Access to Higher Education Diploma – making the journey to University affordable and fun!


People of all age groups and backgrounds study the Access to Higher Education Diploma at Fircroft College.

The Access to Higher Education Diploma provides an affordable, alternative route to university for people without formal qualifications.

Many would-be students think that the only way into university is via A-Levels, or vocational equivalents such as BTEC and NVQ.

Other people rule out university because they think they lack the academic ability, social skills or may feel they’re too old.

The Access to Higher Education Diploma banishes these myths, enabling people of all ages and backgrounds to study a nationally recognised pre-university qualification.

Each year at Fircroft, the access course brings together a wonderfully diverse group of people from across the UK. Every student has a unique story to tell, from those who’ve overcome personal challenges to older people who want to keep learning throughout retirement.

Studying the access diploma costs less than you may think, as there’s generally more financial assistance available than traditional pre-university qualifications.

Tuition fees are free if you’re aged between 19 and 23 and don’t have a full BTEC or NVQ Level 3 qualification. You may also be eligible for a living allowance, childcare provision and travel costs.

Other financial benefits include:

– All students receive help with living costs regardless of age.

– Residential students receive free meals and an additional living allowance.

– Non-residential students receive a free lunch and help towards childcare costs.

For full details of financial assistance available, please take a look at the Fircroft website.

Apart from a fulfilling learning experience, all students enjoy a varied range of social, leisure and sporting activities at Fircroft. These extra-curricular activities complement the learning experience, by helping students to unwind, get to know each other and reflect on the day’s study.

At the end of the Access course, you’ll have earned a qualification recognised by all UK universities, including the prestigious ‘red-brick’ institutions.

In less than 9 months, the Access to Higher Education Diploma can transform your education and career prospects by preparing you for undergraduate study and beyond.

To learn more about how our Access to Higher Education Diploma can help you gain a university place, please contact one of our friendly team on 0121 472 0116 or visit the access section of our website.



The ILM Award in Leadership and Management – the road to successfully managing people needn’t be ‘long and winding’.


At Fircroft College you can study ILM Levels 3, 4 and 5 at our Birmingham training centre or at a location to suit you.

The ILM Award in Leadership and Management enables professionals from all sectors to become effective leaders and managers.

Most managers would agree that the key to maintaining a successful organisation is keeping its people well trained and motivated (as well as keeping customers and stakeholders happy of course).

However, planning and executing the most effective training programme for individual roles requires careful consideration, whether it’s performed in-house or externally.

There’s a wealth of training and development resources available for all disciplines, but choosing the right one can be a confusing and time-consuming affair, particularly for inexperienced managers.

Sourcing suitable management training provides staff with the skills to lead and manage their team from the outset.

Many professionals continually develop their management skills with the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM).

The ILM offers the widest range of leadership and management qualifications and accredited training in the UK.

At Fircroft College, we have been successfully delivering the ILM Award in Leadership & Management at Level 3 for several years. Building on this success, we now offer Levels 4 and 5 as non-residential courses.

These qualifications provide the natural next steps for managers to broaden their skill-set and prepare themselves for a more senior management role. The awards are relevant to every sector, though Fircroft has particular experience in voluntary sector training.

ILM Levels 3 and 4 helps new and aspiring managers to get to grips with leadership and management and equips them with the skills to lead effectively at this level.

ILM Level 5 is targeted at practising middle managers preparing for senior management responsibilities up to Board level.

As well as offering ILM qualifications, Fircroft provides tailored management training courses to suit the needs of your organisation and your people. We run programmes from our training centre in south Birmingham or we can deliver courses at a location to suit you. We also offer one-to-one coaching to develop your management skills or general effectiveness at work.

To learn more about the ILM qualifications and the bespoke management training we offer, please visit our website or call one of our friendly team on 0121 472 0116.

10 Reasons To Choose Fircroft For Voluntary And Third Sector Training


We tailor our third sector training courses to the needs of the individual organisation.

Voluntary and third sector organisations usually have very differing training needs to other sectors, particularly when it comes to areas such as finance, governance and HR.

Training for these sectors almost always needs to be tailored to the individual organisation. For example, a large national charity will have very different needs to a small community trust.

If you’re considering approaching a training provider, it’s wise to check up on their credentials and previous work in the voluntary and third sectors.

At Fircroft College, we have several years’ experience of delivering tailored voluntary and third sector training in Birmingham, the West Midlands and across the UK.

Here’s 10 reasons why you might want to consider us for your training and development requirements:

         1. We provide a thorough initial analysis of your training needs to create a truly bespoke training programme.

2.  We can design a training programme, including content and format to suit your specific needs.

3. A choice of residential or non-residential training.

4. Our clients include well know names such as Mencap, Swanswell and Midland Heart.

5.  Our trainers have extensive experience of working and training in the voluntary and third sectors.

6.  Outstanding value for money – Fircroft is a registered charity so our pricing is very competitive.

7.  Modern facilities in a beautiful 6-acre garden setting.

8.  Flexibility on times and locations – train at our centre or we can come to your offices on weekdays, evenings or weekends.

