The London Access Courses Directory

The London Access Courses Directory is a guide to programmes of study available to adults seeking entry to higher education. This directory has been compiled and produced by the Open College Network London Region (OCNLR), with the co-operation of the colleges and Access course tutors, as part of its strategy to improve access to higher education for London’s adults.

The Directory has two major sections:

1. an alphabetical listing of the colleges providing Access to HE Diplomas in London, together with contact information, description of the college, some general information on services and a list of Access to HE courses offered;
2. a subject-based index identifying colleges offering courses in subject areas.

General information

Over the last twenty years Access programmes have been specially designed to provide new opportunities for adults to gain the skills and knowledge needed to progress to higher education. All are designed for adults who have benefited least from the education system in the past. Access to HE courses provide adults with a recognised entry route into higher education in the UK to study for a degree or professional qualification.

The courses are designed to support adults back into education and are available for those who may have few, if any, formal qualifications and may have thought that they had missed any opportunity to go to university.

There is no typical Access learner because students come from a broad age range, varied backgrounds and from different ethnic groups, and share a wish and a potential to study successfully for a degree or professional qualification.

Students successfully completing a validated Access programme will receive an Access to HE Diploma accepted by higher education institutions in the UK.

The Access to HE Diploma: new qualification and credit specification

Access programmes listed in The London Access Courses Directory are validated within the national framework managed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), the national body that monitors standards in higher education. From September 2008 all Access courses have been required to operate the same national credit target and specification.

The new Access to HE Diploma qualification requires that all students, regardless of the Access course they study, achieve 60 credits to be awarded the qualification, of which a minimum of 45 must be achieved at level 3. The Access to HE Diploma is a graded diploma. The grading is based on a standard model of unit grading, with all level 3 units contributing towards the Diploma qualification graded at Pass, Merit or Distinction. A qualification grade profile will be issued along with the Diploma certificate. There is no overall qualification grade.

In addition to the Diploma certificate and grade profile, students also receive credits for the learning they have achieved throughout the programme. Students can therefore achieve credits even if they have to leave the programme early for any reason. It also means that students can follow a more flexible learning programme, accumulating credits over a longer period.

OCNLR is an Access Validating Agency (AVA) for the recognition and approval of Access programmes to Higher Education within the national framework managed by the QAA. Most OCNs are licensed members of the National Open College Network (NOCN) and use the same credit framework. Credits issued in London are transferable to other OCNs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Length and attendance

Access programmes vary in length and in their mode of delivery to suit the different groups of learners for which they are designed. Most courses can be completed within one year of full-time study. The majority of courses run during the day over three terms for one year, but some run in the day and/or evening over one or two years. Several are very flexible and offer students the opportunity to extend their studies over a longer period, to follow particular pathways within a single programme or to study modules in a number
of different institutions.


Applications can be made at any time, but it is advisable to apply early (from one year before the programme starts). The academic year normally starts in September. Open evenings are held for many programmes and at these you can find out more about those in which you are interested.
During an open evening, you can meet the programme tutor and also current students. You will need to contact colleges directly for details.

Childcare facilities are available in some colleges and adult education centres, but they may not be available on a particular site. Since places are limited it is important to apply as early as possible if you need to use these facilities. Students with disabilities are welcomed. There are student services officers or advisers in colleges and institutions to give guidance on particular problems. However, some of the buildings are not purpose-built and may present difficulties for people in wheelchairs, but the facilities may change in the future in response to the requirements of new legislation. Always check what is available at your chosen college.


Access programmes are designed for students who have not had the opportunity to access higher education. You do not need any qualifications to enrol on Access programmes. However, the tutors will want to be sure that you can benefit from the programme and be able to cope with the future requirements of studying in higher education. You may be asked to write a short piece (on your ideas, interests or background, for example). For some programmes, your understanding of English or your numeracy skills will be assessed. For others you could be asked to produce some of your own work, such as photographs or artwork. On all programmes you will be interviewed before being offered a place.


Access programmes are designed to equip students with the skills and knowledge required to study at higher education level. Learning to develop ideas, write essays and make notes are all important parts of these programmes. In addition, you are introduced to subjects which will be covered more fully in the degree and diploma programmes. Class teaching is often informal. Individual help and tutorial support are available for all students.

English and Communication are core subjects on all Access programmes. Students who may need to improve their English language can be referred to classes provided by the college or institution.

The individual programmes vary; they can include practical work, field trips, visits, placements and sessions at a linked higher education institution. While Access programmes involve a lot of hard work, most students thoroughly enjoy developing their own interests and skills.

Students’ progress on Access programmes is measured in different ways. Students are usually assessed throughout their programme on the basis of their work on the programme and at home. A course profile may be prepared assessing each individual student’s activities or students may prepare a portfolio of their work.

Higher education programmes

Some Access programmes have links with specific higher education institutions or professional organisations and students who successfully complete these Access programmes are guaranteed places on the linked programme. Other Access programmes may offer a broad general preparation or a specific area of study and may have informal links with higher education institutions without having places reserved. Higher education programmes vary in length. A full-time diploma takes two years and a full-time degree usually lasts three years although certain programmes such as teaching or speech therapy can take longer.

Financial support while studying

We strongly recommend that potential students get advice and information on funding their programme of study. This information will allow realistic consideration of budgetary and management issues, ultimately helping to prevent disappointment or failure because of financial constraints. Student services officers at the college to which you are applying or local careers services will be able to advise you on these matters.