Access course

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Known in full as an ‘Access to Higher Education course’, this is a programme of study specifically designed for adults without formal entry qualifications such as Advanced Levels (A levels) seeking to gain access to higher education. Since their inception into education provision in the late 1970s, Access courses have been regarded as the ‘third route’ into higher education, differentiating them from A levels and diplomas. It is, though, worth noting the difference between ‘access’ and ‘Access’. The former refers to any educational courses which provide entry into education, while the latter is specifically designed as a pathway for adults into higher education. Although the development of access courses can be seen to be part of a long history of adult educational programmes in tertiary education, dating back as far as the original mechanics institutes of the mid‐19th century, more recently they have been shaped by specific governmental education policies which emphasize the role played by education and a highly trained workforce in creating economic health and stability. To this end, widening participation in higher education has been the focus of policy reports and research, such as the Dearing Report, the Kennedy Report, and of the subsequent Green Paper The Learning Age (DfEE, 1998). In this context, Access courses represent one major route towards widening participation in higher education. They are subject‐based and are taught mainly in colleges of further education, offering subjects such as sociology, psychology, English, and philosophy. They are internally assessed by continuous assessment; and academic references from tutors play a key role in securing students’ progression to undergraduate study.

C. H.

Chris Hudson

Subjects: Education.

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