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Access and Higher Education

Gain the qualifications and training you need to get into university and secure great career opportunities

At Richmond upon Thames College we offer a niche set of courses for those interested in changing their career path, preparing for and getting into university or advancing in their current careers.

Our Access to Higher Education and Higher Education courses attract students from a wide rage of ages and backgrounds and are taught in an engaging and holistic way in order to give our students all of the knowledge and skills they need to make that career transition and successfully progress to university and the workplace.

We offer a selection of niche Higher Education courses in Graphic Design, Engineering, Early Years and Computing. As well as numerous Access to Higher Education courses in Art and Design, Nursing and Health Care, Science and Humanities and Social Science. 

We will be offering the following Higher Education courses in September 2024, applications will be open once course fees have been confirmed:

  • Computing HNC
  • Graphic Design HNC/D
  • Early Years Foundation Degree

Why Study Access to HE and Higher Education at Richmond upon Thames College

  • A brand new state of the art campus with fantastic facilities
  • In November 2017, Ofsted rated RuTC as GOOD in all areas including Adult Provision
  • Flexible part-time or full-time study that fits around your work/ lifestyle
  • Various funding options available depending on your age, employment status and qualifications
  • Classes are small, allowing for ample one-to-one tutorials with teachers
  • Great support services for those with counselling, study and learning needs
  • Strong work-related emphasis and links to employers
  • A great track record of student success 

What is higher education?

  • Higher Education qualifications can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the terminology.
  • The first thing to be aware of is the academic “Level” of the course.
  • Level 2 and 3 are equivalent to GCSE and A-Levels respectively.
  • Higher Education is Level 4 and above.
  • Level 4 is equivalent to the first year of a traditional three-year Batchelor’s degree,  Level 5 to year two and Level 6 to year 3.

The qualifications

These are some examples of higher education qualifications:

HNC – Higher National Certificate

Level 4. Extremely popular vocational courses accredited by Pearson. Usually one year of study.

HND – Higher National Diploma

Level 5. Commonly taken after completion of the HNC – usually a further year.

AAT Certificates and Diplomas

These are professional accountancy qualifications which are industry-recognised at Level 4 and 5 respectively.  AAT is the Association of Accounting Technicians, which students join in addition to gaining their qualification.

Types of higher education and access to HE courses available

  • Access to HE Diplomas
    If you would like to study for a degree but do not have the qualifications you need, then an Access to Higher Education course could be a great option for you. Access to HE courses attract a diverse range of students, and there is no upper age limit. You can download the OCN Access to Higher Education Diploma Guide for Learners here.

    An Access to HE Diploma is a nationally recognised qualification which allows for an individual without traditional qualifications to gain new transferrable skills, start a new career path or study at university. Access to Higher Education programmes are designed for students who are aged 19 and over as of 31 August. However, if you are 18 on the 31 August please contact our Admissions team by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  so that we can discuss your options.

    The Access to HE Diploma is widely recognised by UK universities, many of which actively encourage applications from students who have achieved this qualification. Most Access to HE courses can be completed in one year.You may qualify for a Student Loan. These loans help learners aged 19+ to pay for their course including access to HE diplomas. From September 2023 to July 2024, we will be running 4 New Access to HE Courses in the evenings from 5.30pm - 8.30pm. 
  • Foundation Degrees
    If you are interested in pursuing higher education opportunities but are unsure about taking on a full degree for three years or you may not have the entry requirements for an undergraduate degree, then a Foundation Degree may be an appropriate option for you.

    Foundation Degrees are nationally recognised qualifications. They allow students to gain transferrable academic skills and practical, first-hand knowledge in a shorter timeframe than a traditional degree. Foundation Degrees have been created in partnership by universities, further education colleges and employers. They attract A Level leavers and mature students.

    Upon successful completion of a Foundation Degree, students will have the opportunity to ‘top-up’ to a full honours degree by doing a further year of study.

    You may qualify for a Student Loan. These loans help learners aged 19+ to pay for their course including foundation degrees.

    Please find the Early Years Foundation Degree at RuTC below.
  • Higher National Certificates and Diplomas (HNCs and HNDs)
    If you would like to study a practical subject at a higher level but do not have the entry qualifications required for a degree course, then a Higher National Certificate or Diploma may be for you. HNCs and HNDs are nationally recognised qualifications that allow students to progress their studies and learn new relevant skills for the workplace and career advancement.

