Access to Higher Education Diploma (Art and Design)

Qualification Guide (40011793)

1. Aims

1.1 The programme aims to prepare learners for study at university. It is designed for those learners who, because of social, educational or individual circumstances may have achieved few, if any, prior qualifications, (LC61a/62). This may include younger learners with substantial life experience post compulsory education, from under-represented groups in higher education, and who are without traditional entry requirements for higher education. Learners will develop the confidence, knowledge and skills necessary to be able to progress to and successfully participate in a programme of higher education, by achieving an Access to Higher Education Diploma.

1.2 This Access to Higher Education Diploma will prepare learners to be self-directed and independent in a supportive learning environment, by providing them with opportunities to develop study and time-management skills. Learners will be introduced to a range of academic subject areas related to the higher education programme to which they wish to progress or will be provided with the opportunity to encounter academic subject areas will enable an informed decision to be made regarding possible progression routes. Learners will experience a range of assessment methods that reflect those they will experience after progression to higher education. Overall, learners will benefit from the opportunity to develop the relevant underpinning knowledge and skills required, that can be built upon with further study in Higher Education and that can be transferred to employment.

1.3 This AHE Diploma aims to widen participation and offer adults a more flexible, alternative route into HE by adopting a strategy informed by QAA admissions criteria and taking into account accredited prior learning and life experience.

1.4 This AHE Diploma is intended to provide a preparation for study in UK HEPs but, while partnership arrangements and progression agreements may exist between particular Access to HE courses and particular HE courses, the award of a Diploma does not provide guaranteed entry to UK HE programmes, (LC61b).

2. Identification of target groups

2.1 The target groups are those who wish to pursue the range of progression outcomes addressed by the AHE Diploma (Art and Design) which include, but not restricted to those progression routes listed in section 7 (LC62b).

2.2 For those learners with work or care commitments, the blended learning modes of delivery may provide a more suitable option than full-time attendance, where this is made available by an approved centre.

3. Curriculum Design

3.1 This AHE Diploma adheres to the specification of the Access to Higher Education Diploma as specified by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA). All AHE Diplomas follow a combination of 45 graded credits at level 3 with academic subject content and 15 ungraded credits at level 2 or 3.

3.2 45 credits are achieved through the successful completion of units with academic subject content related to the Diploma title will be graded at level 3.

3.3 The curriculum has been developed in consultation with further education and higher education providers to enable the delivery of a balanced and coherent programme of study, taking into account the need to ensure compliance with current practice in unit writing.

3.4 Grade descriptors have been applied to units with academic subject content, which have been designed to enable differentiated achievement, (LC62b)

3.5 This Access to HE Diploma has been designed to prepare learners for progression to relevant HE programmes (see 2.1) and includes academic subject content that is designed to provide a balanced and current insight into the key areas associated with the area of study.

4. Resources

4.1 Centres are required to demonstrate that facilities and resources at each site that is to be used for the delivery of this AHE Diploma, are appropriate for the planned learning and assessment requirements, including learning support resources and facilities for AHE learners.

4.2 Centres must demonstrate that the practitioners responsible for the delivery, assessment and internal quality assurance of this AHE Diploma are able to demonstrate relevant qualifications and expertise in the subject areas covered.

5. Assessment Strategies

Centres must comply with Agored Cymru policies when assessing the Access to Higher Education Diploma including:

  • reasonable adjustments
  • special considerations
  • recognition of prior learning
  • retention of assessment results
  • e-assessment
  • distance learning.

5.2 The assessment strategies employed by centres must follow the unit assessment requirements (UARs) prescribed as part of each graded unit specification. The assessment strategies to be used with AHE Diploma (Art and Design) ensures appropriate variety and reflect assessment methods associated with each area of study and where appropriate reflect those that are likely to be implemented in higher education (LC95 a - f). The allocation of UARs to graded units ensures that assessment design:

  • is appropriate for the method and medium of delivery
  • provides an appropriate level of academic demand
  • provides opportunities, appropriate to the mode of study, for learners to achieve the learning outcomes and assessment criteria of the unit
  • provides opportunities for differentiation of performance consistent with the requirements of the grade descriptors
  • requires the demonstration of academic and practical skills
  • facilitates valid and reliable assessment of student performance. (LC95 a-f)

5.3 Assessment methods include:

  • Case studies
  • Academic posters
  • Essays
  • Group and individual presentations
  • Group debate
  • Evaluative reports
  • Role play
  • Creation of fact sheets or newspaper article or leaflets
  • Controlled assessments/examinations (open and closed book)
  • Portfolio.

Centres are responsible for maintaining accurate documentation to record assessment outcomes including assessment decisions, resubmissions and referrals.

