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COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – support and guidance

Update for Access to HE Diploma providers - 6 January 2021


As you will be aware, the Prime Minister has announced that all schools and colleges will be closed from Tuesday 5 January 2021, as England moves into a third national lockdown.


This update is intended to ensure that all staff involved in the delivery, assessment and quality assurance of the QAA-recognised Access to HE Diploma have the information they need to understand the arrangements for the award of the Diploma in 2020-21.


Providers are advised to continue to implement the current arrangements for the Award of the Access to HE Diploma in 2020-21, as set out in September 2020. 


These arrangements recognise the changes already made by course providers to manage the delivery and assessment of the Access to HE Diplomas that they run, and allow for additional adaptations to be made as necessary under this and any future lockdowns. We recognise that, for many students the additional pressures of work, caring responsibilities or illness will make study even more challenging and, in some cases, impossible at the present time. However, we have confidence that there are sufficient measures in place to ensure that these extenuating circumstances can be accommodated under the current quality assurance arrangements.


As we now enter another national lockdown, QAA will work closely with you and your Access Validating Agencies (AVAs) to ensure that quality, standards and student outcomes can be maintained. 


Our priorities are to support all providers, students and AVAs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with challenges to learning and delivery presented by COVID-19.


We recognise that we are working in an environment where adaptation of assessment, delivery and necessary changes to units delivered are likely. Therefore, the arrangements for the award and assessment of the Access to HE Diploma in 2020-21 will:

  • Allow providers to adapt assessments and delivery, where necessary and appropriate, to:
    - support teaching and learning, and assist in mitigating any possible effects of previous or future disruptions to teaching, learning and assessment relating to the pandemic
    - make assessments as manageable and flexible as possible, for example, to address the impact of compliance with social distancing or other public health guidance 
    - safeguard against any future disruptions relating to the pandemic, such as local lockdowns or closure of facilities.
  • Use the QAA Grading Scheme detailed in the handbook on our website. There will be no provision for students to receive estimated assessment grades.
  • Support providers in continuing to implement robust quality assurance mechanisms that ensure consistency across all Access to HE Diplomas awarded. AVAs will have in place effective arrangements for quality assuring the Diploma where there are adaptations to assessment(s), delivery and/or changes to units delivered. 
  • Include the presentation of grading data information to AVAs upon their request, this will include grade indicators per assessment and unit grades.
  • Allow confirmed results to be released by AVAs to providers no later than the deadline for results to be uploaded to UCAS (it is estimated this will be around 26 July 2021). AVAs will confirm with each of their providers the exact date that confirmed results will be released to them.
  • Use the procedures for student appeals as detailed in Grading Scheme Handbook Section C: Using the Grade Descriptors in Assessment.


QAA will maintain overall oversight of the framework and undertake additional monitoring activities, where necessary, to assure ourselves, students and wider stakeholders that students’ results continue to be accurate, fair and robust.   


If it is not viable for you to adapt the delivery of learning and assessment during the current national lockdown, or you have any students that are unable to continue with their studies during this time, please contact your Access Validating Agency (AVA) to discuss the options available to your students. 

We have valued your contributions to the development and implementation of managing the Access to HE Diploma since the beginning of the pandemic. Thank you for your continued endeavours to support students during this difficult time. 


More information 


We will continue to provide updates on the QAA website.


You can also read our FAQs.  


Webinars: We will be offering a series of webinars from 18 January 2021 which will explain the arrangements for the award of QAA-recognised Access to HE Diplomas in 2020-21, offer support from QAA, and provide an opportunity for tutors and course leaders to feedback on the arrangements. These sessions can be booked via our event page


If you need help or further support, please speak contact QAA officers at