Access to Higher Education Diploma (Medicine)

Qualification Guide (40013509)

1. Introduction

  1. Agored Cymru is a licensed Access Validating Agency (AVA) and its Access to Higher Education (AHE) Diplomas are validated in accordance with the requirements of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) recognition scheme for the AHE Diploma. The recognition scheme includes the AHE Diploma Specification, the AHE Grading Scheme and the AVA Licensing Criteria. [1]    
  2. The AHE Diploma is a nationally recognised qualification that is:
    • a unitised qualification based on units of assessment which are structured in accordance with the AHE unit specification
    • a credit-based qualification operated in accordance with the terms of the AHE Diploma specification
    • a graded qualification, as determined by the AHE Grading Scheme
    • a level 3 qualification, regulated by QAA
  3. All AHE Diplomas are constructed from a set of units that are approved by Agored Cymru. Each unit has a specified credit value of either 3 credits or 6 credits. The specification for the achievement of the AHE Diploma requires a total of 60 credits. Of the 60 credits, 45 must be achieved at level 3 from graded units which are concerned with academic subject content. The remaining 15 credits must be achieved at level 2 or level 3 from units that are ungraded.
  4. Each AHE Diploma is distinguished by a unique title that reflects the intended progression routes and a completion requirement that is referred to as the rules of combination. The rules of combination specify the way in which available units may or must be combined.


[1] QAA, AHE Diploma Specification (January 2020), the Grading Scheme (September 2020), AVA Licensing Criteria (February 2020).

2. Aims

1. The Access to Higher Education Diploma (Medicine) will prepare learners to be self-directed and independent through a programme of learning that supports the acquisition of skills, knowledge and behaviours appropriate to their intended progression route. Learners will be introduced to a range of subject areas related to the academic and practical requirements of a medical degree.

2. The Agored Cymru Access to Higher Education Diploma (Medicine) has been developed in line with QAA’s Subject Descriptor for Medicine. [2] QAA state that the aim of the subject descriptor is to bring greater standardisation to Diplomas titled Access to HE Diploma (Medicine). This will allow the medical schools currently accepting Access to HE students for direct entry to have greater confidence that an unfamiliar Diploma will be very similar in selection, content and assessment to those that they currently accept. It may also encourage those medical schools not currently accepting Access to HE students to review their admissions policies based on a clear definition of an Access to HE Diploma (Medicine) student.

3. The key aims of the AHE Diploma (Medicine) are:

  • To create opportunities for individuals in the target groups who are able to demonstrate that they have the potential to progress to and be successful on a medical degree.
  • To facilitate the development of the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to successfully manage the demands of medical degree
  • To provide a stimulating programme of learning through which learners can gain knowledge reflective across the mandatory subject areas
  • To enable learners to continuously review their progress, identify areas for improvement, overcome barriers to learning and enhance their self-confidence within a positive and supportive learning environment.
  • To provide opportunities for those with characteristics that reflect those within the relevant widening participation and contextualisation criteria
  • To encourage and develop Welsh doctors to serve Welsh communities.

[2] QAA, Subject Descriptor for Medicine (September 2021)

3. Target Group and Entry Requirements

1. The AHE Diploma (Medicine) is designed for:

  • Learners who are able to demonstrate the potential to be successful on a medical degree and have completed A levels in the required subject areas, but because of social, educational or individual circumstances have not achieved the required grades [3]
  • Learners who have achieved excellent grades at A level, but not in the subject areas required to support progression to a medical degree
  • Learners that have completed other level three qualifications in the relevant subject areas
  • Learners who are returning to education after an extended period away for formal study, but who have gained sufficient life experience within vocational or other settings. [4]

2. Applicants will represent the target groups defined in section 3.

3. All applicants will need to have achieved GCSEs in English, Maths and Science (double award or chemistry and biology) at grade B or above.

4. All learners will be required to complete the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) during their year of study.

[3] These circumstances may include applicants who have been a looked after child, that are carers, that were entitled to free school meals and who, in their immediate family, will be the first to go to university and that explicitly demonstrate entrenched disadvantage.

[4] The AHE Diploma (Medicine) is not suitable for overseas applicants.

