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This guidance is supplementary to the official Access to HE guidance from the QAA (see Information for Higher Education Institutions).

Access Diploma: a summary of the qualification specifications

  • There is no overall grade for an Access Diploma nor is there a meaningful ‘average’ grade profile.
  • Grading is attached to individual units of assessment, each with a credit value. 
  • 60 credits overall need to be achieved.
  • At least 45 credits must be at Level 3 with the remaining 15 credits at Level 2 or Level 3.
  • Only Level 3 units within the Diploma will be graded.
  • Each level 3 unit may be graded pass, merit or distinction.
  • Each unit is worth 3, 6 or 9 credits.

Access to HE and the UCAS tariff

The Access to HE Diploma is included in the new UCAS tariff system. Learners applying to start university from September 2017 (i.e. studying an Access to HE Diploma in 2016-17) who achieve the Diploma will receive UCAS points based upon the the number of Pass, Merit and Distinction credits they achieve.

Learners who studied the Access to HE Diploma under previous specifications (Diplomas awarded before September 2014) are not eligible for UCAS tariff points due to the way that the Diploma was structured before the present specification.

Further information about how UCAS tariff points can be used to set entry requirements for the Access to HE Diploma can be found in the QAA toolkit for admissions tutors.

Making a meaningful offer using grades

There is no overall grade for an Access Diploma; when making a graded offer it is necessary to request either a volume of Level 3 credits at specific grades or make an offer using UCAS tariff points. 

Many Access learners are returning to education after a substantial gap and may not receive a ‘higher’ grade on their first assessments submitted in October, five or six weeks after starting the one year course, despite overall high achievement on the course. It would seem fair and reasonable therefore that offers are set which take into account the nature of the Access to HE Diploma (i.e. do not specify that all credits must be achieved at Merit or Distinction).

Offers can be made:

  • based on a specific volume of grades for units within the applicant’s Access Diploma; this can be either named unit titles or an overall volume of credits (for example, 15 credits at Distinction, 15 credits at Merit and 15 credits at Pass).
  • AND/OR

  • the Access to HE Diploma with a specific number of UCAS tariff points

Inappropriate offers include:

  • Offers requiring more than 60 credits.
  • Offers specifying more than 45 graded credits.
  • Offers requesting an overall grade (including a grade average or profile) or other pass mark (such as a %).