Don't have A levels? Alternative Routes into University FAQ Watch

Snufkin
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Alternative Routes into University

This is a list of the various alternative routes into university for people who, for whatever reason, didn't do or couldn't do A levels. If you have any questions which are not covered in the FAQs, post them below! Open the Spoilers to see a list of FAQs.

Access to Higher Education (HE) Diploma

Access to HE Diplomas (also known as Access courses) are designed to prepare people without traditional qualifications for university. Access courses are the best established and most common route into university for mature students and students without A levels. Each year more than 20,000 people apply to university after doing an Access course. There is a large community of Access students in the Mature Students forum.

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Are there entry requirements?
Some colleges require students to have GCSEs (grade C or above) in English and Mathematics. It may be possible to do these GCSEs at the same time as your Access course, contact your local college and ask.

Do universities accept the Access to HE Diploma?
Yes, they are accepted by most universities, including Oxford and Cambridge! If you know what degree you want to do then it would be a good idea to speak to a university admissions tutor about Access courses and ask what subjects they recommend you take.

Where can I do an Access to HE Diploma?
Most FE colleges in England and Wales offer them. Visit your local college's website to see if they do them, or search the QAA Database to find your nearest course. Scottish students can take a similar course known as the Scottish Wider Access Programme.

How much does it cost and how do I pay for it?
The cost varies but usually between £1,000 and £3,000. If you are aged between 16 and 18 then you don't pay any fees. If you are 19 or older, you can use take out an Advanced Learning Loan to cover the course fees. You don't have to repay this loan if you graduate from university with a degree. Therefore an Access to HE course is effectively free, and by far the cheapest alternative to A levels.

Am I too old?
No, there's no upper-age limit!

How long do they last?
Full-time Access courses last one year, part-time Access courses usually last two years.

Are Access to HE courses available in different subjects?
Yes, there are many different subjects available. The most common are Law, Teaching, Nursing, Science, Humanities, Social Sciences, Computing and Business. Some courses are career-focused (e.g. Nursing) whilst other courses allow students to progress onto many different degrees (e.g. Science).

Does my Access to HE course have to be in the same subject area as the one I am going to study at university?
Generally yes, although the subjects you study within the Access course are more important than the name of the course itself. Tip: Look at the A level requirements for the degree you want to do and choose an Access course which offers those subjects. If in doubt, contact the university and ask them.




Foundation Year

A foundation year is an extra year of study at the start of a university course. It enables students who do not meet the course entry requirements to fill the gaps in their knowledge. If you pass the foundation year, you automatically move into the first year of your chosen degree.

Please note, foundation years are not the same as international foundation years (these are courses for international students who want to study in the UK but either don't have the right qualifications or need to improve their English language skills before starting a degree).

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Who are foundation years for?
There are several reasons why you might take a foundation year, for example:

You might not have any formal qualifications.
You might have taken A levels but in the wrong subjects.
You might not have got the grades you need for the degree you want to do.

Are there entry requirements?
Entry requirements vary considerably. It is possible to do a foundation year without any formal qualifications, however, many universities do require GCSEs (grade C or above) in English and Mathematics. Some universities also require A levels (or equivalent qualifications), especially for popular courses like Medicine or Engineering.

Where can I do a foundation year?
Foundation years are taken at the university you intend to do your degree at. You apply through UCAS for a course that includes a foundation year, for example: "BSc Physics with Foundation Year". Search the UCAS course database for universities that offer foundation years.

How do I pay for it?
If your foundation year is part of a degree then you pay university tuition fees. You will receive a loan to cover the cost of fees and you don't start repaying your loan until you leave university and earn more than £21,000 a year. You will also have access to maintenance loans which cover the cost of food and accommodation. Some universities charge lower fees for foundation years, or offer extra bursaries.

How long do they last?
One year.

Is a foundation year the same as a foundation degree?
No! Unlike a foundation year, a foundation degree is a qualification in itself, equivalent to two years of university.




