York College: access new opportunities for adult learners

Returning to education, perhaps to up-skill or change career direction entirely, has never been so important.

Former firefighter James Sayer decided to completely re-train to become a paramedic

With the pandemic creating uncertainty in some industry sectors, adult students aged 19 and over can find their way to a prosperous career with an Access to Higher Education (HE) diploma at York College to access a degree course, or higher-level qualification.

Access courses – which include a range of much-needed vocational pathways – can change lives, as demonstrated by former firefighter James Sayer who decided to completely re-train to become a paramedic.

James has not looked back since returning to education in 2016 to study Access to Health Science Professions – achieving distinctions in every module. The Access Diploma enabled James to progress to Sheffield Hallam University where he graduated with a first-class honours degree in Paramedic Science in 2020.

James has not looked back since returning to education in 2016 to study Access to Health Science Professions

He secured a job working as a paramedic with Yorkshire Ambulance Service and soon decided to take his medical studies a step further, progressing to University Huddersfield to study an MSc in Forensic Science.

Ultimately James hopes to pursue a career in medicine and become a doctor.

He says his career change became a reality the moment he enrolled on the Access course, which opened up all the doors he needed to succeed: “Without doubt, the support and encouragement I received throughout my time at York College gave me the confidence, ability and academic skillset required to excel on my degree programme.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the professional learning environment and the opportunity to study with likeminded mature students, from a variety of different social and professional backgrounds.”

Ultimately James hopes to pursue a career in medicine and become a doctor

Access to HE diplomas at York College include education professions for those wanting to pursue a teaching degree, health science professions leading to degrees in nursing and midwifery amongst others in the health and social care sector, humanities and social sciences leading to degrees in history, sociology and social policy. Other subjects on offer include, English literature, philosophy and law, creative media, leading to degrees in art and design, and science, enabling the study of maths, biology, chemistry and physics.

The Access pathways at York College cover a range of vocational areas and are studied for around 14 hours a week over 32 weeks and involve a range of activities relevant to the pathway being studied. Access courses are loan fundable, and students who progress to complete a degree have their loan written off entirely.

Exciting new Access courses coming soon to the college’s portfolio are policing, medicine, social work, creative performance, and the L2 Pre Access course.

Marie Neal-Smith, Adult Curriculum Manager at York College, says: “It should not be under-estimated that over 20,000 Access to HE students successfully achieve their qualification and progress to university courses across the UK, and at York College we are very proud to be a part of that.

“We see people returning to education for many different reasons, the most common being to upskill, retrain or to kick-start a change in their career, or to simply resume their education because the time is right for them to study.

“Access to HE diplomas are a great way for adults to return to education when they don’t have the traditional qualifications a university might expect to see on their application. They are one-year programmes, equivalent to Level 3, and prepare adult students fully for the academic demands of university and beyond, with 90% of graduates with an Access diploma being employed or going on to further study six months after graduation.

“Access diplomas are not only excellent for building skills and knowledge in a particular subject area, to provide a stepping stone to Higher Education, but also to provide a real-life comradery to learning. Side by side, with other like-minded students in similar positions promotes life-long friendships, support networks and a vibrant community of learning.”

If you want to go to university, but feel you might lack the entry qualifications, or you are worried that you might not be able to cope with the demands of degree-level study, then an Access course can help.

York College offers Higher Education courses too, in a range of subject areas. If you want to progress to degree level studies, or find a completely new career, or maybe retrain, then higher education can put you on track to reach your ultimate goal.