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Never too late to learn – Reading College students celebrate Access to Higher Education success

01 August 2019

A group of motivated Activate Learning students from Reading College are celebrating achieving the grades they need for university or to enable them to have a major shift in career after receiving their Access to Higher Education results today, 1 August.

Over 200 students received results for the programme, a fast-track way for people who want to transform their lives through education, but who do not already have recognised qualifications.

Sam Pither, 24, is celebrating 45 distinctions after receiving his Access to HE Diploma in Humanities. Sam was Reading College’s coveted Access to HE Student of the Year and will progress to study English literature at University College London this September.

Sam said: “I am very excited to be starting at UCL, I was fairly confident of achieving my grades, but to see my results now in front of me in black and white, it is amazing. I am so happy.”

Charlotte Newton, 23, also studied the Access to HE Diploma in Humanities and now has the qualifications she needs to advance her languages career after achieving an impressive 45 distinctions.

When asked about her course, Charlotte said: “It’s given me the opportunity to actually get to university. I don’t think I could have done that otherwise. My only other option was to do A Levels as a private candidate, but that was not very viable and it’s really expensive.

“You get the opportunity to do a Level 3 qualification in the space of just less than a year. So, although it’s very intensive, it’s less daunting to do it in a year, as opposed to two for A Levels. It’s more coursework based, so it’s much more accessible for people who have been out of education for a while.

“You get back into the swing of understanding how the education system works and what is expected of you. There’s a lot less pressure if you were to go into A levels at an older age.”

Charlotte added: “The programme offers a much more similar experience to university in that we will use referencing systems and the same style of research projects, so it gets us used to the type of work that we would do. We have that advantage and we learn to refence and research effectively.”

Charlotte will progress to study Chinese and Japanese at Leeds University this September.

Buba Sanneh, 44, a local bus driver, studied the Access to HE Diploma in Business Professions after attending an Information, Advice and Guidance evening at Reading College.

He will now study law at the University of Reading in order to achieve his dream of becoming a barrister.

Buba said: “I loved the course, I came into one of the IAG evenings to get advice on what to study and was told about the Access to HE courses which would enable me to progress to university, I had no idea such courses existed!

“I would recommend it to anyone who wants to go to university but doesn’t have the grades to study an Access to HE course. I just wish I did it years ago! I am so happy, my family is delighted for me and I have had calls from across the world! I am so excited to start my law degree in September at such a great university.”

George Scotland, 24, completed the Access to HE Diploma in Humanities and will study Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham this September.

George said: “I loved studying here, the course was brilliant, the tutors are amazing, and I have made some great friends. I prided myself before I started the course on being knowledgeable but studying the Access to HE course has given me a great foundation in learning and has allowed me to progress academically, so I feel I am ready for the next step at university.”

An Access to Higher Education Diploma is equivalent to three A Levels and acts as a gateway to university. Although the programme is intensive, it is structured to help learners who may be juggling other commitments, such as work and childcare, to get the most from their studies.

Activate Learning offers Access to Higher Education pathways in arts, business, science and nursing and social sciences across their Bracknell, Banbury, Reading and Oxford campuses.

Liz Lang, Faculty Operations Manager for Access to Higher Education said. “Our Access to HE programmes offer a second chance to people who, for whatever reason, may have missed out on going to university at 18.

We are so proud of students who come to study on this programme with us. They often have to balance a family and work commitments but gain amazing results which will enable them to progress to university and a new career pathway.”

The Access to Higher Education Diploma comprises of 60 credits, of which 45 are graded and 15 ungraded. A distinction is the highest grade, followed by a merit and then a pass. Tariff points, or credits for each grade, are also allocated and can be used for university offers.

If you would like to know more about our Access to Higher Education Diploma programmes, please visit or contact Activate Learning on 0800 612 6008.