Access to Higher Education at Varndean College



What is an Access to Higher Education Diploma?

The Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma is a qualification which prepares you for study at university. The Varndean Access to HE courses are designed for adults who would like to study at university but who do not have the relevant qualifications, such as A Levels. Often these students have valuable life experience and work experience that enables them to go on to succeed at university and beyond, with a large number pursuing new careers and seeing changes in their lives that they had never thought possible.

What can I expect from the tutors?

Varndean College has been running Access courses since 1993 and our tutors are very experienced at working with adults who have a diverse range of educational, life and work experience. The emphasis of the course is to teach you the relevant academic skills needed for studying at university.

Do I need to have studied recently?

Many of our learners have not studied for some time. Access courses are designed to help to develop the knowlege, skills and confidence you need to prepare yourself for university. The focus of the course in on gaining academic skills such as how to research, how to critically read, how to write essays and how to give seminar presentations.

Learning in a second language?

We will need to check your competency in written English to ensure that you will be able to achieve your potential on the course. There will be a brief English test prior to your interview and we shall also need to check any EFL certificates. All units studied receive a grade and clearly written English is a very important part of the assessment process.

Taking GCSE maths and English first

As most university degrees now require applicants to have GCSE Maths and English (Grade C or above), we advise everyone to obtain these before starting an Access course if necessary. As GCSE’s are Level 2 and the Access Course is at Level 3, they are good preparation for the demands of the Access Course and subsequent degree level training. Anyone planning to study for a degree should check with the admissions department of the universities of their choice for specific requirements. Applications by adult learners are usually considered on an individual basis, taking into consideration previous education or experience.

Anyone planning to study for a degree should check with the admissions department of their universities of choice for specific requirements. Applications by adult learners are usually considered on an individual basis, taking into consideration previous education or experience.

Varndean offers GCSE Maths, English and Science to adult learners these courses may be booked through our Adult Education Department.


This course provides an excellent opportunity to gain a good grade in English at GCSE level. You will develop your understanding of how texts are written and how language (spoken and written) is used to generate meaning, and you will also study a range of fiction and non-fiction texts. This course is assessed by 2 externally examined papers in June.


This course is particularly suitable for mature students who need to obtain GCSE Maths for entry to teacher training or other university courses. The course consists of the following modules: Statistics, Number, Geometry and Probability and Algebra, which are assessed by means of two end of year examinations in June. With friendly, approachable and experienced staff, students get plenty of support and encouragement to succeed. There will be an induction class at the beginning of the course to determine which level (Foundation or Higher) is suitable for you.


This course is suitable for mature students who need GCSE Science for entry to a qualification like teacher training. The course, which follows the AQA GCSE Science A specification, consists of three subjects; Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Assessment consists of 25% practical in one of the subjects taken between December and March and 75% written examinations in all three subjects taken in June. - see our website for more details

You will need to apply separately through the College’s Adult Education Department for any of the above courses.

Are Access courses like A level courses?

Not at all, we run 3 Access courses at Varndean College and each course is designed for adults who are returning to education. We recruit 20 students for each course and the tutors work with the Access groups to create a purposeful, challenging and supportive learning environment. So you will study with the same group of students for the year.

How is an Access course assessed?

You are set assignments for each subject, each term. Generally these will be written assignments although sometimes you will be asked to give a brief presentation. Each assignment will receive a grade and also feedback from your tutor. These grades are then considered for an overall grade for the term’s work which is called a unit. So you will build up a profile of work throughout the year.

Why Varndean College for Access courses?

We offer advice and guidance so that your application to university is successful. You are given the opportunity to visit university open days where you can discuss your choice of degree course with university admissions tutors.

How do I choose the right course for me?

It will depend on which course you want to study at university. You can discuss your interests and circumstances at one of the Access Open Days - with the Access Co-ordinator or the specific subject tutors.



STAGE 1 : GATHERING INFORMATION Either: come along to one of our Information and Interview Events for the opportunity to talk to staff and students and find out more about the courses on offer Or: having read the information in this prospectus, choose which course is the most relevant for your needs in preparation to study at university. Research the courses at the universities you are interested in and their specific entry requirements.


STAGE 2 : APPLICATION PROCESS Complete an application form available from our website or by phoning the Admissions Office on 01273 546607. Your application will then be considered and, if appropriate, you will receive a letter inviting you to attend


STAGE 3 : INTERVIEW - Where necessaryIf it is considered necessary, you will be invited to attend an interview at one of our information and interview events. You will be asked to book yourself a convenient appointment online. At the interview you will be able to ask more questions and discuss with the Access Co-ordinator whether or not the Access to HE Diploma is the most appropriate route for you. You will be advised on what happens next. If learning English as a second language, you may be asked to undertake a short test.


STAGE 4 : OFFER If appropriate, you will then receive an offer of a place without an interview, after which you will have 10 days to return your completed reply slip. If your application is unsuccessful you will be contacted by post.


Admissions Enquiries:
Tel: (01273) 546607, Email:


Course Enquiries:
Adult Education Office
Tel: (01273) 546602