Access to HE Diploma:
Guidelines for HE admissions staff
November 2012 (for 2013 entry cycle)1
(1) General considerations and update
1 Changes to the Access to HE qualification
QAA has made no changes to the Access to HE Diploma for 2012-13 that will affect students' outcomes or
achievements or how these are recorded, in 2013.
• Since 2010, Access to HE Diplomas have been awarded with unit grades of Pass, Merit or Distinction,
based on achievement of a standard 60-credit requirement. This is the current model.
• In 2009 (and, in a small number of exceptional cases, in 2010), Access to HE Diplomas were awarded
without grades, based on achievement of the standard 60-credit requirement.
• Before 2009, Access to HE certificates were awarded. No common format applied to titles; there
were no national agreements about credit (so different numbers of credit were required on different courses). Likewise, any grades awarded before 2009 were awarded on the basis of local agreements only: there is no relationship between any grades that may have been awarded before 2010 and grades awarded as part of the current national grading scheme for Access to HE.
The qualification specification is currently being reviewed and QAA will consult on proposals for changes early in 2013. Any changes to the specification will not affect requirements relating to students' achievement of the Access to HE Diploma in 2012-13.
2 Awards and certification
Access Validating Agencies (AVAs) licensed by QAA, are the awarding bodies for the Access to HE
Diploma. All current AVAs are listed at www.accesstohe.ac.uk/avas/contacts.asp. All approved Access to HE
providers and recognised courses are listed on QAA's Access courses database www.accesstohe.ac.uk.
Successful Access to HE students are awarded an Access to HE Diploma. Diplomas issued by different AVAs
differ in appearance, but all include QAA's Access to HE logo and the words 'recognised by the Quality
Assurance Agency for Higher Education'. All students are also issued with an achievement transcript which
lists all units completed, with the grade, level and number of credits awarded for each. Any concerns
about the legitimacy of evidence of certification should be referred to QAA.
3 Results confirmation
In December 2011, the Supporting Professionalism in Admissions (SPA) Programme established a project
to explore the possibility of making Access to HE Diploma results available to HE institutions (HEIs) via the
UCAS Awarding Body Linkage (ABL) process. This brings Access to HE Diploma students into line with
other students whose qualification results are transmitted automatically to HEIs via ABL, and ensures HEIs
can confirm offers to Access to HE Diploma students in a timely way. In August 2012, a small number
of AVAs transmitted Access to HE Diploma pass/fail statements to UCAS, for transmission to HEIs, as part
of a pilot study. SPA, UCAS, QAA and the AVAs are currently working towards the transmission of grade
profiles to UCAS, for onward transmission to HEIs. It is hoped that these grade profiles will be transmitted
to HEIs via the UCAS ABL in August 2013.
1 These Guidelines update and replace previous guidelines published by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) for HE admissions staff about the
Access to HE Diploma. All current guidance documents and other information about Access to HE are available at www.accesstohe.ac.uk/hestaff.
Guidelines for HE admissions staff November 2012
4 ABB+ equivalence
Individual HEIs will determine what level of performance is appropriate for their own admissions purposes
and how that relates to requirements for other qualifications. The list of high-grade (ABB+) equivalences
published by HEFCE in July 2012 for use in relation to student number controls in 2013, set a level of
equivalence for achievement on the Access to HE Diploma at 'Overall pass: must include 45 credits at level
3, of which 30 must be at Distinction and 15 credits at Merit or higher'. Please note HEFCE's statement:
Our list of high-grade equivalences has [therefore] been developed solely for the purpose of operating an SNC [student number control]. It is not a comprehensive or exhaustive assessment of students' prior attainment, and we consider it too restrictive to use for other purposes, such as determining the suitability of individual applicants, or their eligibility for scholarship, bursary or fee waiver schemes. It is not intended as HEFCE's definitive view on the equivalences of all grade/qualification combinations.2
Examples of ways in which high-grade achievement might be expressed in entry requirements or for making offers to Access to HE students are given in guidance document (3) Approaches to setting entry requirements and conditional offers.
5 UCAS Tariff
The Access to HE Diploma is not included in the UCAS Tariff, because the Tariff methodology cannot be
applied to a qualification like the Access to HE Diploma, which has a high degree of local determination
2 HEFCE (July 2012) Student number controls and teaching funding in 2013-14 and beyond: Summary of responses to consultation and decisions made
, paragraph 99,
available at: www.hefce.ac.uk/media/hefce/content/pubs/2012/201219/2012_19.pdf
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education
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Guidelines for HE admissions staff November 2012
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