The Next Success Story Could Be YOU!

1st July 2020 Date of publication

The Access to HE Diploma is an amazing qualification aimed at adults who may or may not have any previous qualifications but want to go study at HE to maybe become a nurse, doctor, teacher, lawyer, social worker whatever you want to be. Thousands have benefitted and lives are truly changed!

The Access to HE Diploma opens doors to your next career and the best news is that it could be free. If you take out an Advanced Learner Loan to pay for it and you go on to achieve your HE course, then the government will right-off your Access to HE Diploma loan. Only Access to HE students get this right off. If you want to change or start a new career, then studying an Access to HE Diploma is the perfect place to begin your journey. With subjects as diverse as health to the arts, your local provider will have something for you to help you take the next step.

There’s never been a better time to take the next steps to your future career. With many individuals rethinking their future and general outlook on life, now really is the time to make that change.

Read the case studies from former Access to HE Students on how the Access to HE Diploma has changed their lives. These will be updated each day in line with our social media campaign.

Success Stories from former Access to HE Students


Name: Andy Rafferty

Course: Access to HE (Health), New College Durham
HE Course: Paramedic course in Ambleside
Current Role: Paramedic, North West Ambulance Service

Ex-student scores an own goal with new career

Ex-Darlington and Hartlepool goalkeeper, Andy Rafferty, quit saving shots to save lives as he retired to embark on training to become a paramedic.

Rafferty experienced a huge high for Dover in the FA Cup against Crystal Palace in 2015 but gave up football to train as a paramedic. In 2016, Andy enrolled on the Access to HE Health Diploma at New College Durham to have a shot at a new career. He commented:

“I fell out of love with football, I wanted to do a university course so decided to go part-time. I told the manager I wanted to concentrate on other things and it’s the best decision I’ve made. I missed the lads but didn’t miss playing.”

After completing his Access to HE Diploma, Rafferty progressed to study a two and a half year paramedic course in Ambleside in the Lake District. Andy is now six months into his new job and has had a baptism of fire due to the coronavirus pandemic. He said:

“The workload has hugely increased. At one job, a patient was gravely ill and we were blue-lighting him to Carlisle. It coincided with the Thursday ‘Clap for the NHS’. Everyone was applauding and cheering us. It was emotional as this patient was very poorly and we were trying to get him to hospital quickly. It sounds a cliche but I don’t do it for thanks. I never gave it much thought. We’re just doing what we’ve always done.”

It has been a testing start to the former lower-league keeper’s NHS career. Attending 999 calls for the North West Ambulance Service has been a steep learning curve during a national health emergency but Rafferty has firmly traded saving goals for saving lives.

Name: Carys-Iona Lant

Course: Access to HE (Health), New College Durham
HE Course: BSc (Hons) Speech and Language Sciences at Newcastle University
Current Role: Speech and Language Therapist

When Carys-Iona joined the Access to Higher Education programme at New College Durham she appreciated the support from the tutors and the availability of good coffee! She described her time at New College Durham as fun, encouraging and inspiring.

She said: “I chose to study at New College Durham as it offered the most suitable access course for the health degree I wanted to do. Additionally I was very impressed by the tutors who showed me around the college and the on-site facilities. "The best thing was the fantastic tutor; he offered amazing support and encouragement". I loved my time at New College, ultimately I got the degree and the job I always wanted.”

Carys-Iona went on to study BSc (Hons) Speech and Language Sciences at Newcastle University and is now working as a Speech and Language Therapist in West Sussex.

Name: Louise Harris
Access to HE Diploma: Health, Calderdale College 

Meet Louise (pictured left) , Louise is a fully qualified nurse.

Abigail Gilbert, Curriculum Leader at Calderdale College explains "Louise joined our Access to HE Health programme in September 2015. She was a very quiet student who lacked confidence and wasn't convinced she could complete the Access to HE Diploma let alone become a nurse. Her worst nightmare was presentations - she was absolutely terrified of standing in front of a class room of her fellow students. Together we came up with various strategies to help slowly build her confidence and faith in her own abilities, this is where Access to HE comes into its own - Access to HE is not just an academic qualification it is a state of mind - it will change you for the better!

I am pleased to say Louise gained her place at university and is now employed as a fully qualified nurse and is considering a masters".

This is a direct quote from Louise;

"I'm a completely different person to what I was back then, I've gained confidence in myself that I never thought possible."

Name: James Buchanan
Access to HE Diploma: Health, Sunderland College
HE Course: BSc in Public Health, University of Sunderland 

James returned to education at Sunderland College as he wanted to completely change career, from running his own business to working in public health. Describing his time at college as exciting, challenging and rewarding, he is currently studying at the University of Sunderland.

He said: “After running a business, I wanted an entire change of career and Sunderland College offered that with their wide range of subjects.

“The lecturers were outstanding and the level of support from the lecturers and the college was really good. The best thing about the course was the variety of subjects that were taught across the length of the programme. “I loved the mixture of old and new buildings at Bede and the facilities were perfect for college students.

“I am currently in my final year of a BSc Public Health degree at the University of Sunderland and have recently received a conditional offer to continue my studies at MSc level. “My life has changed for the better and I am now looking forward to completing my degree.”

Name: Lisa Mark
Access to HE Diploma: Health, Northumberland College
HE Course: BSc (Hons) in Adult Nursing at Northumbria University

Lisa chose an Access to Higher Education course at Northumberland College as it allowed her to study on an evening while staying close to her home in Berwick. 