Distance learning A-levels

If you want to do A levels but can't attend school or college consider studying them at home. You can either use a distance-learning provider or study them independently. This is a good option if you don’t know what degree you want to do. Doing A levels in different subjects is a great way to keep your options open. Remember to download past papers from the relevant exam board websites, and make use of the Study Help forums and A level study help page.

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Are there entry requirements?
No, although preferably you will have GCSEs in the subjects you want to take at A level.

Are they the same as school-based A levels?
Yes, they are exactly the same qualification.

Where can I do distance-learning A levels?
There are several providers; the National Extension College is one of the most reputable but you can find others online. You study at home and take your exams at an exam centre (this could be a local school, college or community centre).

How much does it cost?
Between £400 and £800 per A level if you use a learning provider. You cannot use the 19+ loan to cover the cost of distance learning A levels. If you study an A level independently then your only costs are the exam fee (around £100) and textbooks.

How long do they last?
Each A level will take around 300 hours of study time. You can do the AS and A2 exams in the same year, or spread the A level out over two years.




Open University Credits

The Open University offers high-quality distance-learning modules which are ideal for people who do not live within easy reach of a school/college, or who have busy lives and need to fit their studies around a job and/or family.

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How does it work?
Each OU module is worth a certain number of credits, these credits can be used to apply to university. Many universities accept level 1 OU credits in lieu of A levels, the precise number of credits required can vary but it is usually between 60 and 120. You should contact any universities you're considering applying to and ask whether they accept OU credits for entry, and what subject(s) (if any) they'd prefer you to study.

What subjects can I study?
The Open University offers modules in a huge range of subjects including languages, humanities, science, social science, law, business management, computing, technology, education, health studies, design, maths and psychology. Level 1 modules are very broad and will introduce you to many different subjects. You can see a full list of modules here.

Are there entry requirements?
No, there are no entry requirements.

How do I apply?
You can register on the Open University website, or by phoning them.

How much does it cost?
A 60 credit OU module costs roughly £2,700. You can take out a student loan to pay the tuition fees of your modules if you are registered on a qualification. There are possible financial implications to taking out a student loan to pay for this course.

Student Finance has rather complicated rules on 'previous study', generally if you have studied at university before (irrespective of whether you took out a loan or not) then you will lose some or all of your student loan entitlement. However, it is possible to use the Open University as a route into university without losing your student loan entitlement. Essentially, as long as you do not complete the qualification you are registered on (or qualify for an 'exit award') then you will not be considered to have done 'previous study' and you will be entitled to a full loan for any future degree.

If you intend to use the Open University as a route into university then best practice would be to register onto a Bachelor's degree, complete your chosen modules within one academic year, and then withdraw from the course. If you study with the Open University for more than one academic year then you must not accept an 'exit award' upon leaving if one is offered to you.




OpenPlus

OpenPlus is a partnership between The Open University (OU) and other leading universities to create a more affordable and flexible route into a science degree. If you decide to do OpenPlus, remember to visit the Open University forum to talk to other OU students and discuss specific modules.

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How does it work?
For the first two years you study with the Open University, taking science modules at home with the support of an OU tutor, using printed and online learning resources sent to you by the OU. You may also be required to take part in a one week residential school at the OU to learn practical laboratory skills. Once you have completed the OU modules you will transfer to your chosen university and finish your degree there.

What subjects can I study?
The OpenPlus programme has three main subject pathways, Chemistry, Environmental Science and Physics. For information about what OU modules you can study, click here. For information on specific degrees available and at which universities, click here.

Are there entry requirements?
There are no formal entry requirements for the Open University part of the OpenPlus course. You can only transfer to your partner university and finish the degree if you pass the OU modules. Your partner university may also require GCSEs in English and/or Maths.

How do I apply?
You apply directly to your chosen partner university. If your application is successful then your partner university will forward your details to the Open University. Click here for the contact information for all OpenPlus partner universities.

