College Celebrates 40 Years of Access to HE

10 July 2019 | Access to HE & GCSEs, College News, Student Life

City College Plymouth students and staff have marked the 40th anniversary of the life-changing Access to Higher Education (HE) diploma with a special celebration event at the College’s acclaimed PL1 restaurant.

Adult learners from all walks of life gathered at the College on Tuesday 9 July to raise a glass to 40 years of the Access to HE qualification. The first version of this diploma was awarded in the summer of 1979, offering a new route to university for mature students across the country. Today around 20,000 adults study on Access to HE pathways across the UK each year.

The College’s class of 2019 is both talented and diverse, and includes ex-services personnel, health care workers, and refugees from conflicts around the globe. The students range in age from 19 to 60 plus, and most use the Access to HE diploma as a stepping stone to enter all manner of professions, from lawyers and engineers to artists and midwives.

Emma Jenkins, aged 30, is studying an Access to HE Diploma in Health and Social Care and Nursing at the College and plans to progress to a degree at the University of Plymouth in September. Emma said: “The subjects are exciting and the course is exactly what I needed to get onto a university programme. The facilities are brilliant too and they have an excellent support system for students of all ages. My lessons are interactive and arranged to fit all learning styles – there is always something that will suit you! I have made some incredible friends – people who I truly believe will be around for life – and I doubt I would have met them if it hadn’t been for this course!”

This 40th anniversary celebration is particularly poignant for City College as many of the academic staff delivering the College’s Access to HE programmes have had prior careers outside of education before completing an Access to HE qualification themselves. Several members of staff have also continued with academic study, going on to achieve MA and Doctorate degrees alongside their lecturing roles.

Lecturer Brian Banks, who is the Access to HE Biology Lead at the College, recently won a Pearson Silver Teaching Award in the category FE Lecturer of the Year and has been shortlisted for a Gold Award as part of the UK’s ‘Oscars for Teachers.’ Selected from thousands of nominations, Brian said: “I was amazed just to be shortlisted for the Pearson’s competition, never mind win the silver award. Being recognised for my teaching is a surprise and a joy, but the honour comes from helping our students achieve their dream of becoming healthcare professionals across the South West. In my mind these are the true heroes, and they make winners of us all.”

Jackie Grubb, Principal and Chief Executive at the College, said: “It is wonderful to celebrate this anniversary and recognise the achievements of our Access to HE students and staff at the College. The Access to HE qualification is integral to the education we provide here, and enables mature learners to return to education and develop the skills required for university-level study.”

The College is still accepting applications for Access to HE courses starting in September. If you are interested in applying, visit or call 01752 305300.

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