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.

Access to Higher Education News & Views

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