Who will award my degree?
Your degree will be awarded by your partner university.

How do I pay for it?
You can get a student loan to cover the cost of both the Open University and partner university tuition fees.




Birkbeck, University of London

Birkbeck College offers a number of Certificates of Higher Education (CertHE) which can be used to apply for or transfer into degree courses at other universities.

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Are there entry requirements?
There are no specific entry requirements. Birkbeck asses each applicant individually based on past qualifications, knowledge and previous work experience.

How much does it cost?
Around £4,000. You can take out a student loan to pay for the tuition fees. There are financial implications to taking out a student loan to pay for this course, if you intend to do a degree afterwards then you might not receive full-funding (note: as long as you don't study with Birkbeck College for more than one academic year, you will still have enough student loan entitlement left to do a full degree). Speak to a student finance adviser for more information.

Where can I do it?
Birkbeck College is located in London with campuses in Bloomsbury and Stratford.

Do universities accept Certificates of Higher Education for admission?
Most do, but you should contact the university you're interested in beforehand and ask their opinion - they may ask for additional information about the course.

How long does it last?
One year.




Foundation Degree

Foundation degrees are higher education qualifications which combine work-based learning with academic study. They are developed with employers and usually focus on a particular career (e.g. Primary Teaching). Foundation degrees are a qualification in their own right, but they're also the equivalent of the first two years of an undergraduate degree. After you've finished your foundation degree you can 'top it up' into a bachelor's degree.

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Are there entry requirements?
Yes, but they aren't as strict as degree requirements. You will at least three GCSEs A* - C (including English and Maths) or equivalent qualifications. You may also need A Levels or a BTEC, or relevant work experience.

Where can I do a foundation degree?
Many universities and colleges offer foundation degrees, search the UCAS foundation degree course database to find one near you.

What type of person takes a foundation degree?
A foundation degree is usually best suited to students who want to gain a qualification with a particular job in mind. The courses often combine academic learning with hands-on work experience, with many degree programmes being directly linked to a particular employer.

How much does it cost?
Depending on where you study, between £3,000 and £9,000. You can get a student loan to cover the cost of your tuition fees. If you study full-time you can also get a means-tested maintenance loan as well.

How long does it take?
A full-time foundation degree will usually take two years. 'Topping-up' your foundation degree into an honours degree takes an extra year.

How do I apply?
You apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Do I need to 'top up' to a degree?
No, but many people do. You don't have to do the extra year of study immediately; you can return to university at a later date if you're unsure whether it's the right option for you. Some specific jobs require you to 'top up', for example, primary and secondary teachers need to have a Bachelor's degree.

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Klix88
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There's also the Foundation Degree, which differs from a Foundation Year as it's not associated with a particular degree course and is usually two years instead of one. It can be topped up to a full degree and is generally more transferrable than a Foundation Year.
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Snufkin
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(Original post by Klix88)
There's also the Foundation Degree, which differs from a Foundation Year as it's not associated with a particular degree course and is usually two years instead of one. It can be topped up to a full degree and is generally more transferrable than a Foundation Year.
Yes, that is true. I'll add it in later.
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SuperCat007
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Don't forget with A-levels you don't have to register with one of the online places. You can just buy the books and find a place to sit the exams. Though for biology, chemistry and physics you generally have to also sit practical exams which are additional cost and have to be invigilated by a college/school.

Some of these online colleges seem wildly expensive when all you really need to do is find a decent tutor, somewhere to sit the exams and buy the books online which could cost up to around £300-£400 for the year. As opposed to some of the online colleges which seem to charge about £600 as a baseline for the books and access to the tutor and you then have to find your own exam centre and pay exam costs on top of that.
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O.Ozz
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(Original post by snufkin)
:work: foundation year :work:
.
a foundation year is an extra year of study at the start of a university course. It enables students who do not meet the course entry requirements to fill the gaps in their knowledge. If you pass the foundation year, you automatically move into the first year of your chosen degree. Please note, foundation years are not the same as international foundation years - the latter are courses for international students who want to study in the uk but either don't have the right qualifications or need to improve their english language skills before starting a degree. Check out the university sub forums and university connect to find and talk to people applying for the same course as you.
Hello, i assume you have worked in admissions or something.

