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Access to HE student scores a place at Top UK university



Meet Olivia Dunn who recently completed the Access to Higher Education in Social Science course and is now continuing her studies at one of the top 5 universities in the UK, Durham University, a member of The Russell Group.

The Access to Higher Education Diploma is a qualification which prepares people without traditional qualifications for study at university. Read all about her West Herts College experience below.



What motivated you to apply and study for an Access to HE course?

After leaving school I attended Sixth Form for a brief period but left to go into the world of work, so I didn’t attain any Level 3 qualifications. I found my job at the time not to be as fulfilling as I had hoped for, so I started to research what kind of courses were available that would get me back into education and help me towards my goal - I have always thrived in a learning environment. I came across Access courses and thought this looked perfect for me!

What was it about Access that was perfect for you?

I chose Access to Higher Education in Social Science because I was intrigued by the broadness of the units. I generally struggle with picking one subject to study as I have broad interests. Reading this course included units on sociology, psychology and criminology - I loved it! When I submitted my application, I was undecided on what I wanted to pursue in the long term but having wide options was very appealing. It seemed like a good stepping stone to propel you into a range of potential university courses.

Why did you choose West Herts College?

I live in Hemel Hempstead and the campus is close by. As a local resident I had seen the new campus being built and I was impressed with the new look and facilities. I like that West Herts College provided a physical learning environment, as opposed to online as many other Access course providers offer, I knew this would be more beneficial to my experience.

How would you describe your experience on the course?

My experience has been very positive. My tutor Jean Collier was absolutely phenomenal. Before starting the course, we had a one-to-one interview and she was so supportive, I left feeling well informed and thinking this was the right move for me. I also enjoyed that my class environment was diverse, a mix of individuals from different walks of life and we were able to share our knowledge and support each other throughout the year.

With on-campus learning I had easier access to tutors, I could meet them face-to-face and form productive relationships with them.

How did you benefit from the college’s support team?

I really benefitted from having the Student Support team, they were really hands-on, especially during the UCAS period. The career advisors reviewed my UCAS application ensuring I was filling it out correctly as I was applying as an independent.

Did you have any doubts about this course?

I felt confident in my understanding of the course content as I had done my due diligence, however I questioned if I was in a good enough space personally to fully commit to this course. For example, would I be able to meet the assignment deadlines? Could I fit studying into my personal schedule? Thankfully none of these worries came to fruition!

Why did you choose to apply to Durham University and what was the application process like?

The reputation of Durham University and the standard of learning they are renowned for is incredible. I accepted my offer to study Combined Honours in Social Sciences which focuses on Politics, International Relations and Sociology. I chose Durham University because I wanted to experience something new and different, it’s a beautiful city with plenty of open greenery and amazing architecture, plus, I have a few friends that are already there.

What are your plans after university?

After completing my undergraduate degree I am considering going for a Master’s but one step at a time – I want to get my undergraduate’s out of the way first! Ultimately, I would like to get into politics working in Westminster – that would be really nice. I just want to help people as much as I can.

What would you say to someone considering an Access course?

Do your research - There are so many different types of Access courses on offer with slight variations in each.

Be realistic about your time – it is an intense yet rewarding course so take that into consideration.

Finally, my advice would be to just do it!


Are you looking to embark on a new career? Then consider studying one of our Access to Higher Education courses, click here to view our courses.