5.4 ungraded units

The rules of combination specify the requirement for learners to achieve 15 credits that are ungraded. Where these units include assessment criteria designed to address communication and/or study skills, centres are responsible for devising assessment strategies that facilitate the assessment of relevant assessment criteria within the context of assessment activities carried out for academic graded units. Although this will require assessment tasks to incorporate criteria across multiple units, centres must ensure that records summarising the achievement of each individual graded and ungraded unit is produced separately and includes specific feedback to the learner relating to the unit specification.

5.5 Recognition of prior learning (RPL)

No more than 50% of the credit required for the award of an AHE Diploma may be awarded through RPL. RPL is a generic term for the processes used to recognise learning achieved outside of a named AHE Diploma. It can include the recognition of both experiential and certificated learning. Centres can claim RPL on behalf of learner in relation to specified credit within the named Diploma being followed by way of the presentation of agreed evidence of prior learning. Within the Agored Cymru AHE Diploma framework, the previous achievement of GCSEs in Mathematics at any grade will not be considered for RPL/credit exemption.

6. Quality Assurance

All Access to Higher Education Diplomas will be quality assured in line with the requirements of current Agored Cymru quality assurance procedures including (LC92):

  • Internal quality assurance
  • External verification
  • Standardisation
  • Annual centre review
  • Annual centre self evaluation review (ASER)

6.1 Internal quality assurance

All AHE centres delivering the AHE Diploma (Art and Design) are responsible for planning and implementing internal quality assurance (IQA) procedures to ensure and demonstrate that  the AHE curriculum is being delivered and assessed in accordance with the approved AHE Diploma submission documentation and that it is organised in order to ensure that learners are able to meet the specified rules of combination and other completion requirements. 

IQA must be structured to enable an internal verification process that facilitates the scrutiny of assessment design, the implementation of assessment strategies and assessment decisions regarding the award of credit and grades in line with the QAA credit specification and grading scheme. Centres application of internal verification must facilitate:

  • the application of consistent standards of demand in assessment
  • assessment design which maximises reliability and validity in assessment outcomes
  • the assurance of the required standards in relation to the award of credits, grades and the AHE Diploma
  • the consistent and accurate application of QAA assessment regulations. (LC 102 a-c)

Internal verification must be carried out only by individuals and teams with appropriate expertise in IQA processes along with relevant subject knowledge related to the areas addressed by units within the Diploma characterised by academic subject content of graded units and skills and knowledge addressed by ungraded units.

The internal quality assurance process must ensure that the assessment is scheduled so it is reasonably manageable for learners and staff and is clearly communicated to learners at the beginning of the course.

6.2 External verification

Centres delivering the AHE Diploma (Art and Design) must accommodate any external verification activities implemented by Agored Cymru. External verification is the process by which the Agored Cymru will monitor the delivery of the AHE curriculum in line with the approved Diploma submission documentation and the specified rules of combination and ensure that assessment practices are carried in order to facilitate:

  • an appropriate level of academic challenge and demand
  • opportunities for differentiated performance in relation to the achievement of grades
  • opportunities to develop the academic skills and knowledge relevant to progression and the promotion of learning
  • opportunities for learners to demonstrate what they know, can do and understand
  • a clear basis against which assessors can determine achievement of learning outcomes, assessment criteria and grades

External verification will ensure:

  • that consistent standards are applied in assessment and that equivalent standards of achievement and performance are evident in all recommendations for credit and grades
  • that learners awarded the AHE Diploma (Art and Design) have completed the required learning to the required standard and that achievement is reflected in the grades awarded.
  • that centres delivering the AHE Diploma (Art and Design) are implementing a rigorous internal verification process that is in line with Agored  Cymru’s requirements. 

6.3 Standardisation

Agored Cymru facilitates annual standardisation activities between centres in order to inform and support EQA activities. Centres delivering the AHE Diploma (Art and Design)  are required to carry out internal standardisation processes across units, cohorts and sites of delivery. The aim of standardisation is to facilitate and enable the development of a consensus between practitioners regarding standards and the requirements for achievement in line with the QAA credit specification and grading scheme.

6.4 Annual centre review

An annual centre review will be carried out in order to evaluate all AHE Diplomas offered by individual approved centres in relation to curriculum delivery, the outcomes of EQA and outcomes for learners including registration, success rates, grading data and progression.

6.5 Annual self evaluation review (ASER)

Agored Cymru collects statistical data about AHE courses and learners according to a standard set of categories, including those required by QAA. The ASER enables this by providing a process through which centres apply their self assessment activities in order to report on the performance of the AHE Diploma. ASERs are required to make reference to the overall AHE provision offered by an approved centre, but must also analyse the distinctive features of individual AHE Diplomas and differentiate between their outcomes. 

