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From Dreams to Degrees: What is an Access Course? 

February 14, 2024
Sean Griffiths

If you want to unlock your dream career, but your qualifications are holding you back, you’re not alone.  

For many people, unlocking their dream career is not always a straight path. Life’s twists and turns might have steered you away from traditional educational routes, or you might have realised a passion for a profession you do not yet have the professional skills to pursue. 

Whether you find yourself longing for a second chance at higher education, a promotion, or the pursuit of your dream career, an Access to HE Diploma could be the key that unlocks the future you want. But what is it, how much does it cost, and where can it take you?  

Join us as we explore Access Courses at Middlesbrough College and discuss everything you need to know about studying an Access to HE Diploma! 

Table of contents 

  1. What is an Access Course? 
  1. What is an Access Course equivalent to? 
  1. What age can you do an Access Course? 
  1. Who are Access Courses for? 
  1. How long does an Access Course take? 
  1. What job can I get with an Access Course? 
  1. Access Course funding FAQS 
  1. The benefits of choosing an Access Course 
  1. Unlock your dream career with an Access Course at Middlesbrough College 

What is an Access Course?

An Access Course is a nationally recognised Level 3 course that enables people without recognised qualifications to get into University. For example, if someone does not have A Levels but wants to attend University, it will provide the qualifications they need to progress to degree-level study.   

Access Courses, known as Access to HE Diplomas, are available in a wide range of subjects, from Business and Nursing to Teaching, Computing, Policing, and more! 

Sean Griffiths, a previous Access to HE in Health Student, is now working as a paramedic.

Sean Griffiths studied an Access to HE in Health and is now working as a Paramedic. 

What is an Access Course equivalent to? 

Access to HE Diplomas are equivalent to other Level 3 qualifications like A Levels. They are recognised by Universities as an alternative to traditional academic qualifications. 

Is an Access Course a degree? 

An Access to HE Diploma is not a degree; it is a stepping-stone to a degree, equivalent to a Level 3 qualification. Access to HE Diplomas offer an excellent foundation in the skills and knowledge you need to study at University level. 

Access to HE UCAS Points 

With an Access to HE Diploma, you could earn a maximum of 144 UCAS points, which is equivalent to 3 As at A Level. Your Access to HE UCAS Points vary depending on the grades you receive for each unit you study. 

Will an Access Course get me into University? 

If you successfully complete your Access Course, you can progress to University to study a degree, higher national diploma, or foundation degree. 

What are the entry requirements for an Access Course? 

To apply for an Access Course at Middlesbrough College, you should be working towards a Level 2 in maths and English and be able to provide a good reference. Applicants will also need to complete a successful interview, which will include an online test. 

However, if you don’t meet the entry requirements, there’s no need to worry. We offer a range of pathways to help you get to where you want to be.  

If you don’t have a Grade 4 (C) or above in English and maths or are not working towards a Level 2 in maths and English, you can study Functional Skills before beginning your Access Diploma. These courses are free for anyone who is 19+ and doesn’t have a previous Grade C (4) or above in these subjects. 

Ellie Young studied an Access to HE in Health and is now pursuing her dreams as a qualified Midwife.  Here, she is pictured in her blue scrubs in a hospital setting.

Ellie Young studied an Access to HE in Health and is now pursuing her dreams as a qualified Midwife.  

What age can you do an Access Course? 

Access to HE Diplomas are open to anyone aged 19 and over. There is no maximum age limit to study an Access Course.  

Who are Access Courses for? 

Access Courses are perfect for people who want to return to education. This could be to achieve the qualifications needed to progress to University, switch careers, or to expand their knowledge and skills to gain a promotion at work.  

How long does an Access Course take? 

Access Courses take one year to complete. They are typically studied two days a week, from September to June. However, this can vary slightly depending on which course you study.  

At Middlesbrough College, our Access Courses are offered as either a daytime or evening option. If you choose to study a daytime course, you will study in College 3 days per week between the hours of 9am and 3pm. 

If you study an evening Access to Higher Education Diploma, you will study in College 2 evenings per week, between the hours of 5pm and 9pm. 

Can you do an Access Course online? 

At Middlesbrough College, we offer a Distance Learning Access to HE Diploma in Health that is studied 100% online. This means you don’t need to come into the College at all, giving you the flexibility to fit your course around your life and other responsibilities.  

Grant Robinson studied an Access to HE in Music and went on to become a Technician at Middlesbrough Town Hall! 