I am planning on going into clearing for University of Salford or University of Hull for a foundation year in Music.

I am predicting 12-18 credits at pass for the access course i'm currently finishing. Do you think it is possible to get onto the Foundation year if i tell admissions that i have a document stating what credits i have and what i don't have.

or should i apply and tell them i only have GCSE's hence not mentioning any recent study?
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Snufkin
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(Original post by O.Ozz)
Hello, i assume you have worked in admissions or something.

I am planning on going into clearing for University of Salford or University of Hull for a foundation year in Music.

I am predicting 12-18 credits at pass for the access course i'm currently finishing. Do you think it is possible to get onto the Foundation year if i tell admissions that i have a document stating what credits i have and what i don't have.

or should i apply and tell them i only have GCSE's hence not mentioning any recent study?
No, I don't work in admissions. I don't know if 12-18 credits would be enough to get into Hull, you need to ask the admissions tutor (contact details can be found on this page). You have to declare all qualifications when you apply to university, so no, don't conceal your recent study.
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SalfordUni
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(Original post by O.Ozz)
Hello, i assume you have worked in admissions or something.

I am planning on going into clearing for University of Salford or University of Hull for a foundation year in Music.

I am predicting 12-18 credits at pass for the access course i'm currently finishing. Do you think it is possible to get onto the Foundation year if i tell admissions that i have a document stating what credits i have and what i don't have.

or should i apply and tell them i only have GCSE's hence not mentioning any recent study?
Hey there

Check out our clearing site here. We offer 3 different types of Music courses:
BA (Hons) Music: Creative Music Technology
BA (Hons) Music:Popular Music and Recording
BA (Hons) Music: Musical Arts

Might not be exactly what you're looking for but our Matchmaker site will help you find the right course for you.

Let me know if you have any further questions about this or anything else Salford related

Good luck!

Fiza
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AR551
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Hi im wondering if anyone can help?
Im 24 been out of studying for 3 years i did do a hnc in accounting at college and received a few credits for it but it wasnt for me.
I want to fufill a dream of mine to study in canada for a hotel management degree as ive always wanted to do something within a hotel.The problem is i dont know what requirements i need and i cant seem to find useful information about the course itself .anyone able to help ???
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Snufkin
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(Original post by AR551)
Hi im wondering if anyone can help?
Im 24 been out of studying for 3 years i did do a hnc in accounting at college and received a few credits for it but it wasnt for me.
I want to fufill a dream of mine to study in canada for a hotel management degree as ive always wanted to do something within a hotel.The problem is i dont know what requirements i need and i cant seem to find useful information about the course itself .anyone able to help ???
What university are you looking at? Most university websites have an international student page with details of foreign qualification requirements. Canadian universities probably won't accept the alternative qualifications listed above (although it might be worth asking them just to be sure), so you will probably have to do A levels - you okay with that? You should also consider the high cost of studying in Canada, can you afford it? For more information, see the Studying in North America forum.
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vickyk82
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hi everyone , Im going to apply as an international mature student what are my chances? I have a vocational diploma -3 years of studies Im a nurse's assistant- Should I give it a shot ? Or forget it? whats the best way for me to get a place at a uni? Im taking an ielts test next month...
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returnmigrant
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Anyone else spotted this new offering from the University of Bristol : http://www.bristol.ac.uk/history/study/part-time/
Its a 15 week, one-day-a-week, course from Jan 2016 for mature applicants interested in applying for History subjects.
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Canucked
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(Original post by AR551)
Hi im wondering if anyone can help?
Im 24 been out of studying for 3 years i did do a hnc in accounting at college and received a few credits for it but it wasnt for me.
I want to fufill a dream of mine to study in canada for a hotel management degree as ive always wanted to do something within a hotel.The problem is i dont know what requirements i need and i cant seem to find useful information about the course itself .anyone able to help ???
It depends on which university you apply at. It would help if you have a specific school in mind.
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Sininen
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Access to HE at Birkbeck:

[Costs]Around £4,000. You can take out a student loan to pay for the tuition fees. There are financial implications to taking out a student loan to pay for this course, if you intend to do a degree afterwards then you may not receive full-funding. Speak to a student finance adviser for more information.