9. We’re conveniently located just 4 miles from Birmingham city centre, with excellent road and public transport links.

10. Contact us anytime after your training has ended for guidance on further programmes.

To learn more about how we can tailor voluntary or third sector training to your needs please visit our website or call Zed Bhatti on 0121 472 0116.


Adult Education – the ideal way to boost your career prospects in 2015.


Fircroft students come from a variety of different backgrounds to progress their learning and skill-sets.

January is the ideal time to assess your current life situation and plan out where you want to be in 12 months.

However, it’s very easy to set a raft of ambitious goals in January, but by February, realise they were too unrealistic or impractical to achieve!

We’ve all been there…

One of the most beneficial goals you can set in January (or at any other time) is to improve your knowledge and skill-set for the workplace, or for further learning.

This can be particularly valuable for people who, for a variety of reasons, weren’t able to achieve their goals in education first time around.

At Fircroft College of Adult Education, our 2-3 day short courses are designed for people who want to broaden their knowledge and skills for work, or further study.

Some of our adult education courses are free of charge and students do not need any previous qualifications to study subjects that include:

–          Gateway to Learning – the ideal starting point for adults     returning to education. A chance to plan your learning path with a fully-trained advisor.

–          English and Maths – practical levels of English and Maths required for the workplace.

–          ICT – basic computer skills including word processing, internet, email and spreadsheets.

–          Preparing for work – giving you the advice, knowledge and skills to help climb up the career ladder.

–          Skills for further study – helping you to develop your learning skills to a higher level.

–          Professional Qualifications – including ILM Award in Leadership & Management and the Award in Education and Training

Many of our students enrol without previous qualifications and are understandably anxious about their new learning experience. However, anxieties are soon lifted by our friendly and supportive learning environment and students soon realise that everyone is in the same boat.

We also have the added advantage of being a residential college, offering all of our students a private room with en-suite for the duration of their 2 or 3 day course. You also get some stunning views of our grounds and serene surroundings!

Fircroft has many success stories, where students have overcome adversity in their life by choosing to study one or more of our short courses. Many of our students use the short course route to gain entry to the Access to Higher Education Diploma which has led some of our alumni onto red brick universities.

Read more about our student success stories.

We have short courses starting throughout 2015 – you can find out more on our website by calling our friendly team on 0121 472 0116.


Employer and employee training – get your people in tip top condition in 2015


Fircroft College offers a broad range of employer and employee training courses for all levels of seniority.

The late, business trouble-shooter Sir John Harvey-Jones once said “if you stand still in business, you’re dead”.

A very blunt, but true statement, entirely in keeping with the eminent business guru’s business philosophy.

In business, or any organisation, whether it operates for profit or social benefit, it’s people who will ultimately determine its success or failure.

All staff, no matter what their level or specialism, can benefit from continual employee training and development to progress their personal development.

If every employee is continually developing and improving their skills and knowledge, the organisation can only benefit as a result, and most importantly, its customers or stakeholders.

At Fircroft College we deliver tailored employee training courses at all levels from administrator to senior management and Board level.

Some of the employee training courses we offer include:

–          Voluntary and Third Sector training including Lay Assessors, Quality Champions and Equality & Diversity.

–          Essential Work Skills Training – improve your Maths, English and IT skills.

–          Communication Skills Training – become a more confident and effective communicator at work – improve presentation and meetings skills.

–          People Management & Support Training – learn coaching and trainer skills to maximize your team’s performance.

–          Institute of Leadership and Management Level 3 – Understand the role of a leader and  learn how to motivate your staff.

In addition to training and development, we have a long and successful track record of providing other business support services including equality and diversity consultancy, bid writing and facilitation services.

We have a state-of-the-art training facility in South Birmingham, which is easily accessible by car and public transport. Alternatively we can train your people at a location and venue to suit you.

Please visit our website for more information on our employee training and development services or call us 0121 472 0116.


How Access to Higher Education can transform lives as well as learning…



Our Access to Higher Education class of 2014 celebrate their achievements with many heading off to University.

The Access to Higher Education Diploma  provides the ideal stepping stone to University for students who haven’t got traditional qualifications such as A’ Levels or an NVQ.

Here at Fircroft, several of our students start the Access course with very few formal qualifications gained through secondary or further education.

The real value of the Access course is that it enables people to go on to University who may have previously thought it impossible.

In fact, for many of our students, life after access to higher education couldn’t be any more different to when they enrolled 30 weeks before!

Several of our students have transformed their lives, as well as their learning as a result of studying the Access to Higher Education Diploma.

Students like Shafiq Ur-Rehman, who before enrolling at Fircroft, had tried several jobs including factory worker and taxi driver.

Feeling unfulfilled and wanting to provide a better life for his family, Shafiq initially enrolled on a number of short courses at Fircroft. He then progressed to study the Access course, with the ultimate aim of reading Law at university.

