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Access to HE: Medicine Level 3 Diploma

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Key information

Qualification type

Access to HE

Course code



Level 3


1 year


Kings Road,
Reading, RG1 4HJ

Start date

06 Sep 2021

New and returning learners:

Please note that due to special measures we have put in place to make our sites COVID safe, we are asking all learners to enrol with us online. If you are unable to do so we can support you over the phone, simply call 0800 612 6008. Please do not enter our college sites without a prior appointment as we are managing the number of people on site at any time to comply with social distancing measures.

See information about the measures we are taking to keep learners safe while on campus.

This is the fast-track route to the healthcare profession you have always wanted! Get the skills and qualifications you need to get onto a healthcare course at university next year and start on your way to a career in the NHS or other related healthcare organisation. Prepare for university access within one year and progress into a career in the NHS or other related healthcare organisations.

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.  

The Access to HE: Medicine Diploma gives students the opportunity to progress onto degrees in physician associate studies, medicine*, medical science* and pharmacology.  

We have agreed with the University of Reading that graduates will have a secured progression route to their MPAS Physician Associate Studies programme with embedded placements throughout the programmes at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.    

MPAS Physician Associate Studies 

Students who complete an Access to HE Medicine programme to sufficient level are guaranteed an offer for the MPAS integrated masters degree at the University of Reading.  

Reading College is one of the first institutes to offer this programme and does so in partnership with University of Reading. 

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 

Funding available: 

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.

What I'll learn

The main aim of this course is to prepare students for study at university. Students will receive subject specific study skills, as well as tuition in subjects that are relevant to their chosen degree course. 

You will study modules covering biology, maths and chemistry. You’ll be trained to perform a number of day-to-day tasks including; taking medical histories from patients, performing physical examinations, diagnosing illnesses, performing diagnostic and therapeutic procedures, analysing test results, developing management plans and providing health promotion and disease prevention advice for patients. 

As well as developing subject knowledge, you will improve your communication, personal and study skills through a core programme that also provides one-to-one tutorial support.  

The Access to HE: Medicine programme will prepare you for a career in the emerging role of Physician Associate. 

Physician associates support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients and are currently being heavily recruited for. The purpose of the role is to provide a continuity of care for patients, as well as provide a stability to the medical workforce. 

Physician associates will usually start on Agenda for Change (AfC) pay band seven, which is currently at £37,570. Many posts are internships that start on band six, which is currently £30,401. 

As a physician associate, you might work in a GP surgery or be based in a hospital, but wherever you work, you'll have direct contact with patients with the opportunity to make a positive impact on their well-being. 

Working life as a Physician Associate 

You’ll be a graduate who has undertaken post-graduate training and you'll work under the supervision of a doctor. Most physician associates currently work in general practice, acute (internal) medicine and emergency medicine. 

Activate Learning has helped over 3,000 Access to HE students progress on to university. OFSTED rated us ‘good’ in December 2017, with many outstanding features for our Access programmes.  


How I'll learn

The programme is one year in duration and is delivered at college. This is a full-time course with 13 hours tuition per week, however you will also need to make additional time available outside of classes for research and assignment work. 

Teaching will take the form of lectures, discussions, group work and self-directed learning.  

Although the programme is intensive, it is structured in a way that recognises the pressures on mature learners. Many students successfully balance the programmes with work, family, and childcare commitments.  

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 deadline 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 support reference before they are submitted. 


How I'll be assessed

Access to HE: Medicine Level 3 Diploma is a one-year course that is validated and moderated by Ascentis under licence from the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. It comprises of 60 credits, of which 45 are graded. Students on the course study towards 3 credits in preparing to progress, 3 credits in academic writing and 18 credits in biology (15 graded), 18 credits in maths (15 graded) and 18 credits in chemistry (15 graded). It is a skills-based course with the academic content equivalent to A level standard (Level 3). 

You will be assessed through essays, structured questions, projects, presentations and examinations (30% exams, 70% coursework). All assessments are internally and externally verified through a rigorous and robust process to ensure that all grading is consistent, fair and provides developmental feedback.


The Access course has given me the opportunity to enter a career and a degree that I never thought I would be able to achieve. It's made me also realise that I have academic skills and that you can retrain at any point in your life."

Andrew, Nursing and Midwifery

Entry Requirements

Applicants must be aged over 19 and have been out of full-time education for a year. 

To be eligible for a place on this programme, you must have at least GCSE English and maths at grade 4 (C equivalent) or above, or a Functional Skills Level 2 qualification.  

*If you wish to go on to study a medicine degree, most universities require 5 GCSEs including English, maths and science at grades 7-9 (A-A* equivalent). Applicants are advised to contact their university of choice to confirm the criteria. 

You will have a numeracy and literacy assessment to check your suitability to study at Level 3 and may have the opportunity to retake either a maths or English GCSE alongside this course. 

Don’t worry, most students are successful in the assessment process. Take a look at these English resources and maths resources to help you prepare.  

If you don’t meet the entry criteria don’t worry, we have a range of one-year Pre-Access courses available to help you get started. 

There is a wide range of support available at the college for students, including financial support. 


How to Apply

You can apply for this programme online. Click on APPLY NOW and follow the steps below:

  • Register for our online service and verify your account
  • Log in to our website and click APPLY NOW on your chosen programme’s page to complete your application

As part of your application, you will be asked to provide us with your contact details, how your chosen programme fits with your future plans and if you require any extra support (for example, because of a disability, medical condition, learning or language support needs). 
Please include full details of your qualifications from your own country, as well as details of any English Language tests you have taken.

Printed application forms are also available.

Please contact our Careers team if you need advice and guidance to help you choose the right programme for you.