There are many routes that students can take to enter higher education and study an undergraduate programme. Many students take the traditional route of A-Levels, whilst others opt for Access to HE Diplomas and, more recently, foundation years that are attached to degree courses.

Below highlights the main differences between Access to HE Diplomas and foundation years offered by universities:

  • For Access to HE Diplomas, fees are lower and support via an advanced learner loan can be applied to cover the tuition fees. Once a student completes a higher education course, following successful completion of and Access to HE Diploma, the loan for the diploma will be written off. In contrast, the foundation year still invites fees of up to £9,250 (just as a degree course would be), therefore students could face additional debt to cover the duration of the four-year university course.
  • Access to HE Diplomas provide a stand-alone qualification equivalent to three A-Levels and accrue UCAS points, which enable students to apply for a variety of courses at different higher education providers and not just in the main subject area of the Access to HE Diploma. The foundation year differs, in
    that it is an additional year of study at the beginning of a degree at a specific higher education institute, with the student expected to move onto the full degree upon completion at the same university.
  • In many cases, although not all, foundation year courses tend to require students to have A-level or equivalent qualifications – the expectation is that they do not have the necessary level of qualification to allow entry to the full degree programme and so a foundation year is offered as an alternative. In contrast Access to HE Diploma entry requirements often only require GCSE-level qualifications (in English or Maths or both). Recognition of prior learning also contributes to a learner’s achievements on an Access to HE Diploma.
  • Access to HE Diplomas are predominantly taught in further education colleges, private training providers and community adult education. Foundation years are on the whole delivered in higher education institutions, which may mean that students following a particular foundation year, may have to travel further, whereas Access to HE Diplomas are designed to meet local needs.

Ultimately students must decide which progression route suits them, their lifestyle and own personal circumstances, juggling employment, family life and study. They need to find the course that offers them the best opportunity to enrol on their chosen degree course whilst providing the foundation of knowledge and skills to be successful in their next step in their lifelong learning journey. Gateway Qualifications’ Access to HE Diplomas offers students with a thorough and sound understanding within a subject area which can be used for entry to a wide variety of degree courses. Have a look in this guide of the diplomas that we have available.

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If you are thinking about delivering Access to HE Diplomas, read our article which outlines all the factors you need to consider when deciding if Access to HE is right for your learners

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More information about our Access to HE Diplomas