Skip to main content | section navigation
You are in :
HEFCE

May 2006/16 (web only)
Issues paper

This report is for information


Pathways to higher education

Access courses

This report describes the attributes, progression to higher education, achievement within higher education and outcomes after graduation of students who have undertaken access courses. These courses, first established in the late 1970s, remain an important route into higher education for mature entrants: one in four first-time mature entrants to full-time degree programmes still enter via an access course.


To: Heads of publicly-funded higher education institutions in the UK
Heads of publicly-funded further education colleges in the UK
Of interest to those responsible for: Student data, Widening participation, Learning and teaching
Reference: 2006/16
Publication date: May 2006
Enquiries to: Mark Gittoes
tel 0117 9317052
e-mail m.gittoes@hefce.ac.uk

Contents and executive summary (read on-line)



Contents

  • Summary
  • Introduction
  • Sources and definitions
  • Trends in student numbers
  • Attributes
  • Progression from access courses to higher education
  • Achievement in higher education
  • After graduation: employment outcomes
  • Discussion and conclusions
  • References
  • Annex A: Cohort definitions
  • Annex B: Outline of overall linking process
  • Annex C: Paths of progression
  • Annex D: Universities and colleges with a QAA-recognised access course in 1998-99
  • Annex E: Extended tables
  • Annex F: Employment categories
  • List of abbreviations

Executive summary

Purpose

1.    To describe the attributes, progression to higher education, achievement within higher education, and outcomes after graduating of students who have undertaken access courses.

Key points

2.    'Access to Higher Education' courses, first established in the late 1970s, remain an important route into higher education for mature entrants. Though growth in student numbers has been modest in recent years, one in four first-time mature entrants to full-time degree programmes still enter via an access course.

3.    We have taken the cohort of students who took access courses in 1998-99 and followed them through further study. This was the most recent cohort for whom, we were able to describe patterns of progression into and through higher education.

4.    It was found that, of those starting an access course, more than half continue with some formal study, with 39 per cent on degree or other undergraduate programmes. Typically, the progression from access course to higher education involves a move from a further education college to a higher education institution (HEI). Though the access course students tend to choose an HEI near to their home, this does not mean that students on the same access course programme go to the same HEI. The average one-year access course group will have students going to about 12 different institutions to study at higher education level.

5.    Of those who go on to higher education from access courses, most go onto full-time degree courses. They study a wide range of subjects, with 'subjects allied to medicine' being the most popular.

6.    Two-thirds of these students from access courses on three or four year full-time degree programmes graduate within five years. This proportion compares favourably with other 'non A-level' entrants. Further, six months after graduating, of those employed, 78 per cent were in 'graduate' jobs.

7.    Given these achievements, we need to consider what potential exists to develop the 'access course' route? Policies are now in place to secure the funding, address the issue of fees and ensure wider recognition of access course qualifications. Together these have the potential to enable access course provision to make an even greater contribution to increasing and widening participation.

Action required

8.    No action is required in response to this document.