The ‘change’
starts here!

Access to Higher Education (HE) Diplomas provide opportunities for adults without the relevant formal qualifications to go to university and pursue their ambitions.

Similar to A levels, they are full level 3 qualifications and around 40,000 students take advantage of this entry route to university every year. Access to HE Diplomas can be completed in one year studying at your local college. It will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to succeed at university. As the course is designed for adults, the study hours can fit around work and childcare commitments.

If you didn't gain the necessary qualifications to get into university or you're not sure what career path that you would like to take, an Access to HE Diploma is a great way to get you on the right path. It could be a life-changer for you!

It is never too late to return to learning. Find out more about courses starting in September 2020 below.


Here are all the available CAVA courses. You can filter by your region or local college to see which courses are available.


What is Access to Higher Education?

Student stories

“After raising a family I decided to pursue my ambition to go to university. The course was intense (five days a week), but this helped the class to forge strong relationships and work together. The course overall was fantastic, there was ample support from tutors, and I received excellent feedback on my first assignment, which really boosted my confidence. I’m now in my final year of a criminology degree, with further ambitions to apply to work in the probation service.” - Jennifer, Access to HE Diploma (Social Science)

“I chose an Access course after deciding A Levels weren’t really for me. The Access course [at West Notts] was great as it gave me the skills and knowledge needed to progress on to university- level study. I’m now in my second year of a law degree at Sheffield Hallam University, with the aim of becoming a solicitor.” - Georgina, Access to HE Diploma (Business and Law)


What is #OneLifeChangingYear and CAVA?
#OneLifeChangingYear is a campaign run by the Cambridge Access Validating Agency (CAVA) to raise awareness of Access to HE Diplomas. CAVA validates, quality assures, and awards Access to HE Diplomas at 30+ colleges across England.
An Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification which prepares students for studying at university. It is designed for people who would like to study in higher education but who left school without qualifications such as A levels. The Diploma is recognised by all universities and higher education colleges as the entry standard to a degree programme
Access to HE students have perhaps missed out on education and left school to get a job or have a family. Formal qualifications are not necessarily required to get onto an Access to HE course, and age is not a barrier. Your life experience will be valuable on the course.
You do not need any qualifications to enrol on an Access to HE courses. However individual colleges may have their own entry requirements (often English/Maths GCSE).
Most Access to HE Diplomas can be completed in a year or less. Colleges try to be as flexible as possible: why not check with your local college to find out what choices they can offer?
Most courses start in September each year but some offer the opportunity to join at different times.
There will normally be an application form and an interview. Most colleges have Open Days where you can find out more. Contact your local college about a course and how to join.
Courses are often free for 19-24 year olds. Students over the age of 24 can obtain an Advanced Learner Loan which can be written off if the degree is completed.
Please visit the courses area of the CAVA website This lists the subjects available and the colleges in your area that run them.
The Access to HE Diploma was added to the UCAS tariff for all courses starting from September 2017 onwards.

Further information is available via this link.
The QAA have some useful information about the Access to HE Diploma on their website – Everything you need to know about the Access to HE Diploma.