4. Guided Learning Hours

  1. As a 60 credit qualification, the AHE Diploma has a total qualification time (TQT) of 600 hours (GLHs). The time allocated will vary across approved centres and this is informed by curriculum planning and the mode of delivery. All centres must outline how TQT is allocated across the duration of the course prior to receiving approval to offer a named AHE Diploma

5. Modes of Delivery

1. The AHE Diploma (Medicine) has been designed to accommodate variable modes of delivery and assessment.

2. Centres can be approved to offer the Diploma on a full-time basis although part-time may be appropriate in specific circumstances. Where appropriate and where accommodated by viable progression opportunities, centres can indicate start and end dates outside of the conventional academic year. 

3. Centres are encouraged to offer the Diploma through classroom-based learning, although blended learning and online learning will be considered on application.

4. Centres approved to offer the AHE Diploma (Medicine) will indicate all intended modes of delivery at the point of application. This will need to be supported with evidence to demonstrate that the appropriate resources are in place to effectively provide a coherently structured programme of learning that fulfils the qualification requirements and fully meets the needs of learners indicated in the target groups.

6. Curriculum Design

1. The content of the AHE Diploma (Medicine) has been developed in line with the QAA Subject Descriptor in Medicine. QAA state that the purpose of the subject descriptor is to define the minimum requirement of content for a diploma titled Access to Higher Education Diploma (Medicine). The Subject Descriptor provides information regarding the expected and recommended areas of study for progression to Medicine, but also allows a degree of flexibility. [5]

2. The AHE Diploma (Medicine) has been informed by various stakeholders including centres involved in the delivery and assessment of AHE Diplomas and potential receiving higher education providers. This has ensured a balanced and coherent programme of study with indicative content that is focused on the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed to effectively support preparation for progression to a Medical degree or other related areas.

3. The AHE Diploma (Medicine) includes the requirement for the achievement of units in academic and study skills and numeracy. This includes three credits of academic and study skills at Level 3 (ungraded), three credits in mathematics at Level 3 (ungraded) and a six-credit Level 3 (ungraded) research project that must be contextualised within the areas of study aligned with the Diploma title.

4. The AHE Diploma (Medicine) includes the requirement for the achievement of a three credit unit at Level 3 (ungraded) entitled Professional Behaviours for Medical Practitioners. This unit has been developed at a national level and is mandatory in all Diplomas that are developed in line with the Subject Descriptor for Medicine.   

5. The AHE Diploma (Medicine) does not seek to directly address the skills and competences of the practitioner.


[5] QAA, Subject Descriptor for Medicine (September 2021), section 3


7. Resources

1. Centres are required to demonstrate that facilities and resources at each site that is to be used for the delivery of the AHE Diploma (Medicine), are appropriate for the planned learning and assessment requirements, including appropriate learning support resources and facilities needed for the defined target groups. Where blended and online modes of delivery will be implemented, centres must demonstrate that appropriate facilities are in place to support this and that they fully accessible to the defined target groups. 

2. Centres must demonstrate that the practitioners responsible for the delivery, assessment and internal quality assurance of the AHE Diploma (Medicine) are able to demonstrate relevant qualifications and expertise in the subject areas they are responsible for.

8. Assessment

1. Centres must comply with Agored Cymru policies and procedures when carrying out assessment activities on the AHE Diploma (Medicine) including:

  • Reasonable adjustments for assessment
  • Special considerations for assessment
  • Recognition of prior learning and credit transfer
  • Retention of assessment and internal quality assurance materials
  • E-assessment
  • Distance assessment
  • Conflicts of interest in assessment and internal quality assurance
  • AHE external moderation policy

2. The assessment strategies to be used with the AHE Diploma (Medicine) ensure appropriate variety and reflect assessment methods associated with the area of study. Centres offering the AHE Diploma (Medicine) must ensure that assessment design:

  • 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 units
  • provides opportunities for differentiation of performance consistent with the grade descriptors assigned to graded units
  • provides opportunities for learners to demonstrate a range of study skills relevant to their progression to higher education
  • facilitates valid and reliable assessment of student achievement
  • leads to the volume of assessment evidence that is proportionate to the credit value of the unit.

3. The Subject Descriptor in Medicine does stipulate that learners must complete end of year examinations. However, they should have the opportunity to experience and demonstrate achievement in assessments to fully support their transition into higher education which is varied and inclusive. This should include the following forms of assessment: [6]

  • a substantial number of time constrained, unseen assessments or examinations, ideally to include at least one instance of single, best answer, multiple choice questions
    • centres must provide informal opportunities in preparation for single, best answer, multiple choice questions throughout the course
  • at least one each of the following:
    • essay prepared using relevant academic conventions-
    • report using practical, research, mathematical, statistical and writing skills, as appropriate
    • oral presentation to include visual aids and appropriate resources
    • reflective accounts.

