Student Advice

What is Access to Higher Education?

Ben Maples  · Nov 16th 2023  · 4 min

For students who have yet to study an undergraduate degree, there is a kind of degree out there, that is just for you. Enter the Access to Higher Education Diploma!


For students who left school without formal qualifications like A-Levels or mature students looking to study for a degree,the Access to Higher Education Diploma can help you.

Those who are looking to study a BA, a Higher National Diploma, the Certificate of Higher Education or even the LNAT will now have an easier way to study at the university of your dreams!

What are T-Levels?

What is the Access to Higher Education Diploma?

The Access to Higher Education Diploma is a diploma to prepare students for an undergraduate degree at university. The diploma (sometimes referred to as the Access to HE Diploma) is mostly aimed at mature students, but younger students who left school without any formal qualifications, like A-Levels can also take it. After you complete the Access to Higher Education diploma, you will have a qualification that is held in the same regard as A-Levels.

The course usually takes around one year of study time for full-time students and two years for part-time students. An Access to Higher Education diploma is often related to a contextual offer for students, as many students with a contextual offer end up trying an Access to Higher Education diploma prior to attending university.

What is Access to HE Diploma equivalent to?

Technically speaking, Access to HE Diploma courses are equivalent to a Level 3 qualification. This means that the work you do is generally about A-Level standards.

Previously, the Access to Higher Education also included GCSE equivalent qualifications as well, but that has since been dropped in favour of more of a focus on Key Stage 4 learning.

What are the UCAS Points for the course?

Your UCAS tariff points are hugely important for getting into university. For an Access to HE Diploma, the tariff points are anywhere between 48 and 144 points, depending on the grade you received from the awarding body.

What is the Access to HE Diploma grading system?

Much like with a standard BTEC, you are graded by four potential grades:

  • Fail
  • Pass
  • Merit
  • Distinction

There are obviously variants on that, such as Distinction with Merit etc, but these are the main grade schemes for the course. Access to Higher Education university places may be harder to come by if you haven’t got the right grade. Some universities are very adamant about the grades you’ll need to achieve.

What universities accept Access to Higher Education?

This will vary depending on where you apply. A lot of universities do accept the ACHE as a formal qualification and are happy to consider students with them as well. However, many universities do not consider the ACHE as a high enough level of qualification to merit a place on their course.

Lots of students want to know if Russell Group Universities accept the ACHE too. The ACHE is accepted by some Russell Group universities, but not all of them. The entry requirements for each university change every year, so if a university did not accept the ACHE one year, they may accept it the next.

Oxbridge have been known to accept Access courses too. Again, this may change depending on the year, but generally speaking, you should be okay.

What are T Levels?

Is the Access to Higher Education right for me?

This depends on you and whether you think the course is right for your career path. The courses are designed for students who have been away from education for a while or without the right qualifications to get into university.

That’s not to say that other people cannot study it too! Access to Higher Education courses provides students with a chance to learn new skills and to reach a new level for university study.

How hard is Access to Higher Education?

Difficult with vary from person to person. The course itself covers lots of different Access to Higher Education modules, including but not limited to:

  • Business courses
  • Computing courses
  • Engineering courses
  • Health courses
  • Humanities courses
  • Law courses
  • Medicine courses
  • Midwifery courses
  • Nursing courses
  • Science courses
  • Social Science courses
  • Social work courses

You can see for yourself that the course a wide range of topics, so choose an area you’re interested in and plays to your strengths.

Where can I do an Access to Higher Education Diploma?

The ACHE isn’t necessarily run at your normal college or school, there have to be approved vendors of such a qualification. You can find a list of accredited providers, using the Access to Higher Education website.

The website also has other information. You can check out where you can study your course as the place you can study may differ dependent on the course you’re looking for. Some examples include Access to HE Diploma Humanities, Access to HE Diploma distance learning, Access to HE Diploma Nursing or an Access to HE Diploma in Computing.

What is Combined Studies Access to Higher Education?

A Combined Studies Access to Higher Education is a bit like a joint honours degree. It’s a chance for students to combine one or more subjects with a primary-course selection. This allows students to have a higher grade in other subjects or possibly improve on a previous grade.

Combined Studies are fairly common for diplomas, so the ACHE is no different.

Is an Access for Higher Education Diploma valid abroad?

It’s unknown if it is valid in all countries. There will be a number of foreign universities that do accept it as a valid form of qualification. The best thing you can do, is check in with your university before you apply and see what they say.

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