    These qualifications are highly valued by employers, universities and professional bodies. You can also choose to 'top up' an HND or HNC with extra studies at a later date, in order to convert your HNC/D to a full bachelor's degree. HNC/Ds usually takes one year to complete full-time or two years part-time.

    You may qualify for a Student Loan.These loans help learners aged 19+ to pay for their course including HNCs and HNDs.

    Below is a list of HNC and HND courses available to you at Richmond upon Thames College.
  • Level 3 Foundation Diploma ‘Pre BA’
    If you are interested in studying Art and Design further but may not have any previous academic Art or Design experience, Richmond upon Thames College offers the UAL Level 3 Foundation and Extended Diploma in Art and Design.

    The Foundation and Extended Diploma has been designed to provide individuals with a broad range of academic and vocational art and design skills. The courses allow for a student to gain knowledge and understanding to then progress to degree level study in Art and Design, or into entry-level employment.

    The UAL Art and Design (Pre BA) Level 3 Foundation and Extended Diploma enables individuals to develop both a professional portfolio of work showcasing a range of creative disciplines and themes, as well as develop their academic independence and enable them to demonstrate strong communication skills. It is a relatively new qualification created by the University of Arts London Awarding Body, who are also the UK's largest provider of the Diploma in Art and Design.

    You may qualify for a Student Loan. These loans help learners aged 19+ to pay for their course including the 'Pre BA' offered by RuTC.

    See the Art and Design Foundation Diploma course at Richmond upon Thames College below.

    What comes next?

    Our courses provide you the best of both worlds. They are widely-recognised self-contained qualifications but come with the option to progress to a full degree at university, giving you the flexibility of keeping your options open in a changing job market.


    Higher education courses generally require you to have Level 3 (A Level or equivalent) qualifications although your occupational experience may be taken into account. If you’ve been out of education for a while you can complete an Access to Higher Education Diploma. This a Level 3 course to prepare you for Level 4 study and above, including a full degree.


    1. Flexible qualifications which are recognised by employers in their own right but can also be topped up to gain a university degree.
    2. Good teacher/ student ratios to ensure you’re not left behind and that support and advice are on hand throughout your course.
    3. Competitive pricing along with finance options designed to enable people to take part irrespective of their financial circumstances.
    4. The opportunity to study from a venue close to where you live so you don’t have to abandon your friends and family.
    5. Teaching by vocationally-experienced staff who will pass on their industry knowledge.

    Student Finance

    Students studying on our Level 4 and 5 courses may be eligible to apply for a student loan to cover the cost of their tuition fees and sometimes you can also borrow money to help with living costs.  Loans are repaid once you are working and earning a certain amount. Eligibility criteria applies and please click this link to find out more about student finance. 

    To find out more about the funding available for HE, please click the video below to see the presentation from the Careers Guidance Team. You can also view the presentation slides here.

    Access & Participation Statement

    Click here to view our Access & Participation Statement

access to higher education finance graphic

To apply for an Access to Higher Education or Higher Education course, please visit the page of the course you want to apply for. If you have any questions, please contact our Admissions Department by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Student Protection Plan

Student protection plans set out what students can expect to happen should a course, campus, or institution close. The purpose of a plan is to ensure that students can continue and complete their studies, or can be compensated if this is not possible.

All higher education providers registered with the Office for Students (OfS) must have a student protection plan in place.

Please click here to read our HRUC Student Protection Plan 22 23

Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom

View our Code of Practice on Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Expression and Academic Freedom

Disabled Students' Allowance

You can apply for Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSAs) to cover some of the extra costs you have because of a mental health problem, long term illness or any other disability. You can get the allowances on top of your other student finance. You will not need to repay DSAs.

Please take some time to read through the links below to help you understand what is on offer and what the application process involves. The application process can be lengthy, so applying early is important.

DSA Flowchart | DSA FAQsDSA Presentation

For further information please see our Terms & Conditions  for HE Students below and click the Students with Disabilities / Learning Difficulties section.

Terms & Conditions for HE Students

View the Terms & Conditions for HE Students


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