Just over 7 months later, having passed with flying colours, Shafiq was accepted at the University of Gloucestershire to study Law.

Reflecting on his time at Fircroft Shafiq said:

“I had a great experience, all staff and my fellow students were brilliant…Read more

Another example of triumph over adversity is Ann Wall.  Ann struggled at secondary school due to an unsettled home life and worked in a series of unfulfilling jobs afterwards.

She also lacked confidence in her own ability, but plucked up the courage to enrol on a creative writing short course at Fircroft which started, in her own words; ‘an amazing journey’.

After passing the short course,  Ann enrolled on to the Access to Higher Education Diploma where she conquered her self-doubt and was rewarded with a place at The University of Birmingham.

Speaking about her time at Fircroft Ann said:

“I am one of the lucky ones who have experienced the great learning environment that is Fircroft College; it really is a special place. The tutors are…Read more

If you would like to learn more about how Fircroft transforms lives and learning, please see our website for more details or call one of our friendly team on 0121 472 0116.




It’s Enrolment season!10 reasons to choose Fircroft for Access to Higher Education


Fircroft offers a serene setting in which to study the Access to Higher Education Diploma.

August is enrolment season for thousands of potential students looking to boost their skills and qualifications in readiness for work or University.

The Access to Higher Education Diploma provides the ideal platform for progressing to University, particularly if you don’t have traditional qualifications such as A Levels.

The Access Course at Fircroft combines two enriching and complementary subjects; Social Sciences and Humanities, enabling you to broaden your knowledge in many related areas including:

  • History
  • Literature
  • Psychology
  • Social Policy
  • Sociology

But it’s not all about the qualification. Where you choose to study is often just as important a decision as the course itself. Fircroft provides a fully rounded experience of learning, socialising and personal development in a serene environment.

Here’s 10 reasons to consider Fircroft for your Access to Higher Education Diploma.

1)    Our Access course success rates are consistently 10% higher than the national average.

2)    89% of our 2013/14 students gained university places – some at redbrick institutions

3)    Fircroft is set in the stunning six acre gardens of a former Cadbury estate.

4)    We’re residential which greatly enhances the whole learning experience.

5)    Your meals and accommodation are fully funded and many rooms are en-suite – we also clean them for you!

6)    Our study groups are much smaller than larger colleges making it easier for us to focus on YOU.

7)    You will have regular access to a personal tutor to guide you at all times.

8)    Access to our fully stocked library 24/7.

9)    We’re just 4 miles from the centre of Birmingham with its huge variety of shops, bars and restaurants.

10)  We have a very active social scene with trips, events and activities organised throughout the year.

These are just 10 of many great reasons to make Fircroft your choice for the Access to Higher Education Diploma.

If you’d like to see more great reasons to enrol at Fircroft, take a look at our website.





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.



How the Access to Higher Education Diploma helps clear the hurdles to University


Access to Higher Education students pictured in the sunny grounds of Fircroft College.

Life throws up some challenging and indiscriminate blows at times and quite often these are faced by the most vulnerable in society.

Poor attainment at school, a troubled home life and low self-esteem are just three factors that can hold back educational and career progression.

Fortunately, pathways exist to help socially and economically disadvantaged people get back on track personally, academically and career-wise.

The Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification which helps people without traditional qualifications, such as ‘A’ levels, go on to University.

Access courses are available across a range of subjects including social studies, law, art, history and nursing, helping people to direct their field of study to a preferred career.

At Fircroft College we have some truly inspiring stories about how students have overcome serious personal challenges and turned their lives around by studying the Access to Higher Education Diploma.

One of those stories involves 37 year-old Louise Bradshaw from Birmingham, whose previous drug addiction prevented her from gaining a decent standard of education.

Determined to overcome her addiction, Louise enroled on to various short courses at Fircroft to build up her skills and took up a fixed voluntary nursing post at Edward Street Hospital in West Bromwich.

After finishing her voluntary contract, Louise made University her goal and enroled on to our Access to Higher Education Diploma in September 2012, despite having three young children to look after! After successfully completing the course, Louise went on to study Criminology at University and was recognised for her admirable efforts with a Helena Kennedy Foundation Award for overcoming obstacles to education.

Equally inspiring is Ann Wall’s story, who had very low self-esteem and confidence before she came to us a few years ago with an acute sense of failure. Owing to a dysfunctional home life, Ann had not achieved at school and embarked on a number of jobs that left her feeling unfulfilled.

After encountering the further stress of a marriage breakdown and severe depression, Ann realised life was passing her by and decided to embark on a journey with Fircroft that culminated in the Access to Higher Education Diploma. Despite feeling anxious and daunted during the early stages, Ann overcame these hurdles with the help of our support staff and went on to study at The University of Birmingham.

These are just two of the inspiring stories we have helped to create at Fircroft College of Adult Education and there are many more to read about.

If you’re interested in creating your own inspiring story by studying the Access to Higher Education Diploma at Fircroft please see our Access to HE page or call us on 0121 472 0116.

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