Student with filming camera and headphones

Access to
Degree Studies

Apply for Degree Studies

Stirling is a place where potential and enthusiasm – not background – is valued. We want to help you realise your potential and our Access to Degree Studies course is the perfect place to start.

Please note, the applications for Access to Degree Studies courses have now closed.

Key facts

Award: Access to Degree
Start date: August 2021
Course Director: Dr Dalene Swanson

Fees and funding

Course fee: £525 (2021/22)

Please go to the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) website to apply for funding.

Course overview

Our Access to Degree Studies course is designed for students who aspire to take on undergraduate study at university, but for whatever reason have few or no formal qualifications, or have been out of formal education (e.g. high school) for some time. The course gives you both the academic qualifications you need to get into a degree and tailored support, guidance and study strategies throughout the course to make sure you're ready for university study.

The course has three pathways, which can lead into a wide variety of degrees:

  • Nursing
  • Science
  • Social Science (General)

See the section further down the page for more information on these pathways.

The pathways offer entry into various disciplines that prepare students for rewarding careers in Sociology, Criminology, Social Policy, Social Work, Psychology, Education, Nursing, Business Management, Environmental Management, Science, Mathematics, Biology, Sports Studies, Sports Management and Politics. It also offers entry into other university courses such as Media Studies, Economics, Law, and many more interesting subjects and professional careers.

Please note that for students who want to become Primary and Secondary teachers, there may be additional requirements for Mathematics and English. Please get in touch with us before you apply if you would like to use our Access course to get into one of our Professional Education (teaching) degrees.

Most students who successfully complete the Access to Degree course are highly successful at their undergraduate studies, often staying with us after they have graduated to study postgraduate courses. We even have former students teaching on our courses as lecturers. Dr Paul McMenemy started on our Access course and has been a member of the research staff within Mathematics.

Some other Scottish universities will also accept students from our Access courses onto their degree courses, particularly in subjects we don't currently offer, such as Midwifery. You should check with the university you want to go to before you decide on our Access course.

We've been running an Access course for many years producing highly successful graduates across a range of subjects and professions. We are highly respected with a prominent position in Scottish Education, and work hard to maintain our cutting-edge approach to developing new knowledge within the education field, as well as supporting our students to carry this knowledge into their undergraduate studies.

One Access course, three pathways

We have one Access course with three pathways. You choose which one of the three streams you want to study based on what kind of degree course you want to go into. Remember if you're going to apply to other universities you need to check with them before you sign up to our course to make sure it is the right course for the degree you want to study.

Nursing (Please note, applications for our Nursing pathway are now closed for 2021 entry)

Nursing students can go on to study Adult Nursing or Mental Health Nursing at Stirling, or use the course to go to another university if you're interested in a different field of practice i.e. Child Nursing, Learning Disability Nursing, Midwifery.

Science (Please note, applications for our Science pathway are now closed for 2021 entry)

Science students can go on to study any of our degrees in the Faculty of Natural Sciences, including:

  • Animal or Marine Biology
  • Biology or Cell Biology
  • Environmental Geography
  • Sport and Exercise Science
  • Environmental or Conservation based degrees
  • Mathematics and Computing Science (you must have a suitable qualification level in Mathematics. Please enquire before applying to check your suitability).

Social Science (General)

Social Science (General) students can go on to study a wide variety of degrees including those found in:

Course details

Course aim

The idea is to prepare you for degree study, including how to:

  • develop academic arguments
  • write academically
  • learn collaboratively with others
  • gain learning techniques
  • facilitate your own learning and the learning of your peers
  • develop critical thinking skills

Course structure

Everyone studies two Learning Strategies modules. These modules give you the study skills you need at university, such as essay writing, critical thinking and knowledge on how to research.

The course starts in mid-August each year. This is a few weeks before the start of Semester 1 for most undergraduate students, giving you a chance to settle in. Attendance from the start of the Access course is mandatory.

Classes are taught Monday and Thursday evenings from 6.30pm to 9.30pm.

There are two semesters - one from mid-August to December and one from January to May. There is a ‘celebration of success’ evening in June at the end of the course. Family and close friends are invited to come along and join in the celebration of your achievements.

What will I be studying?

You will study six modules in the Access course. Access to Science and Access to Social Sciences/General pathways give you a choice of modules.

 Access to NursingAccess to ScienceAccess Social Science/General
August - December

Learning Strategies 1


Introduction to science

Learning Strategies 1


Introduction to science

Learning Strategies 1

Choose two of the following:

  • Mathematics
  • Introduction to psychology
  • Introduction to social science
  • Introduction to politics
January - May

Learning Strategies 2

Data Skills

Human Biology (you will need to score 50% or more to be considered for our undergraduate nursing degree)

Learning Strategies 2

Data Skills

Human Biology or Environmental Science

Learning Strategies 2


Environmental Science

What will I learn?

Two modules on learning strategies will cover knowledge and skills crucial to becoming a successful university student. These include:

  • Effective time management
  • Critical thinking
  • How to do research
  • Essay and report writing
  • Effective learning methods
  • How to develop your knowledge to perform well in presentations, class assessments, assignments and exams
  • Handling data, developing mathematical competency and making sense of statistics
  • How to use the library effectively

The data skills module will help you build the knowledge, skills and confidence needed for numerical and mathematical literacies in science or nursing degrees.

When do I start?

Semester 1 for Access students starts mid-August with a four week module called Learning Strategies. This is designed to help you get back into study and provide some study skills. From early September you begin your academic subject modules. 

