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Access to Higher Education

Discover your fast-track route to university.

Want to be at university this time next year but don’t have the qualifications? Invest in yourself with an Access to Higher Education qualification.

Access to HE courses have been specifically designed for adult learners aged 19 or over who do not currently have the relevant entry requirements or qualifications to go to university. There is no upper age limit, so it doesn’t matter if you’ve been out of education for a period of time or wish to return to education to change career.

Access to HE qualifications are equal to three A Levels, giving you the UCAS points you need to apply for university-level study. Programmes will last one year (36 weeks of study), after which you will have the diploma, knowledge, skills and confidence to study at degree level. Throughout the programme, you will experience a variety of teaching and learning strategies to suit all learning styles, including essay and report writing, group work and presentations.

Don’t let fees hold you back! Study an Access to HE Diploma for FREE with an Advanced Learner Loan! If you take out an Advanced Learner Loan to cover the cost of your Access to HE Diploma and go on to successfully complete your Higher Education course, Student Finance England will write off your Advanced Learner Loan debt. Find out more about Advanced Learner Loans here.

Each year, around 95% of our Access to HE students progress to university on completion of their programme, going on to over 100 different universities across many different degrees and disciplines.

Read our student stories.

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Although the programme is intensive and demanding, it is structured in a way that recognises the pressures on mature learners. Many students successfully balance the programme with work, family, and childcare commitments, and find it to be a rewarding experience. Our friendly team are on hand to support you through your studies as well as any funding, career and learning support you may need.

Throughout your time on the programme, we will provide support through a personal tutor as well as our dedicated team of study support specialists who are on hand to give you extra support, if required. We will work with you to develop a study plan so that you can meet coursework deadlines and schedule study time around your other responsibilities.

We will also guide you through the process of your UCAS applications. This includes checking your applications and personal statement as well as providing the supporting reference before they are submitted.

Don’t let fees prevent you from following your dream of going to university! There are plenty of funding options to help you, including:

19+ Advanced Learner Loan: If you are aged 19 and over, and want to study an Access to Higher Education programme, you are 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 programme, 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.

Nursing Bursary: New and continuing degree level nursing, midwifery and many allied health students will benefit from guaranteed, additional support of at least £5,000 a year to help with living costs from September 2020. Read more about how it is expected to benefit more than 35,000 students every year.

Find out more about your funding options here.

Key programme features

  • one-year programme
  • supportive personal tutor
  • equivalent to three A Levels, which means you can achieve the UCAS points you need for university
  • designed exclusively for adults
  • widely recognised and accepted by UK universities
  • funding options available
  • designed to fit around your lifestyle


Our aim is to equip you to be successful in the job market,

whether you are heading for a job straight after your time at

college, plan to take a university-level programme first or are

already working in a part-time job.

Our pathways

Whether you want to work in the healthcare sector as a nurse or midwife, or in the legal, business, engineering, finance or education sectors, an Access to HE course can get you on to a relevant degree and into your chosen career.

We have an exciting range of pathways, with lots of courses to choose from, to help you to progress to university and beyond. Each course includes core modules to support you in skills for degree level study and subject specific modules.

Animal Management

If you’re passionate about working with animals, our range of specialist programmes will allow you to understand the behaviour and welfare of a range of species and enable you to progress to a degree level programme in the animal field.

Download PDF Guide


If you have an interest in the creative applications of art and design, you will be able to explore your potential with our specialist programmes and develop a broad range of skills needed to progress to university.

Download the PDF guide

Business, Accountancy and Law

Leading on to degrees in business, finance, law, marketing and human resources, this pathway will allow you to expand your knowledge in key disciplines.

Download the PDF guide

Nursing and Health

We offer a range of Access to HE Diplomas in nursing and health professions for those wishing to pursue further study or careers in a variety of allied health professions. This is the fast-track route to the healthcare profession you’ve always wanted!

Download the PDF guide

Science and Engineering

If you dream of a career in fields relating to science, engineering and IT then our range of programmes could be your ticket to success. You will acquire the underpinning knowledge and skills that will enable you to hit the ground running on a related higher education course.

Download the PDF guide

Social Science

If you’re looking to start a career in education, psychology, social work or counselling, our range of programmes will enable you to gain a thorough insight into these sectors and provide you with the skills needed to progress to university.

Download the PDF guide

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Industry partnerships

Access to HE students at Activate Learning benefit from our many links with leading universities, such as the University of Reading, Oxford Brookes University, the University of Winchester and Southampton Solent University.

In autumn each year, Access students take part in UCAS Takeover Week, with workshops run by universities on subjects such as personal statements and student finance.

We also hold two higher education fairs, with over 40 university exhibitors at Oxford and Reading.