Access to HE Learner Stories

Michael Sargent Bursary Awards

Outstanding Academic Achievement

Winner: Owaine Wright, Access to HE Diploma (Social Science), CU Coventry

Owaine impressed his tutors from the beginning with his dedication and drive. His tutor said “he consistently performed at an excellent level throughout the course but his development of critical thinking at a high level has been demonstrated in his submissions, particularly his extended project. These are skills vital for progression to a degree course and also for his intended career in law. Owaine has an incredible future ahead of him and the Access course has developed his academic skills to enable him to perform at a high standard on a degree course.

Owaine is now studying Law (LLB) at University of Birmingham.

“If there is anyone who has been out of education and wants to go back or someone like me who did not have all the equivalent qualifications to gain entry into university and is considering studying the access course, I cannot implore you enough to make the brave decision and apply. I can guarantee you, you will find it rewarding!” – Owaine Wright 

Runner-up: Reanna Duarte, Access to HE Diploma (Theatre Arts), National Youth Theatre / The JGA Group

Reanna’s tutors were impressed by the commitment and focus she showed from the start. They said “With a focus on her academic achievements as well as a passion for her craft, she ensured she took in her lessons and spent her time wisely when managing the workloads and demands of the course. As an assistant director to the production Reanna was in, I would see her every morning coming in early to the studio space to journal and reflect from the days learning that has just passed as well as preparing for the day ahead. The standard of her written work provided her with distinctions across the board, with an awareness of the success criteria from a clear understanding and analysis of the assignment briefs. She prioritised herself immaculately and allowed herself to fully immerse herself in the experience of the course.

Reanna is now studying BA (Hons) Acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

“The course has unlocked an abundance of confidence in me to embrace the uncertainty with feelings of bravery to face new challenges, which I have been practicing on my new journey at drama school. Thank you!!!” – Reanna Duarte

Outstanding Commitment to Study

Winner: Naomi Pritchard, Access to HE Diploma (Health and Human Sciences), Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College

Naomi’s tutors were impressed with her determination and perseverance throughout the course. Her tutor said “Naomi has shown high levels of endeavour to achieve despite a number of challenges and obstacles that she has faced. Despite all of this, Naomi has submitted her assignments on time (and even before the deadlines for some). She even submitted some work from the hospital. The work Naomi has produced is of high quality, and she has achieved distinction grades in all her graded assignments.” They went on to say “The determination to succeed that Naomi has shown despite these challenges has been exemplary, and she has maintained a positive attitude throughout. Her desire to progress in her career and to provide for her family has been a driving force in her motivation, and I am sure this will continue during her future studies.

Naomi is now studying Occupational Therapy at St George’s, University of London.

“The access course not only prepared me for university, it gave me a new set of confidence in myself to go on and reach my goals” – Naomi Pritchard

Runner-up: Garry Naldi, Access to HE Diploma (Health and Human Sciences), Wiltshire College

Garry’s tutors were impressed with his perseverance and dedication throughout the course. His tutor’s said “There is much about Garry’s past life that could have held him back so it is extremely moving for me to see that he has grasped every opportunity this year. I have never been as proud of anyone who has covered such a long distance in such a short time. Academically and in terms of self-esteem he is the student who has progressed further than anyone I have taught in the past 33 years”. They went on to say “We at Wiltshire College are extremely fortunate to have him choose to do the Access to HE course and as I always say on the first day of the course: ‘your academic life starts today, forget anything that happened before’. I am glad that he listened to that and did indeed, start a new life for himself. We wish him every success and he will always stand out for us as the epitome of what an Access to HE student is.

Garry is now studying Biomedical Sciences at the University of Bath.

“The access to HE course was an excellent choice for me. I am a mature student and it irrefutably prepares you for university life and corroborates learning methods. It was the best choice and the lecturers were outstanding” – Garry Naldi

Suzi Rezler

Suzi studied the Access to HE Diploma (Medicine) at Morley College London last year and is now a medical student at Kent and Medway Medical School. She explains why she chose an Access course
and also how the experience has prepared her for University.

I chose to study Medicine as the result of accumulated life experiences; experience in a caring role, medical interest and an unrealised childhood dream. I graduated secondary school with A-Levels in creative subjects and went on to work in the creative industry. When I looked into the available routes to studying medicine as a mature student I found the Access course was the most affordable, time efficient and specific route. My experience of the course was that it very well structured, I loved the fast pace and the way the curriculum was specifically tailored to a future in medicine.

I am now a medical student at Kent and Medway Medical School. I have found that the Access course was excellent preparation for university, the course covered all of the topics in sufficient depth to make for a comfortable transition. I had an excellent teacher who was extremely knowledgeable and supportive. Aside from the academic teaching, we benefited from the teacher’s knowledge of the application process; we had guidance on how to use UCAS, write personal statements and how to interview prep. I would definitely recommend this Access course to others.

Mariutxy Cadavid

Mariutxy explains how she went from Access to HE learner to teaching the Diploma at Lambeth College.

I came to the UK in 1997 with my family and started to study English as my aim was to go to university. It took a bit of time to catch up with the language, but I managed to gain a L3 English qualification. I originally wanted to study Science and later found I was more interested in Engineering. Looking for courses was not easy, but I found the Access to HE Diploma in Engineering that had the perfect the combination of subjects to go into my chosen area of Aerospace Engineering.

I joined Lambeth College in 2002, where I studied an Access to HE Diploma Engineering course. It was an intensive and rigorous course but also one of the best experiences I have had at college. I learned key academic subjects for Engineering including Maths, Science and Computing, as well as study skills which help to support my learning. The course was assessed with a mix of assignments, practicals, and exams which helped prepare me for university. Alongside I had the most professional and supportive lecturers that guided me through any difficulties. They invested many hours in class, and they guided me to learn and work independently, which is needed to be thoroughly equipped for Higher Education.

