Access to Higher Education

Don’t have the qualifications you need to study for a degree?

If you are a mature student without the standard qualifications to enter higher education, this one year intensive course is for you. Our Access courses build the skills, knowledge and confidence you need to progress on to higher education in the subject area you’re interested in. These courses are recognised by universities across the UK and allow entry on to higher education courses in your chosen specialist area.

At Bedford College, you can choose from a wide range of pathways, which can be studied from as little as 12 hours per week for one year and lead to progression on to a higher education course to enable you to obtain a full degree. We are the largest provider of Access courses in Bedfordshire and each year 85% of our students progress on to higher education.

Access to Higher Education

Personal touch from our expert tutors
With small class sizes compared to universities and all the individual support you need to get back into education we will help you succeed and reach your goal. Our experienced tutors have been teaching Access and developing the programme over a number of years. Many of our tutors are industry professionals, helping to inspire your learning.

Degree-level courses
We offer degree-level qualifications in partnership with local universities. Once you complete your Access to Higher Education course, you can go on to study a higher education course at Bedford College, and then a final year at university to top-up to a full degree. Staying local while studying will help you reduce your student debt and will also allow you to study alongside other commitments such as family and work life.

Student destinations

94% of our Access students go on to study at degree-level at colleges and universities such as The University of York, University of Brighton and University of Greenwich. 

Source: Bedford College FE Student Destinations 2015-16

Outstanding support
We have an excellent reputation for providing strong student support and are accredited with the Matrix standard for advice and guidance. So you can be reassured that your time with us will enable you to grow and develop in a pastoral environment. You can expect small class sizes, where you are respected and treated like an adult and you will receive one-on-one sessions with your own personal tutor.

Access to Higher Education at Bedford College

Study now – pay later
If you’re aged 19 or older, a resident of the UK and looking to study an Access course, you will be able to apply for a low-interest Advanced Learner Loan to cover your tuition fees. You will only start to repay this once you’ve completed your course and you’re earning over £25,000.

Progressing from Access? 
If you take one of our Access courses using an Advanced Learner Loan and then progress on to a higher education course, your loan will be written off when you complete your higher education qualification.

How long are the Access to Higher Education courses and when do they start?

The first 6 weeks will be an Introduction to Access programme where you will learn the study skills needed to pass the Access to HE qualification. Upon successful completion you will automatically begin your chosen Access to HE pathway. Overall the two programmes will take 33 weeks to complete.

What qualifications and/or experience do I need to start?
GCSE English and maths are desirable; however we may consider candidates without these qualifications depending on an English and maths entry test where you will need to demonstrate English and maths skills at Level 2, in addition to interviewing successfully.

How much time should I allow for studying in and outside of College each week?
Typically you will need to attend College for 13 hours per week over three days. You will also need to commit to undertaking independent study outside of College for at least 12- 15 hours per week.

How will I be assessed? Are there exams?
We use a range of methods to help you achieve the targets needed to pass the course, including in-class assessments, assignments, individual presentations and an independent research project.

How much will I have to pay?
The fees are listed on each individual pathway course page. However, if you do not already hold a Level 3 qualification (such as two A-Levels or a Level 3 BTEC Diploma) and are aged between 19-23, your course will be FREE. If you do need to pay, you may be entitled to an Advanced Learner Loan or you can also take advantage of our Direct Debit option:

Advanced Learner Loan
If you are aged 19 or over at the start of your course you can apply for an Advanced Learner Loan to cover your tuition fee through Student Finance England. If you then go on to complete a higher education qualification after your Access course any remaining loan amount will be written off. So if you go on to achieve your goal of university study, your Access course will effectively be free! If you decide not to go straight to university, you’ll only have to start making repayments in the April after you complete your course and only if you’re earning £21,000 per year.

Direct Debit payment
If you choose to pay for your course yourself, we offer an affordable Direct Debit instalments option to spread the cost of tuition fees. Please note an additional £20 charge applies if you choose to pay by instalments.

How do I apply?
Choose a pathway you're interested in and then at the bottom of the page, select the 'Apply online' button. You'll then have to create an account (if you haven't already got one) and fill in the forms to apply. Once you have applied, we will be in touch to invite you to an interview with one of our tutors. We will then invite you to attend an English and maths assessment to determine the level you are currently working at. We will send you some pointers so you know what areas to revise, along with some useful websites to help you. There are two assessments (one for English and one for maths) and they last 30 minutes each. You’ll be notified of the outcome of your application by a letter from the College, which will detail what you need to do next if you have been offered a place.



I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I left school and I actually enrolled on a Holistic Therapy course at Bedford College, but then I decided to get a job in a completely different industry and worked full-time as an estate agent.  However, I still didn’t feel that I had found the right career path. I had always wanted to be a midwife, but I had thought, because I didn’t have any A-Levels, that I wouldn’t be able to go to university.  However, when I looked into it in more detail I discovered that the Access course offered me an alternative route to progress on to a Midwifery degree.

» Find out more about Nursing & Healthcare Professions (Midwifery) Access to Higher Education



I left school a long time ago and I’ve been working for St Albans City and District Council as a manager for several years.  Getting back into education has been quite a challenge.  It’s so different from full-time employment and you need to learn a completely different skill set to progress on to university.  However, there’s no doubt that the Access course has really helped.  I don’t feel nervous about starting my teaching degree at university now. 

» Find out more about Teacher Education Access to Higher Education


I always knew I wanted to be a social worker; it was just a matter of when! I have a caring nature and worked with elderly people for two years. It also runs in the family, as my mum took an Access course 20 years ago to become a nurse.

Starting the Access course marked a return to Bedford College for me, as I had studied Travel & Tourism here after finishing school and went on to work for British Airways at Heathrow. More recently I had been working at a GP surgery, where again I was in this caring environment, and had my son.

I really enjoy the Sociology element of the course, and some of the modules cover social work, which will help me at university, but I think just being around different people and making new friends at College will help in a career where I’ll be mixing with different people every day.  

My biggest fear was coming back into education after such a long time. I didn’t have any expectations but I can honestly say all of my tutors have been lovely and quickly relayed my fears; they’re so supportive and you can ask them anything.

I have a place secured at London Metropolitan University and it will take three years for me to become a qualified social worker. The Access course is the best thing I’ve done and I’ve recommended it to everyone I know. It’s good to challenge yourself! 

Ashley - Access to Social Science Level 3


Access to Teacher Education

When I left school I started an admin role with the Police, working my way up to research work after four years where I stayed for another eight years. The idea of teaching had always been at the back of my mind and it was working with children as a Beaver Scout Leader that made me decide now was the time to get started.

I contacted the University of Bedfordshire about teaching courses and they directed me to this Access course at Bedford College. The course will enable me to move on to the University’s Primary Education course which will lead to Qualified Teacher Status at the end of the three years.

 I really enjoy the psychology and sociology elements of the course and the different theories we learn. We also study child development, and everyone on the course has undertaken a work placement at a local school. We’re a really supportive group and enjoy working together on joint projects.

I want to make a difference through teaching and my passion is with primary education – most people remember their primary teachers more than their secondary teachers! I’m really glad I started this course at College. I’ve found learning easier this time around, thanks to the support of my tutors, and I now feel fully prepared for university.   

Rebecca - Access to Teacher Education