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COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – support and guidance

3 April 2020


The following is an update on next steps for Access to HE providers during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week we promised to let you know how Access to HE students would be assessed or continue their learning in the current uncertain environment. Since then, we’ve been working closely with the Department for Education (DfE), Ofqual and other organisations to produce a clear, fair and consistent approach to assessment for the award of the Access to HE Diploma. 


We welcome the principles being used for the determination of grades for A levels and other level 3 qualifications that facilitate progression to HE and are keen to ensure parity for students who planned to complete their Access to HE Diploma by 31 July 2020.  These students will be awarded a graded Diploma based on the assessment they have already completed with calculated grades for all remaining assessments that have submission dates after 20 March 2020.  


The calculated grade will take into account tutors’ assessment of the likely grade, as well as other factors such as prior attainment on course.  


We will be working with Access Validating Agencies (AVAs) and course providers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure the principles being used for the assessment of calculated grades are fair and robust. QAA will be producing guidance on how grades will be calculated that will be shared with you by your AVA. 


We recognise the hard work undertaken by Access to HE course tutors to adapt to new ways of delivering teaching, and developing materials to help all students complete their learning. In line with current DfE guidance, we expect teaching and learning to continue in some form wherever possible. 


It is important that all Access to HE students are as well prepared as they can be for their transition to higher education; making use of the resources prepared by Access to HE tutors is one way to achieve this. While understanding the many challenges facing Access to HE students during these difficult times, we would encourage you to support your students to engage with virtual teaching and tutorials, where possible, to maximise their learning. 


We recognise that some students may feel disappointed that they haven not been able to complete their assessments. If a student does not feel that their calculated grades reflect their expected performance, they will have the opportunity to appeal or they may choose to sit their assessments at the earliest reasonable opportunity. Students should be made aware that taking their assessments later may impact their progression to university in September. 


In addition, if a student does not believe the correct process of assessment for the award of the Access to HE Diploma has been followed in their case, they will be able to appeal.


Students who are continuing their studies and will complete their Access to HE course after 31 July 2020 will be supported to complete through the changes to the delivery and assessment of their programmes of study that are already being developed/in place.  


We know that the current environment is a really challenging one, and want all students to be supported as effectively as possible during this time. Where students are unable to study, they should make use of existing procedures to request extensions and apply for any extenuating circumstances affecting their academic performance.  


Access to HE providers and Access Validating Agencies should also discuss and revise assessment schedules as appropriate. This is in line with guidance from other regulatory organisations to adapt programmes of study and reschedule assessments as necessary. 


If a student does not believe the correct process has been followed in their case, they will be able to appeal.  


Further information 


We will continue to provide updates on the QAA website. We will share the latest information with Access Validating Agencies, students and higher education providers.  


Support and information for students, including FAQs, is available on our Access to HE website.


If you need help or further support, please speak to your Access Validating Agency.