An Access course is more correctly termed the Access to Higher Education Diploma. Access courses have been around in the UK since the 1970s, and their primary function is to prepare a student of any age to enter university and study for a degree.More than 27,000 diplomas were awarded in the UK in 2011.
Access courses are aimed at mature students who may not have A Levels, or may have achieved these qualifications so long ago that they are no longer recognised as entrance criteria by the universities. Around 53% of Access students are aged 25 or older.
Does age matter?
Age is no barrier to Access courses. This writer completed her Access course at the age of 45, and there are Access students attending universities who are in their sixties and early seventies. Suitability for admission to Access courses is determined on the student’s commitment to learning. Anything you may or may not have done in the past is irrelevant. In essence, an Access course is a fresh start, and a gateway to learning new skills.
What does the coursework consist of?
Access courses consist of a number of study modules that are relevant to the degree you ultimately wish to pursue. Study skills is a major part of the course. You will learn how to read and research effectively, how to make presentations, and how to approach note taking, course work and revision, among other things. These skills will equip you for successful study at university, and help you build the confidence to tackle our course.
How much study time is involved?
Access courses consist of up to 16 hours of college-based study per week, as well as private study to back up the formal lessons. It’s also possible to complete an Access course by distance learning, although the interaction with fellow mature students who are also embarking on formal study – possibly for the first time in many years – is a valuable component of the course.
Access courses usually start in September and continue until June, so they are completed in a single academic year. However, it is possible to spread the course over two years if you wish to work while you study.
What courses are available?
There are over 1,000 Access courses available in the UK. A search of the recognised courses on the database will help you to find suitable courses in your area. Access courses cover sciences, medicine and health care, education, social sciences, law, travel and tourism and arts and humanities.
Access course providers organise recruitment sessions and open days where you can discuss your own course requirements and tailor them to your particular needs and interests. It’s worth taking the time to select your course carefully, based on the degree you want to pursue and your future career preferences.
If you have reached a crossroads in your professional or personal life, or if you want to fulfill a long-held ambition to achieve a university degree, an Access course can equip you for effective study and help you build the confidence you need to thrive at university. There is no ‘sell by date’ on the diploma – you can complete your Access course, and then take a year or two to decide on how you want to use the qualification.
Access is a flexible gateway to higher education that can be tailored to suit all ages and levels of ability and experience. It ‘does what it says on the tin,’ allowing access to higher education to people from all walks of life.