6.6 Award of the AHE Diploma (Art and Design)

Centres approved to offer the AHE Diploma (Art and Design) must present the outcomes for all learners for whom the award of the named Diploma is to be recommended at a final awards board (FAB). Agored Cymru are responsible for facilitating the FAB and implementing effective procedures to confirm that all learners recommended for the award of the AHE Diploma (Art and Design)  have completed the required learning and achievement in line with the approved submission documentation, the QAA Diploma specification and grading scheme . In order to adequately prepare for FABs, centres are required to carry and internal awards board in order to internally verify learners’ completion status and to agree on the any special cases to be presented to the FAB.  Agored Cymru provides guidelines to inform the operation of internal awards boards and refer to them as pre-FABs.

7. Progression Routes

Access to Higher Education Diploma:

Higher education programme areas

Potential Higher Education Providers

Art and Design

Art Practice

Creative and Therapeutic Arts



Fine Arts

Art Practice (Environmental Art)

Art Practice (Community Art)

Art Practice (Health and Wellbeing), Design – Applied Arts.

BA Computer Game Design

BA Costume Design BA Fine Art Foundation Degree BA Fine Art Printmaking

BA Illustration

BA Stage and Prop Design

BA Ceramics and Jewellery

BA Digital Illustration

BA Digital Graphics

BA Fashion Design

BA Fine Art Painting, Drawing and Printmaking

BA Multi-disciplinary Art and Design

BA Photography

BA Sculpture

BA Contemporary Textiles

University of South Wales

University of Chester

Bangor University

University of Wales - Trinity St David’s

Glyndwr University

University of Bournemouth

University of Brighton

Cardiff Metropolitan University

Coleg Sir Gar

Coleg Menai/Grwp Llandrillo Menai

Falmouth University


8. Marketing

8.1 Agored Cymru will promote Access to Higher Education provision in Wales by producing:

  • generic AHE promotional materials
  • guidance materials for prospective AHE learners
  • guidance/promotional materials for HE Admissions tutors
  • articles/materials for the media.
  • the Access to HE annual conference
  • the Access to HE learner of the year award

8.2 Agored Cymru will engage with the following groups in order to promote the Access to Higher Education qualifications:

  • Welsh Government
  • Higher education providers
  • Widening Access Groups
  • All Wales Admissions tutors groups
  • ColegauCymru
  • the AHE Advisory group
  • Employer engagement groups
  • Relevant SSCs e.g. Care Council for Wales

8.3 Materials will be published on the Agored Cymru website, where dedicated AHE pages will be used to both promote the provision and disseminate guidance materials. The Access to HE logo is displayed on all materials in line with QAA’s published guidance.

8.4 Each centre is responsible for promoting and marketing the AHE Diplomas they are approved to offer.

9. Guidance to Centres

9.1 Centres will be required to complete approval documentation in order to offer this AHE Diploma. The application will require the centre to provide information on the following:

  • Administrative procedures
  • Locations of delivery
  • Overall course management strategies
  • Modes of delivery
  • Resources, including staffing
  • Pre-course guidance to learners
  • Learner support and advice and guidance
  • Assessment strategies
  • Recording processes
  • Recognition of prior learning (RPL)
  • Internal quality assurance including internal verification, standardisation, annual self assessment processes
  • Student liaison and feedback
  • HEP liaison and feedback
  • Progression

9.2 Centres will also be required to confirm that they will comply with QAA licence criteria for centres offering AHE Diplomas.

9.3 A comprehensive qualification guide will be produced for each AHE Diploma . The document will be available on the website and will include:

  • aims and objectives
  • target groups
  • entry requirements
  • delivery languages
  • progression
  • assessment
  • qualification structure
  • rules of combination
  • recognition of prior learning
  • barred combinations of units
  • units
  • quality assurance processes
  • credit transfer arrangements.

10. Rules of Combination

Total credits required within the Access to HE Diploma credit specification

Ungraded units level 2/3Graded units with academic subject contentTotal credits:

Specified credit requirements

Graded units with academic subject content - mandatory
Units from the following subject modulesCredit requirements - Level 3




Credits at L3 from any academic subject modules24
Total credits45


Ungraded units (level 2 and 3) - mandatory
UnitsCredit requirements
Level 2Level 3
Communication Skills for Access to HE 3
Delivering Oral Presentations 3
Study Skills: Thinking Skills or Academic Writing 3
Historical and Contextual Studies 3
Portfolio Preparation for Art and Design 3

Total credits



11. Units