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No better time to access higher education

22 June 2016

In light of the recent news that record numbers of Access to HE students progressed to degree-level study last year*, and the upcoming changes to the Advanced Learner Loan to increase accessibility to higher level study, Gloucestershire College is urging those who missed out on the chance to go to university to consider this route to improve their career prospects.

TES  reported last week that almost 26,000 Access to HE students went on to higher education last year – an increase of 10 per cent from the previous year – with 88 students graduating with the diploma from Gloucestershire College, across humanities, education, science and health and social care. 

Success rates in this area at GC continues to increase, up from 68% in 2010-11 to 92% in 2015-16, with many going on to study at Russell Group universities. This year alone top students are going on to study Anatomical Science at the University of Manchester, Physiotherapy at Cardiff University, Political Science and Law at the University of Bristol, and an impressive eight students have been accepted on midwifery courses too.

On average 90% of GC Access to HE students progress to higher education, with the remaining 10% tending to take a year out to gain further vocational experience or to travel, before applying for HE the following year. GC fully supports its Access students throughout the UCAS application process; helping them to update their personal statements and adding tutor references.

The Access to HE course is considered a ‘second chance’ for students who, for a variety of reasons, did not benefit fully from their previous experiences of education. It prepares people without traditional qualifications for university study and is valid for three years after completion.

Catherine Rogers, Curriculum Leader for Access to HE, said: “Our Access to HE course is suitable for anyone who has the desire to progress to higher education; most of our students are the first in their families to aspire to HE, while others already have degrees in subjects they do not wish to consider careers in.”

Some people can be put off by the cost of higher education and think they cannot afford the fees, however thanks to new eligibility criteria from August 2016, the Advanced Learner Loan is available to anybody aged 19 and above studying a Level 3, 4, 5 or 6 qualification, regardless of income or credit status. And the best news is that if they then go on to complete a university degree, they won’t have to repay the loan for the Access to HE course.

If, for whatever reason, they do not go on to university, they won’t have to pay back their loan until they are earning at least £21k – similar to the more widely known ‘student loan’ for university.

Catherine said: “The funding available for the fees means that no-one has to pay any money up front and the unique deal for Access to HE students – if they successfully complete the diploma and then a university degree, their Access fees do not need to be repaid – meaning that funding will never be an issue for applicants for the Access course.  Recent statistics show that Access to HE student numbers are increasing in UK universities. It is an incredibly successful and well established route into higher education.” 

Former GC student Annemarie Vicary, who is now Head of Planned Care at the Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “I completed the Access to HE course and then went on to complete my Diploma in Adult Nursing with UWE and a Master’s in Health Service Management at Warwick University. Without the belief from some of my lecturers – especially my maths teacher – and this course, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

“Following completing of my course, I became a general nurse and undertook a variety of roles at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust. I then moved into general management, following several years as a ward sister, then a specialist diabetes nurse. I now aim to become a Director of Nursing.”

The Access to Higher Education course is available to study at the Cheltenham, Gloucester and Forest of Dean campuses. For more information, and to apply for courses starting in September, visit

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