4. Approved centres are advised to identify the units available within the Diploma that facilitate the best opportunities to implement the forms of assessment identified in 8.4.

5. Whilst the AHE Diploma (Medicine) addresses distinct subject areas, centres are advised, where appropriate, to assess study skills in the context of the academic content.

[6] QAA, Subject Descriptor for Medicine (September 2021), section 9


9. Internal Quality Assurance

  1. All AHE centres approved to offer AHE Diplomas are responsible for planning and implementing internal quality assurance (IQA) procedures to ensure and demonstrate that the Diploma is being delivered and assessed in accordance with the approved AHE Diploma submission documentation.
  2. IQA must be structured to enable an internal verification/moderation process that facilitates the scrutiny of assessment design and assessment decisions regarding the award of credit and grades in line with the QAA Diploma specification and grading scheme.
  3. The application of internal verification/moderation must facilitate consistent standards of demand in assessment design which maximises reliability and validity in assessment outcomes.
  4. Internal moderation/verification must ensure the consistent and accurate application of QAA assessment regulations.
  5. Internal verification/moderation must be carried out only by individuals and teams that have an appropriate level of subject expertise related to the areas of study.

10. External Quality Assurance

  1. Centres approved to offer the AHE Diploma are subject to external moderation in line with the Agored Cymru AHE External Moderation Policy and Procedure. External moderation will ensure:
    • That standards are applied consistently in assessment and that the required standards of achievement and performance are evident in all recommendations for credit and grades.
    • That learners awarded the AHE Diploma have completed the required learning to the required standard and that achievement is reflected in the credits and grades awarded.
    • That centres delivering the AHE Diploma are implementing a rigorous internal verification process that is in line with Agored Cymru’s requirements.

11. Progression

1. Centres must ensure that learners receive specific advice, guidance and support on how to pursue progression to a medical degree or other related area. Centres are required to identify potential progression routes to relevant higher education programmes other than medicine.

2. All learners will be required to demonstrate a commitment to book and complete a University Clinical Aptitude Test in the year they will be applying to university.

3. Potential progression routes:

Higher Education Provider


Cardiff University

Medicine (MBBCh)

Bangor University

Medicine (MBBCh)

12. Marketing

1. Agored Cymru will raise the profile of AHE Diplomas through the production of:

  • generic AHE promotional materials, including case studies
  • guidance materials for prospective AHE learners
  • guidance/promotional materials for HE Admissions tutors.
  • AHE conferences  
  • AHE learner of the year awards.

2. In order to promote the Access to Higher Education Diploma, Agored Cymru will, as appropriate, engage with:

  • All Wales admissions groups
  • Colegau Cymru 
  • Receiving higher education providers
  • Welsh Government
  • The AHE Advisory group
  • Employer engagement groups.

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 in line with QAA’s published guidance.

4. Each centre is responsible for promoting and marketing the AHE Diplomas they are approved to offer. Centres are monitored to ensure that their published information regarding AHE Diplomas is accurate and consistent with Agored Cymru and QAA requirements and that the Access to HE logo is displayed in line with QAA’s published guidance.

13. Guidance to Centres

  1. Centres will be required to complete approval documentation in order to be considered to offer the AHE Diploma. The application will require the centre to provide information on the following:
    • Administrative procedures
    • Locations of delivery
    • Overall course management and accountabilities
    • Recruitments targets
    • Intended modes of delivery
    • The suitability of resources, including staffing
    • Pre-course guidance to learners, including entry requirements
    • Learner support, advice and guidance
    • Progression opportunities
    • Assessment strategies
    • Internal quality assurance processes and procedures including internal verification, standardisation and annual self-assessment

14. Rules of Combination


Access to Higher Education Diploma (Medicine)

Total credits required: 60
Minimum credits required at Level Three: 60
Minimum credits required at Level Three:24
Maximum credits at Level Three:24
Minimum credits required at Level Three:15
Maximum credits at Level Three:15
Minimum credits required at Level Three:3
Maximum credits at Level Three:3
Minimum credits required at Level Three:6
Maximum credits at Level Three:6
Minimum credits required at Level Three:6
Maximum credits at Level Three:6
Minimum credits required at Level Three:3
Maximum credits at Level Three:3
Minimum credits required at Level Three:3
Maximum credits at Level Three:3