Julie Mizon, Access programme manager, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA)

Disadvantaged? We're still First class 

Twenty-six per cent of Access to Higher Education students left university with a First class degree last year, despite many of them having left school without the qualifications they needed to enter higher education.  

The 2017-18 Access to Higher Education (HE) statistics show that: 

  • 37,045 students registered to study for an Access Diploma 
  • 23,295 Access students were offered places to start university in September 2018 
  • 25.6% of Access students graduating university in 2018 achieved a First, compared with the UK average of 26.4% 
  • 50% of Access to HE registrations were to health courses 
  • 34% of Access students (over 8,000) entered HE to study nursing. 

'A student entering university through the Access to HE route is more than twice as likely as a student entering with other qualifications to be over 25 and from a disadvantaged background,' says Julie Mizon, who manages the Access programme for the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).  

‘They are also 50% more likely to have a disability or mental health condition and are three times more likely to be black than students entering from other routes. This shows the importance of Access in helping widen participation into higher education.’ 

'In addition, Access students demonstrate the learning gain that can be achieved through grit, determination and a commitment to succeed, matching the average university student almost grade for grade.' 

Today's report shows that 50% of Access to Higher Education registrations in 2017-18 were to health courses, with more than a third of Access university entrants choosing to study for a Nursing degree. 

More than three-quarters of Access students going on to higher education studied close to home, with north east and north west figures for attending a local institution particularly high at 90% and 84% respectively. 

'Access to Higher Education was designed as a flexible course with its roots in the local education and industrial community,' says Julie Mizon. 

'That was its foundation when it launched 40 years ago, and it's just as relevant today. We're working closely with the Access Validating Agencies that design the courses to make sure we're increasing provision in the areas with a projected skills shortage. 

'We want next year's Access students to be qualified and ready four or five years from now to work in the areas where they are most needed, such as IT, teaching and nursing and maternity services.' 

Access to Higher Education is a qualification that prepares people without traditional qualifications to progress to university.

Access to HE courses are delivered by colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and validated by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. 

About QAA: The independent quality body for UK higher education. We are active across the four nations of the UK and internationally in promoting the reputation and integrity of UK higher education. We work with industry experts and the UK higher education community to ensure that students get the higher education they are entitled to expect.

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