Access to Higher Education courses

If you’re thinking about studying for a degree but have been out of education for some time then it can be difficult to know where to start and who to turn to for advice. You may be worried that you don’t yet have the right qualifications to gain a place at university. Our advisers here at Choices can provide information on a wide range of routes into Higher Education. One of the routes most commonly recommended for mature students is an Access to Higher Education course.

Access courses are specifically designed for mature students. As well as offering an introduction to the subjects which can be studied at degree level, an Access course will introduce you to the study skills you’ll need at university, such as taking notes, writing essays and researching topics in the library or on the internet.

By the end of the course you’ll have gained all the knowledge and skills you’ll need to succeed in Higher Education as well as a recognised qualification equivalent to A level standard.

Is an Access course the right choice for me?

If you’ve been out of education for a number of years and don’t have the A level or GCSE qualifications you need to apply for university, then an Access course is an ideal way to get back into the study habit and could offer you an excellent route into Higher Education.

Access courses offer a route that is designed to be quicker and more appropriate for older students than the traditional A level route. An Access course will help you to develop good learning habits and sound study and time management skills. You’ll be studying alongside people who have similar goals and aspirations to yourselves in an environment that is tailor-made for adults. On many courses, the start and finish times acknowledge that older students sometimes have family commitments, so you may even find that they are designed to fit around the school run.

What types of Access courses are available?

Access courses cover a range of subjects. Some, such as Access to Nursing or Access to Teacher Training, lead to progression onto a particular type of course at degree or diploma level. Others such as Access to Higher Education are not tied to any one subject area but offer general progression to HE and include subjects which will enable you to choose from a wide range of degree courses. Most will include GCSE equivalent qualifications in English and Maths and you will probably also study Information Technology.

How long will it take me to complete an Access course?

Access courses can be completed in one year on a full time basis. Some two year part time courses are also available.

How old do I have to be to do an Access course?

Whilst there are no strict age limits, access courses are aimed at mature students who are in most cases over the age of 21. Other routes such as A level or BTEC qualifications are usually considered more appropriate for younger students. If you are unsure which route to take contact one of the Choices course advisers on 0121 331 5595.

How are Access courses graded?

Unlike A levels, Access courses are not graded. Students who successfully complete a QAA recognised Access course will receive an Access to Higher Education certificate. The criteria for this achievement have been set by the QAA (the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education) to ensure that successful students have been prepared for a course of higher education.

Birmingham City University usually makes offers based on the successful achievement of a QAA recognised Access course. In some cases, you may need to achieve a specific number of credits. We may also specify that a certain number of credits need to be achieved at a particular level within an identified subject area.

How will I be assessed?

You may be assessed by a variety of different methods including continous assessment through essays, presentations and assignments as well as exams.

Will I have to pay to do an Access course?

In some cases funding may be available. Contact your local Further Education college for information.

How do university admissions tutors regard applications from Access course students?

Because of the varied experience and skills that mature students bring with them, admissions tutors usually positively welcome applications from mature students who have completed an approved Access course.

Mature students come from all backgrounds and walks of life and have often worked or raised a family before applying for university. They tend to be highly motivated and perform as well, if not better than, younger students who have come to university straight from school.

Where can I find an Access course that suits me?

Access courses are offered by most Further Education colleges so contact your local college in the first instance. If you are not sure where to find your nearest college then try contacting LearnDirect on 0800 100 900. You can also search the UCAS Access course database to find a course near you.

Further reading

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