Is Access to Higher Education right for you?


Students learn  and grow in confidence together on the Access to Higher Education course.

‘Is Access to Higher Education right for me’…?

We hear this question a lot from prospective students contemplating their next move.

You may be asking yourself the same question or know someone who is…

So, to help you to decide, let’s start with a quick overview of what the university access course actually entails.

The course  enables people without traditional qualifications, such as GCSE’s and A’ Levels, to progress to university. The course runs for one academic year from September to May and the learning is modular, with students having a choice over certain areas. (We discuss this in more detail later).

There are no formal qualifications required to study the university access course, but colleges will assess readiness such as literacy and numeracy tests*.

Some students find it beneficial to undertake some preparatory study such as the short course range at Fircroft. Our Skills for Learning Programme has been designed specifically to prepare students for the access course, particularly if they have no previous qualifications.

Access to Higher Education students come from a variety of backgrounds and abilities – from young people who missed out on proper schooling and want to improve their employment skills, to older people who want to study for pleasure during retirement.

If you feel in anyway daunted or nervous about embarking on the university access course, then you’re definitely not alone.

At Fircroft, several of our students experience self-doubt when contemplating the course for a variety of reasons. Some have had very challenging personal lives which made studying and working difficult, while others simply did not succeed in education first time around.

However, during the first few days of study, the majority of students experience a quick growth in confidence which overcomes initial anxieties. With everyone ‘in the same boat’, our students gain confidence from one another, as well as from our teaching and support staff. T

his is where the residential side of the college works well, there’s plenty of opportunities to get to know each other and the staff and get involved in social activities.  At the same time there’s plenty of opportunity to relax in your own space .

All our students have a ‘commitment to learning’ goal in common and can influence what they study from a range of modules.

The main focus of the university access course at Fircroft is Social Sciences and Humanities, with subjects including Sociology, Social Policy and World Literature in English. This diverse range of subjects provides a rich overview of society, politics and cultural issues and our students consistently achieve grades 10% above the national average.

So for anyone pondering the question ‘is access to higher education for me’? – we hope this blog has made your decision a little easier.

If you would like further information about our university access course or to enrol for September 2014 please visit our website or call us on 0121 472 0116.


*Whilst you do not need formal qualifications to take the Access to Higher Education Diploma at Fircroft, you do need to be at a specific level. As part of the recruitment process we will want to know your level in English and Maths,  applicants need to be at least at Level 2 in both English and Maths, we will use an initial assessment to find out your level.

Universities may  require GCSE’s in English, Maths and/or Science.  If you don’t have these, you do have options:

  • Take the GCSE’s you will need before enrolling on an Access course
  • Take the GCSE’s after an Access course and before you go on to university
  • If you need only one GCSE, it may be possible to do this at another college whilst you are doing the Access Course.  This would stretch you considerably – only you will know if this is possible.

The benefits of studying for Access to Higher Education in residence



Fircroft students enjoying the serenity of our grounds.

In our last blog we discussed how Access to Higher Education has helped to turn lives around for people who never thought it possible.

Moving stories were highlighted about people overcoming serious personal and educational challenges to improve their life prospects way beyond their expectations.

Success stories like these happen as a result of our students’ determination, staff expertise … and a third, less obvious factor.

Students often tell us that their learning experience has been greatly enhanced by living in residence at the college.

Fircroft is located at the former home of George Cadbury Jr. – the college founder and grandson of the famous chocolatier John Cadbury.  The college is set in 6 acres of serene gardens and woodland, providing the ideal setting for learning, leisure pursuits and socialising.

Some students come to us slightly nervous or daunted by the prospect of embarking on a totally new learning and life experience.

Living in residence helps new arrivals get to know colleagues and teaching staff in a social as well as a learning environment, helping to break the ice and form relationships that often last a lifetime.

Comfort is key at Fircroft so all of our students have a large, private bedroom with en-suite, which is ideal for recharging after a stimulating day’s learning. We have an extensive library which is open 24 / 7 with several computer and internet stations.

Many of our tutors are available after normal teaching hours to help students recap and explore subjects as and when they need to.

And of course it’s not all work, work, work! Being a residential student means having a brilliant new social life with people in exactly the same situation. There are lots of ways to spend free time, from socialising in our large common room to playing pool or having a quiet moment in our prayer room.

Having a balanced social and academic experience helps our students to improve academic and career prospects after completing the Access to Higher Education Diploma. But don’t just take our word for it:

 “My time at Fircroft has been an amazing experience and a much-needed opportunity to achieve something in my life. It gave me confidence in my social and academic abilities, as well as improving my self-esteem about my future”

Scott Richardson – Former Access to Higher Education student. Scott went on to study a Counselling, Coaching and Mentoring degree at York St. John University in September 2013.

 “I feel that living here helped me significantly. It provided me with the resources I needed, with the library and the college computers, but also gave me the discipline I required to ensure that I worked hard to achieve my full potential, without unnecessary distractions outside of the college”

Paul Savage – Former residential Access to Higher Education student. Paul went on to study History the University of Birmingham in September 2013.

Taking up an Access to Higher Education course at Fircroft helps people without traditional qualifications to gain entry to University for a variety of academic and vocational subjects.

We also have a limited number of non-residential places for students with commitments which require them to stay at home.

To learn more about our access course please see our website or call us on 0121 472 0116 for September 2014 enrolment. We also have a number of open days so you can see our learning and leisure facilities for yourself.