE Diploma, and units must be selected within 12 weeks of the start of the course. You must have robust systems to administer this, as late registrations are not usually permitted.

Access to HE Diplomas are designed to provide learners with the skills and knowledge required to move on to study at university, and you will want to ensure that your learners can complete their UCAS applications in good time.

What contact have you had with HEIs to reassure learners that they will be accepted to university following achievement of an Access to HE Diploma with you?

Access to HE Diplomas are a ‘full level 3’ qualification and are fully funded for 19-23 year olds without a full level 3 qualification as part of the legal entitlement. If a learner aged 19-23 has already achieved a full level 3, the Access to HE Diploma will be loan funded.

For learners aged 24+, the Access to HE Diploma will be loan funded. Information on gaining an Advanced Learner Loan Facility can be found in the Advanced learner loans funding rules: 2022 to 2023.

It is good to remind learners that upon successful completion of study at university, the loan balance is written off.