Access programmes are a fast-track way for people who want to transform their lives through education, but who do not already have recognised qualifications. The diploma is equivalent to three A-Levels and acts as a gateway to university.
The intensive, one-year programme is structured to help learners who may be juggling other commitments, such as work or childcare, to get the most from their studies.
From bus driver to barrister
Buba Sanneh is from Southcote, Reading and worked as a bus driver while completing his Access to Business Professions programme. He has a conditional offer to study law at the University of Reading and his ambition is to become a barrister.
Buba says: “I was a bus driver. Everyone thinks ‘I’m working, it pays the bills’ but life shouldn’t be just paying bills. I thought, I need to be in control. With a professional qualification, you can decide what your destiny is going to be.
“I’m not going to struggle through the access (course) and university and not be a top barrister. I have to become the best. That’s what I plan to do and that is what I’m going to do.
“I thought it was going to be hard to get through this. It’s not. Nothing is easy anyway, but if you put your mind to it, you go for it, and Reading College is exceptionally good.”
Taking inspiration from her mum
Suhailah Wollery, from West Reading, is following in the family footsteps by completing an Access to HE Social Work and Counselling programme. Her mother also returned to education with an access course at Reading College and is now a nurse. Suhailah has an offer to study criminology and psychology at the University of Winchester.
She describes her time on the access programme as: “Exciting, different and a really, really good way to come back into education as an adult. The teachers are very understanding that we have a lot of responsibilities, more so than when you first come out of school and enter into college.”
On receiving her graduation certificate in front of her mum and her peers, Suhailah said: “I felt quite empowered, I felt like I’d really achieved something even though I’ve only just finished one year. And to be surrounded by so many other people of different ages, from different places, who have just gone through the same year as you, it’s amazing!”
Ambitions to write from the Student of the Year
Sam Pither, also from West Reading, was a chef before returning to education. He was named Student of the Year at the graduation event, is now going on to University College London and wants to become a writer.
He explains why he won the award: “I think it’s because I put a lot of hard work in. It was a slog, I’m not going to lie. There were times when I felt like quitting but I pushed through, and I did really, really try.
“It’s been the best experience of my life so far; it’s been the best choice I’ve ever made.”
The next Andrew Marr
George Scotland is from Berinsfield, near Wallingford, and worked part-time in a supermarket while completing the Access to Humanities programme.
His ambition is to work in broadcasting and despite completing work placements at Channel 4 and the BBC, he felt that he needed better qualifications to progress in this competitive industry. He has been offered a place at Nottingham University to study politics and international relations and eventually wants to become a television presenter.
George won the Best Academic Progress award at the graduation event. He says: “Although I’ve always prided myself on being quite knowledgeable and fairly in touch with what’s going on in terms of world affairs, at the start of the year I wasn’t that great at writing essays. I needed to work on my analytical side, and I feel like I’ve done that.
“I was always under the impression that I could go straight to uni, and that I’d be fine and be able to write an essay. But no, it’s not like that. You really need the Access course to give you the foundation to study at a further level.
“Pink Floyd said ‘we don’t need no education’. That was a lie! We do need education!”
Proud of our students
Peter Reynolds, Director of Career Pathways at Activate Learning adds: “There are many success stories from this programme and we are immensely proud of all our learners.
“We’ve got a team of incredibly focussed teachers who not only understand the curriculum, but the needs of adult learners and we have one of the top success rates in the country. It’s a growing programme with national recognition that transforms people’s lives.”
Activate Learning offers Access to Higher Education pathways in arts, business, science and nursing and social sciences across their Reading, Banbury and Oxford campuses. Access to Nursing starts at Bracknell and Wokingham College from September 2019.
Find out more about our Access to Higher Education Diploma programmes