Semester 2 usually starts in the second week of January with the second Learning Strategies module. From early February until May you will continue with your academic subject modules.

The course is taught on Monday and Thursday evenings.

How will I be taught and be assessed?

Classes are opportunities to question, debate, discuss, and learn individually and collaboratively with others. Assessment includes a range of essay or assignment writing, presentations, group discussions, problem-solving exercises, class tests and short tasks.

At the end of each semester, there is one three-hour daytime exam. This is made up of two academic subject sections of one and a half hours each. The Learning Strategies modules have their own internal assessments and are not part of the exam.

How much does the course cost?

The fees for the course for study in 2021/22 are £525. Depending upon your circumstances you may be eligible for support from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). For more information please please visit the SAAS website.

Succeeding in Access

To pass the Access course you’ll need to:

  • pass each module with at least 40%
  • gain an average of at least 50% across the modules* (see note below about nursing and law where this is different)
  • fulfil the attendance and assessment requirements for each module

Successful students will be offered a place in undergraduate study at the University of Stirling. The University tries its best to offer you a place in your chosen course, but it may not always be possible as these places are competitive. However, you will be offered some choice if you are successful in the Access programme, and the University aims to offer you a place as close as possible to your chosen course. You will be given support when you apply for your undergraduate degree.

*Students wishing to study nursing after the Access course must choose the nursing pathway. For a place on the nursing degree, as well as an average mark of 50% across the modules, you will also need to achieve at least 50% in the Human Biology module. You will also need to be successful in a separate interview for the nursing course.

Students wishing to study law after the Access course must achieve a 60% average across the modules.

Who can apply?

This course is open to anyone who hasn't studied at university level before and might not have the right entry qualifications and experience to apply for undergraduate study. Students should have been out of formal education for a minimum of three years.

Students wanting to enter degrees in the professions of Nursing, Social Work, or Education (teaching) should have voluntary or work experience in those sectors to be competitive to apply. For all other degree paths, work or volunteer experience in those sectors is encouraged to make your undergraduate study application more competitive.

If you already have some qualifications and would like to know if they meet our entry requirements then get in touch and we can check them for you.

We also welcome applications from Care Experienced students.

If you're not sure if you would be eligible, please get in touch with our Widening Participation Manager who is happy to help.

If you already have some qualifications and would like to know if they meet our entry requirements then get in touch and we can check them for you.

Contact us

Dr Sarah Galloway
Director of Access to Higher Education Degree Studies

What support can I get?

Access students tend to form bonds quickly with other students so you'll find yourself in a supportive group from the start. We would also encourage you to take part in events and societies run by The Students' Union so you feel part of the wider university community.

Student Support

Our friendly and welcoming Student Support Services team are your first point of call for all kinds of support and they are happy to talk to you at any time. They can provide information, advice and guidance on a whole range of subjects, including:

  • financial advice
  • disability advice
  • other forms of support
  • care experienced student advice
  • general advice

Finance advice

What financial support you are entitled to depends on your individual circumstances. You can get in touch with our Money Advisers directly to see what support you can get. Just send an email to

Disability advice

We are committed to offering a service that is welcoming and supportive of the needs of all students. Our Accessibility and Inclusion team takes into account the full range of needs of students with a disability in a wide variety of circumstances.

Advisers offer one-to-one support before you arrive and throughout your time at university to assess what you might need and help you access it. This includes help applying for the Disabled Student Allowance and support for students with Dyslexia to organise diagnostic assessment.

We recommend that you come to see the team on campus before you start. Email us at to find out more about the type of support you may need.

Other forms of support

There is also a wide range of study and practical skills advice on offer. Student Learning Services provide wide-ranging study skills guidance and also run the Learning Strategies modules.

Throughout your time at the University, Student Support Services and The Students' Union have trained counsellors who provide a free service to all students. They cover a range of services offering a safe and confidential environment where difficulties, no matter how big or small, can be talked through including money worries, family/relationship problems, exam stress and more.

Care Experienced students

Our care experienced student advisers can help you with information and advice on a range of topics. You can contact them at at any time, from before you apply through to when you become a student.

General advice

If you have questions but do not know who to ask, feel free to contact Director of Access to Higher Education Degree Studies, Dr Sarah Galloway.

You can ask a question on anything from what degree study is like or where to find out information.

Course staff

Dr Dalene Swanson - Dalene teaches on the course and also lectures on the Initial Teacher Education course in the Faculty of Social Sciences. She researches in the field of Education and Mathematics Education. She is a member of the Scottish Universities Association of Lifelong Learning, is on the Board of Trustees of SCOTDEC, Scotland’s development Education Centre, and is on the International Executive Board of the UNESCO Chair in Democracy, Global citizenship, and Transformative Education.

Dr Kevin Brosnan - Kevin teaches on the Access to Degree Studies course and is also the Course Director of the Teaching Qualification in Further Education (TQFE) In-Service and Pre-Service programmes.

Dr Sarah Galloway - Sarah is Director of Access to Higher Education Degree Studies. Sarah is also a member of the National Strategic Forum on Adult Learning Working Group - Professional Development, which takes forward the priorities set out in the Scottish Government's vision for adult learning. 

Image of Shumela Ahmed

Shumela Ahmed

BA (Hons) Journalism and Politics

Shumela, 35, left school at the age of 14 with no formal qualifications and initially assumed that was the end of her academic journey.

“I always assumed an academic career was out of the question because of my lack of education. The University’s Access program significantly changed that and, once I had completed it, I chose to stay at Stirling for the duration of my undergraduate degree."