Access to Higher Education

The one year course that can get you into uni

It’s never too late to get the qualifications you need to change your career and land your dream job.

About Access to Higher Education

If you’re over 19 and the job you want requires a degree, but you didn’t get the grades or qualifications you needed the first time around to get into university, then an Access to Higher Education diploma could be for you.

You'll study for one academic year, and your classes are usually timetabled for two or three days each week, giving you added flexibility for childcare, work and other commitments.

Gateshead College - access to education

It could cost you nothing

What’s more, there's still time to apply to start this September and it could cost you nothing!

There’s a range of financial support available, dependent on your age and circumstances.

Under 19?

There is a range of grants and bursaries you can apply for to help cover some of costs of coming to college.

Finance options


Loans are available which you don’t pay back if you go on to successfully complete a degree course.

Finance options

Under 19?


Pay for access to education with an advanced learner loan

If you’re aged over 19 years old, you can apply for a 19+ Advanced Learning Loan to cover course fees. Then, if you go onto complete a higher education degree course, the balance of the loan, including any interest, will be ‘written off’ which means you won’t have to pay it back. 

You don’t have to take a loan, but if you do, it means you can start your course now with no upfront fees. If you don’t go onto to complete a higher education degree course, you’ll need to pay the loan back, once you earn over £21,000. However, instalments can be as low as £7.50 a month. See here for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

The Access to HE Diploma is one of the main routes for adults into Higher Education and is an exciting alternative to 'A' and A/S Levels and BTEC qualifications. It is a full Level 3 qualification.

The Access to HE Diploma is designed to prepare you for Higher Education including Higher Degree Apprenticeships, you will be taught to become a strong independent learner with research skills embedded throughout.

The Access to HE Diploma is for adults 19+

Access to HE is designed for those who are returning to education and you will be taught how to write academically, reference and research.

Access to HE Diplomas are made up of 60 credits. 45 of these are at Level 3 and graded. The remaining 15 credits are not graded and may be at Level 2 or Level 3. You must successfully achieve 60 credits to be awarded a Diploma.

The structure of the programme may vary depending on which course you are studying but will include subject-specific study skills preparation, as well as tuition in subjects that are relevant.

You will be expected to commit to a minimum of 10 hours working independently on top of your classroom learning hours which will be for research, writing assignments etc.

Our Access courses are an intensive one-year course and you will study at college for two full days a week.

19+ Advanced Learner Loan: If you are aged 19 or over, and you want to study an Access to Higher Education programme, you may be eligible to apply for an Advanced Learner Loan to cover your tuition fees.

Student Finance England will write off any outstanding Advanced Learner Loan balances you owe for an Access to HE Diploma, if you go on to complete a higher education/university level course. This means you do not have to repay it. If you don’t go on to study a higher education/university level course, you won’t need to start paying back the loan until you earn over £25,725 per year.

Level 3 Entitlement: If you are aged 19–23 and this will be your first eligible, full Level 3 course, then you may be able to do this course for free.

Yes, the Diploma is widely recognised by UK Universities.

Access to HE Diplomas started after September 2014 are eligible for UCAS Tariff points from the 2017 entry cycle. Learners can use the UCAS tariff calculator to work out their UCAS points.

Our past Access to Health students have progressed on to a range of universities and courses including:

  • Northumbria University for Nursing and Midwifery 
  • Sunderland University for Occupational Therapy 
  • Sunderland University for Paramedic Science. 

Our past Access to Science students have progressed on to a range of universities and courses including:

  • Strathclyde University for Naval Architecture 
  • Newcastle University for Mechanical Engineering 
  • Plymouth University for Medicine with Foundation Year

Our past Access to Education students have progressed on to study:

  • Primary Education at Northumbria University, Sunderland University or Durham University or subject specific degrees such as Linguistic or English.