Grant Robinson studied an Access to HE in Music and went on to become a Technician at Middlesbrough Town Hall! 

What job can I get with an Access Course? 

Completing an Access Course opens the doors to various career opportunities and University courses, depending on which industry your Access Course is focused on.  

For example, previous Access to HE in Health students have gone on to study foundation degrees in Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, Early Childhood Practice, Social and Public Sector Studies and Youth, Childhood and Community Studies. They have then completed a relevant top-up degree offered at Middlesbrough College, before securing careers in sectors like: 

  • Nursing 
  • Midwifery 
  • Paramedic Practice 
  • Dental Hygiene & Dental Therapy 
  • Occupational Therapy 
  • Radiography  

We offer a fantastic range of Access to HE Courses, including Access Courses for Science, Computing, Business, Engineering, Policing, and more. So, no matter your dream career, we’re confident you can unlock the future you want with Middlesbrough College! 

Peter Banks studied an Access to HE in Computing and has since progressed to study a Level 4 HNC in Computing (Network Engineering). Here, Peter is sat at a desk with his laptop and various monitors operating.

Peter Banks studied an Access to HE in Computing and has since progressed to study a Level 4 HNC in Computing (Network Engineering). 

Access Course funding FAQS 

Is an Access Course free? 

If you are aged 19-23 and this is your first full Level 3 course, your Access to HE Diploma is completely free.  

If you are aged 24 and over and progress to University and complete a degree after completing your Access Course, the cost of your Access Course is completely written off!  

Do you get funding for an Access Course? 

If you are aged 24 or over on the start date of the course, you will have to pay fees to study an Access to HE Course. However, you can apply for a loan to help cover the costs. 

Advanced Learner Loans are easy to apply for and the repayments only start when you are earning over £27,295! 

How much is an Access Course in the UK? 

An Access to HE Diploma costs between £3,000- £4,000 in the UK, which is considerably cheaper than studying an additional year at University (frequently referred to as a year 0).  

After you have completed your Access Course, you can stay on at Middlesbrough College and gain a globally recognised degree thanks to our partnership with The Open University. Degrees are taught on campus and are up to £16,000 cheaper than many Universities! 

Sophie Gilmour studied an Access to HE in Science before going on to study Dental Surgery at Liverpool University. Here, Sophie is wearing a white labcoat that features Middlesbrough College branding and she has a microscope focused.

Sophie Gilmour studied an Access to HE in Science before going on to study Dental Surgery at Liverpool University. 

Can you work and do an Access course at the same time? 

Yes, Access to Higher Education Diplomas are designed to be flexible. This means that individuals who work or have other commitments can still study an Access course. 

Many people find the prospect of returning to education daunting, especially when juggling family life and work commitments. However, Access to HE Courses are designed with this in mind, recognising the diverse needs of adult learners who may need to balance work, family life, and education. 

While it requires effective time management and dedication, many people, just like you, successfully study an Access to HE Diploma alongside employment, advancing their careers! 

The benefits of choosing an Access Course 

Choosing an Access to HE Diploma offers many benefits for individuals who want to further their education, change careers, or pursue personal development like a promotion. 

These courses are flexible to fit around family life and other commitments, cost-effective, and tailored for adult learners. They are also widely recognised by Universities, and you do not need to have studied or worked in the industry you wish to break into! 

You can read more about the benefits of choosing an Access Course at Middlesbrough College on our blog! 

Martin Wilkinson is pictured standing smiling outside of the MC Digital building at our campus. Martin studied an Access to HE in Creative Industries (Games & Media Production) before progressing his studies at University Centre Middlesbrough!

Martin Wilkinson studied an Access to HE in Creative Industries (Games & Media Production) before progressing his studies at University Centre Middlesbrough! 

Unlock your dream career with an Access Course at Middlesbrough College 

Whether you dream of becoming a nurse, engineer, teacher, or other high-level profession, an Access to HE Diploma can help get you there. 

These flexible, part-time courses are perfect for adults who want to return to education and will give you the qualifications you need to get into University and unlock your dream career. 

At Middlesbrough College, we offer a fantastic selection of Access to HE courses across a wide range of subjects, each featuring built-in support and a learning style that fits in with your life. Plus, if you progress to University and complete your degree, your Access Course is completely free! 

Explore Access to HE Courses and unlock a new future with Middlesbrough College! Or, if you want to know more about one of our courses, studying with us, or life as an Access to HE student, why not come along to one of our Open Events

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