She said: “The best things about the course were the flexibility – it was based in my home town – and the range of modules which really enhanced my learning. It was enjoyable and character-building.

“The tutors were excellent, as was the relaxed atmosphere and great learning environment around campus.

“I am currently in my final weeks of studying a BSc (Hons) in Adult Nursing at Northumbria University and I have also been offered a permanent position as a staff nurse with Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust.”

Name: Adam Cummins

Access to HE Diploma: Social Care Studies, Stockton Riverside College
HE Course: Social Work Degree, Teesside University 

The change from travelling salesman to social worker might sound like a leap, but that’s the plan for Billingham dad-of-two, Adam Cummins (pictured left).

He’s quick to point out there’s more transferable skills between the roles than you might think. Talking to people from all walks of life was always among his favourite parts of the job. Plus, having previously volunteered in community support projects working with people in need, he said: “This brings those two aspects of my background together.”

Now off to study social work at Teesside University, he said: “I still can’t quite believe it when I say it out loud. It is funny because when I was in my 20s I believed quite strongly that university wasn’t for me.”

The deal breaker for him, now 34, was figuring out what he wants to do. Knowing what you are working towards makes all the difference and, he said, there’s a certain amount of focus that comes as an adult learner.

The Access to Higher Education Social Care course at Stockton Riverside College proved his route to success - a one year course preparing students for the demands of university study.

He said: “I didn’t know what an access course was before, but the experience was excellent and it couldn’t have been more perfect for me.”

Name: Lisa Earle
Access to HE Diploma: Humanities and Social Science, Bishop Auckland College
HE Course: Social Work Degree, New College Durham
Current Role: Senior Social Worker, Durham County Council

Lisa enrolled on the Access to Higher Education course in 2012/2013 Lisa explained "At the time I was going through a lots of personal ups and downs. I was a part time cleaner in a care home and knew I could better myself. I had always had aspirations to do a degree but had little confidence. I applied for the Access to HE course not realising how far it would take me. I remember that feeling when I sat while the tutur talked me through my first assignment grade. It was a 750-word essay about The Troubles. You told me I had achieved a distinction and that feeling has never left me. It boosted my confidence and made me realise I could go further. I passed the Access to HE course and got a place on a Social Work degree course at New College Durham. I also had offers from Sunderland and Teesside University."

Lisa passed her degree in 2016 with first class honours and got her first statutory social work position for Durham County Council in 2017. She is currently a senior social worker on the looked after children team and has won an award within the local authority for Learner of the year for completing my ASYE to a high standard (Assessed and supported year in employment). She has also represetned her Local Authority at a large social work convention in London and presented a workshop to a group of 60 people. Lisa said "I had no idea I was a capable of that and astounded that so many people were interested in hearing about my journey. I have even been interviewed by two newspapers and had my photo in the paper, it’s all because I decided to go to Bishop Auckland College for advice and enrolled on the Access to HE Diploma course.

Completing the Access to HE course has changed my life. I had no idea I could achieve what I have, I’m happy and in such a rewarding job. I hope this can inspire others to enrol on the Access to HE course and give them the confidence needed to keep going and change their lives too. Sky is the limit!"

Name: Laura Stobbs
Access to HE Diploma: Humanities and Social Science, Bishop Auckland College
HE Course: BSC in Psychology, Univerity of Sunderland
Current Role: Tutor, Health and Social Care, Bishop Auckland College

Laura was a Travel Agent for 15 years but decided that she wanted a profession instead of a job. Laura said " Initially wanted to be a Social Worker, however as soon as I was introduced to Psychology and Sociology on the Access to HE course at Bishop Auckland college I knew that they were the areas I wished to study. I completed a 3 year BSC in Psychology at Sunderland University (major psychology and minor in sociology) and completed with a 2:1. I then went on to do my PCET for one year at Sunderland Uni (which I obtained a level of ‘outstanding’).

From this I obtained a part time teaching job at Bishop Auckland college teaching Psychology and Sociology (with other subjects) on the Access to HE course and I have now secured a full-time position and become course coordinator for Level 3 Health and Social care. I am due to take over as Tutor and course coordinator for the Foundation Degrees in Health and Social Care and Education and Care in partnership with Sunderland University (levels 4 and 5) which is delivered on Bishop Auckland Campus over the summer.

The Access to HE course was a lifeline to me. It not only provided me with the skills and credentials to secure a place at University, but it provided me with a thirst for knowledge, a passion for progression, confidence in my own abilities and professional tools for life.

None of this would have been possible without the passion for teaching I observed and enjoyed and the endless support and encouragement of my Access to HE tutors. (Which 7 years after completing the course… I still receive)" 

Name: Grant Robinson
Access to HE Diploma: Music, Middlesbrough College 2013/14
Current Role: Tech Technician, Middlesbrough Town Hall

Grant  pictured left says "After being out of education for some time, I decided it was time to go back to college. I'd always had a passion for music, so when I came across the access course it was the perfect fit! Our tutors started from the basics, but thanks to covering both practical and theory, we were able to learn each aspect quickly.

The course helped me when it came to the next step and definitely gave me an edge in comparison to my course mates who hadn't studied an Access to HE course. Since graduation from university I am now working as a Tech Technician at Middlesbrough Town Hall where I control the lighting and sound at gigs and events and help with equipment and set up.

I'd definitely recommend an Access to HE course - you have nothing to lose and plenty to gain!"

Where can I study an Access to HE Diploma?

The following organisations below are approved by One Awards to deliver the Access to HE Diploma, please click on the logo to visit their website to find out more about the Access to HE Diplomas on offer:


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