The Access to HE Diploma and the New UCAS Tariff

Staff working with Access to HE Diploma learners will know that for the first time the qualification has been included in the UCAS tariff for 2017 entry. This new development has been broadly welcomed in the sector as it helps to raise the profile of the qualification and provide parity with other level 3 qualifications.It is worth noting though, that according to UCAS, only one third of courses use the Access tariff.

It’s also proved a complicated process in terms of providing tariff scores for the many different graded level 3 credits – 45 in total, each of which is graded pass, merit or distinction. While you can comfortably fit the tariff tables for both A-level and the BTEC Extended Diploma onto one side of A4, the tariff table for the Access to HE Diploma runs to five and a half pages. It starts with 45 distinctions, 0 merits and 0 passes (which equals 144 tariff points) right the way down to 0 distinctions, 0 merits and 45 passes (48 tariff points).  It is worth noting that the tariff points fluctuate as you go through the table. For example on page two 9 distinctions, 36 merits and 0 passes equals 106 tariff points, on page 4 you find that 9 distinctions, 36 merits and 0 passes amounts to 106 tariff points as well - a number of graded combinations can score the same tariff points. 

While I’m not suggesting that the table is unusable, it is complicated, especially when compared to other level 3 tariffed qualifications. The UCAS tariff calculator helps in that users can put in their predicted graded credits and have them converted to tariff points. However it would be even more useful if it also worked the other way – so you could put in a tariff score and have it converted into the equivalent numbers of distinctions, merits and passes. Both OCN London and Linking London have raised this with UCAS and we await their response.

If I haven’t already confused you completely there is another issue that’s worth raising in the context of the new tariff for Access to HE Diplomas. Where universities are using the new tariff in some cases the tariff points asked for don’t match any points score you can obtain with the Access to HE Diploma. At our last Linking London Access Practitioner Group meeting held in May, we shared some initial mapping of HE entry requirements for 2017 entry for Access to HE Diploma applicants.  There were several issues in terms of the clarity of the information provided. For instance several courses asked for 120 UCAS tariff points.  While 3 Bs at A-level give you a score of 120 tariff points, the nearest equivalent for Access to HE Diplomas is 118 (eg. 33 Ds, 0Ms, 12 Ps or 30/6/9 or 21/24/0 or 27/12/6) or 122 tariff points, which you can also obtain with various distinction, merit and pass combinations.

Over time we hope some improvements will be made in terms of clarity of UCAS tariff points for Access to HE Diplomas as it beds in. In the meantime staff supporting Access to HE Diploma students applying to institutions that use the new tariff and don’t also display their requirements in terms of actual distinctions, merits and passes required may need some support to do so. If in doubt it's always worth contacting the institution directly for clarification. 

If you would like to find out more we will be discussing the new UCAS tariff for Access to HE Diplomas again, as well as the latest progression to HE data, at our next Linking London Access to HE Diploma Practitioner Meeting on the 31st of October, 2-5pm. To book a place contact


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