What is the Access to Higher Education Diploma?

The Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma is a qualification that prepares students for University level study. It is designed for people who would like to progress to Higher Education but do not have the traditional qualifications such as A-Levels, to meet the Higher Education entry requirements.

Who can take the Access to HE programme?

Many different people study Access to HE – adults who have been out of education for some time and/or have few or no formal qualifications and those who have a desire and potential to study for a degree at University. There are no age restrictions so you don’t have to worry that you have left it too late to return to education.

What does an Access to HE Diploma involve?

An Access to HE programme is challenging and rewarding. The course involves a mix of classroom study, tutorials, independent learning, homework tasks, assessment tasks, research projects and exams. You will study a package of units, all designed to ensure you are fully equipped for study at university. As each unit is successfully completed you will attain credits that will build towards the total of 60 credits that are required for the Access to HE Diploma.

How can I pay for the course?

If you are aged 19 or over you will either have to take out an Advanced Learner Loan to cover the cost of the tuition fees or pay the course fees yourself. (See Advanced Learner Loans – Key Facts). This will be further discussed with you at our pre-course Access to HE Events or Open Days.

What if I don’t meet the entry requirements for an Access to HE Diploma?

For those not meeting the entry requirements, we also offer Level 2 Pre-Access courses, catering for those who need additional qualifications before they are eligible for an Access to HE course. The only entry requirement stipulated for the Level 3 Access to HE course is English at GCSE level, Grades A – C. If you do not have Maths at GCSE level, Grades A – C, you will be expected to study this alongside your Access Diploma. Both Maths and English GCSE will form part of the Level 2 Pre-Access courses.


The Level 2 Pre-Access courses are designed for those people who wish to go to University via the Access to HE route, but who do not have the relevant qualifications or experience to do so. Entry requirements for Pre-Access are Level 1 qualifications in English and Maths. Anyone not having these will undertake a diagnostic test to establish their current level.

Advanced Learner Loan – Key Facts

  • If your loan is for an Access to HE course and you progress to successfully complete a Higher education university-level programme, you will not have to pay back the loan.
  • You will pay nothing up-front and repayments will only start once you have finished your qualification and are earning over £25,000 per year.
  • Repayment of loans is through the PAYE or Self-Assessment system. Interest will be charged at the retail price index + 3% during the period of study and until the April after you complete the course.
  • From the April after you complete the course, repayments are at 9% of income over £25,000, irrespective of the amount of loan taken out.
  • Loans are not means-tested or credit-checked.
  • Outstanding loan balances will be written off after 30 years.

To qualify for the loan, you must:

  • Be aged 19 or over at the start of the course
  • Be studying an eligible course (as per current funding policy)
  • Have been a resident in the UK for three years prior to the start of the course

For more information, visit gov.uk/advanced-learner-loan