Following my Access course, I went to study Aerospace Engineering at Queen Mary University of London. A few years later, I was offered the opportunity to go back to Lambeth College to teach on the Access to HE course. I think my experience as an Access learner has helped me support and guide the learners I teach as I know what they are going through. I now teach and manage the Access to HE Engineering and Access to HE Built Environment Diplomas.

The Access to HE Diploma gave me the skills and confidence to succeed in Higher Education and in my career, and through this career, I have witnessed myself and through the learners I teach, how the Access Diploma empowers individuals looking for a second chance to grow and change their live path to their chosen careers.

Zia Din

Zia Din studied Access to HE Diploma (Digital Technologies and Computer Science) at Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College. At present, Zia is completing a Level 4 Data Analytics apprenticeship while working as a Product Analyst.

What made you want to do an Access course?

I didn’t do too well during my time in college when I left school, and I was so unsure with what I wanted to do with myself. So I held off making any serious decisions, in terms of going to university and pursuing something I may have zero interest in, in the coming years.

Years later, during the pandemic, like a lot of people my age I was jobless and struggling to find something that I wanted to do. The job market wasn’t going to be kind to me, as I didn’t have any real qualifications. So I decided to pursue an Access to HE Diploma qualification, specializing in computer science. I always had an interest in tech, and I’m constantly browsing through the latest news related to consumer technology and data. It’s a field I grew up watching evolve into what it is today, as I saw technology become more advanced while I was growing up. Access was the perfect course for me, as I didn’t have a full level 3 qualification, and I didn’t want to take too much time doing a two years course in A Levels or BTEC. Both are high desired qualifications. But with Access, I was able to get the same qualification, in half the amount of time. The pandemic gave me the perfect opportunity to go back to school and get my access diploma.

How was your time on the course?

It was challenging, and a quite an interesting time to get back into education. I had amazing tutors at RHACC that made coming back a very smooth process, and were very supportive during my time on the course. Because I already knew some of the stuff we were going to go through during the course, I didn’t have such a hard time with my return to studying. I was completely transparent with my tutors, who were always helpful and easily approachable. Everything took place online, MS teams was my main classroom. This is quite an adjustment to get used to, but I was lucky enough to attend a college that already had experience delivering the Access HE Diploma online. It was mainly challenging because we were in the midst of a global pandemic, but some of the topics was quite tough as well. Maths wasn’t my strongest topic in school, but my tutors at RHACC made it easy for me to understand for my advanced maths module.

What are you doing now?

Currently I work as a Product Analyst, for Choreograph (a WPP company). Alongside my employment, I’m doing a Level 4 Data Analytics apprenticeship with Multiverse.

What made you choose to do an apprenticeship?

I don’t like debt, and also don’t like the length of time it takes to get a degree. As I’m a little bit older then the average University student, I wanted to get straight back into the world of work. I always had in mind getting an apprenticeship with a good training provider. With the likes of multiverse, its an excellent alternative compared to university. Uni isn’t for everyone, but its great for a lot of things as well. It just wasn’t for me. With my apprenticeship, I get a highly sought-after qualification (equivalent to first year) with an amazing trainer, whilst also working for a global firm. It couldn’t get any better.

How has the experience you gained on the Access course helped you in your apprenticeship?

During my time on access, I was introduced to SQL & Python coding. I use SQL everyday for work, to complete data accuracy check and search for queries within datalake. I personally would like to thank Anthony Cox, from RHACC, for opening my eyes to the world of SQL. He was a world class teacher, and made the language so easy to learn. It was also great introduction, before I was to do a more advanced SQL course with Multiverse (with General Assembly training material). My role requires me to understand concepts such as Data Structures & Algorithms, which Access taught me at a foundational level. Access to HE Diploma, in a way, taught me how to learn in a more efficient way. And how to get a lot done in a very short space of time.

Would you recommend this route to others?

100%. Access gave me the foundation, and brought me where I am today. I’m currently working in a cross-functional role, with a mix of technical & product related responsibilities. I managed to get to where I am today, in a very short space of time because of my Access course. If you’re someone like me, and want to get straight into the world of work, this is definitely the route for you. Access will give you the right foundation, then it’s up to you if you want to go to university or go the apprenticeship route.

Kim Shoard

Kim Shoard gained an Access to HE Diploma in Teacher Training at Kingston College and went on to win the OCN London Michael Sargent Bursary Award for Outstanding Commitment to Study. Following her Access course, Kim went on to study Primary Teaching at St Mary’s University, gaining a first-class Degree. She is now a SEN teacher and is also studying a part time Masters in severe, profound and multiple disabilities.

Starting her course at Kingston college as a student with autism and a slow processing speed, Kim had a strong resolve to succeed in her studies. She coped with her additional needs by using highly effective methods of research, note making and planning through the use of colour coding and visual markers to help her with her assignments. This hard work paid off with Kim going on to achieve 42 Distinctions in her graded work. Her tutors said: “When Kim started the course she had never successfully written an essay before … A major triumph has been her determination to push the boundaries of her communication skills. She is already better placed than many teachers to understand the importance of an inclusive educational environment and a positive mindset towards diverse needs.”

Looking back, Kim says “I think the Access course really helped to prepare me for the academic work at university and, more so than on my undergraduate course, I think the Access course made me want to go on to do a masters because the people on the course were from a much wider range of backgrounds than at university and it was interesting to hear all the different viewpoints. I think that made me more interested in research”.

Helen Duffy

Listen to what Helen has to say about her experience as an Access to HE student and how it helped her to achieve an undergraduate degree in Politics and Philosophy and a master’s degree in Global Health Policy.

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