---------

So is it not possible to take out 24+ loan for this course? Do I have to take access courses at specific colleges for a debt to be wiped off when I complete my degree?
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Snufkin
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(Original post by Sininen)
So is it not possible to take out 24+ loan for this course? Do I have to take access courses at specific colleges for a debt to be wiped off when I complete my degree?
Birkbeck doesn't do an Access to HE course. You can't take out a 19+ loan for a Higher Education course, click here to see a full list of courses you can use a 19+ loan for. No you don't have to do an Access course at any specific college for the debt to be wiped; you just need to graduate from university.
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Sininen
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(Original post by Snufkin)
Birkbeck doesn't do an Access to HE course. You can't take out a 24+ loan for a Higher Education course, click here to see a full list of courses you can use a 24+ loan for. No you don't have to do an Access course at any specific college for the debt to be wiped; you just need to graduate from university.
Thank you for your reply. I can't open the doc on my phone but will have a look at it once I'm next to pc.

Slightly confused as to why you're saying Birkbeck doesn't offer access to HE courses... How about these, is it not the same?...

http://www.bbk.ac.uk/study/2016/unde...es/UCHMATHS_C/
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Snufkin
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(Original post by Sininen)
Thank you for your reply. I can't open the doc on my phone but will have a look at it once I'm next to pc.

Slightly confused as to why you're saying Birkbeck doesn't offer access to HE courses... How about these, is it not the same?...

http://www.bbk.ac.uk/study/2016/unde...es/UCHMATHS_C/
No that isn't an Access to HE course. A Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE) is a higher education qualification, equivalent to the first year of a degree. Pretty much every university would accept a CertHE as an alternative to A levels but you can't use a 19+ loan to pay for it.
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Sininen
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(Original post by Snufkin)
No that isn't an Access to HE course. A Certificate of Higher Education (CertHE) is a higher education qualification, equivalent to the first year of a degree. Pretty much every university would accept a CertHE as an alternative to A levels but you can't use a 24+ loan to pay for it.
Thank you so much for clarification, all a bit confusing to me

Do you think it would be sensible to take this course at Birkbeck if I want to study Maths? I would probably need an additional A-level, like Further Maths?...
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Snufkin
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(Original post by Sininen)
Thank you so much for clarification, all a bit confusing to me

Do you think it would be sensible to take this course at Birkbeck if I want to study Maths? I would probably need an additional A-level, like Further Maths?...
To be honest I have no idea. I suggest you email the universities you're interested and ask them what they require. Better to know now what they expect so you don't waste time doing the wrong thing. The Birkbeck course is pretty expensive, I don't think I'd do it unless there was no other alternative.
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GiuDell
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Hello everyone!
So I just arrived in the UK and was wondering if it would be too hard to take the A-levels independently(chemistry, maths and further maths).
I studied one year of mechanical engineering in Brazil, so I have a strong science background and I am very used to studying alone.
My questions are:
1- How does it work? Since I am not from the UK, I have no idea how the A-levels are and how I take the tests.
2- Do I have to register somewhere?
3- Where can I get the material to study?
4- When do the exams take place?
5- I found two exam boards, AQA and Edexcel, are they the same or is one better than the other?

Thank you for you attention!

Oh, forgot to mention: I intend to do this in one year and progress to chemical engineering.
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Nameless Ghoul
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If you spoilered the advice specific to each course in your OP, it'd be easier to read.
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