Access to 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.

Access to Degree Studies is for students aspiring to join an undergraduate degree course, but who have few or no formal qualifications or have been out of full-time education for more than three years. Successful completion of the course guarantees a place on a degree course at the University of Stirling, though not necessarily in your choice of subject.

Applications are now open for entry in August 2023.

Key facts

Award: Access to Degree
Start date: August 2023
Course Director: Dr Sarah Galloway

Fees and funding

Course fee: £575 (2023/24)

SAAS part-time fee grant may be available - find out more on the SAAS website.

Course overview

The Access to Degree Studies course is for students aspiring to join an undergraduate degree course, but who have few or no formal qualifications or have been out of full-time education for more than three years.

Successful completion of the course guarantees a place on a degree course at the University of Stirling, though not necessarily in your choice of subject. As well as learning subjects necessary to joining a degree course, the Access to Degree Studies course offers tailored support, guidance and study strategies making sure you're ready for university study. All students can access the full range of university services whilst studying on the course.

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

  • Access to Nursing Studies
  • Access to Science Studies
  • Access to Degree Studies

See below for more information on these pathways.

The three pathways offer entry to most degree courses at the University of Stirling, including history, philosophy, politics, sociology, law, english, sports studies, geography, animal sciences and environmental science. Previous students have also joined professional degree courses such as social work and primary/secondary education.

Most students who successfully complete the Access to Degree course are highly successful at their undergraduate studies. Many stay at Stirling to study postgraduate courses. We even have former students now working as lecturers at the University, such as Dr Paul McMenemy who is now a lecturer in computing science at Stirling.

The Access course is recognised by many degree courses at other Scottish Universities. Please check admissions policies with the university you want to go to before you decide on our Access course.

One Access course, three pathways

The Access course has three pathways. You must select just one of these pathways when you apply for a place on the course.

If your goal is to join a degree course at a different university or college, please check with that institution’s admissions office, before committing to our course. 

Access to Nursing Studies

Nursing students can go on to study Adult Nursing or Mental Health Nursing at Stirling. Please note that there is no Midwifery degree course offered at the University of Stirling. Previous students have used the Access course to gain a place at Forth Valley College, which offers an HNC route to Midwifery.

Access to Science Studies

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
  • Environmental or Conservation based degrees
  • Mathematics and Computing Science (you must have a suitable qualification level in Mathematics. Please contact our Admissions team, if you have questions about whether your qualifications are suitable for joining a maths-based degree course).

Access to Degree Studies

Students can go on to study a wide variety of degrees including those found in:

For law degrees, students are expected to pass the Access Course with a grade average of 60.

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

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

The course starts with a mandatory on-line ‘Welcome Week’. During Welcome Week you will meet your lecturers, find out about the University’s support services for students and attend an on-line induction meeting. You will also begin familiarising yourself with Canvas, the University’s virtual learning environment.

During the course, 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.

Classes are taught on Monday, Wednesday or Thursday evenings from 6.30pm to 9.30pm.

There are two semesters:

  • Semester 1 - mid-August to 1st week in December
  • Semester 2  - 2nd week in January to mid-May

We follow the Stirling Council schools calendar for mid-term breaks (please note that this differs from the rest of the University). The Access Course is closed, along with the rest of the University, for the Easter Weekend.

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. Each module is equivalent to 10 Credits (SCQF).

Semester 1 – all modules mapped to SCQF level 5 or 6.
Semester 2 – all modules mapped to SCQF level 7.

 Access to Nursing StudiesAccess to Science StudiesAccess to Degree Studies
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
  • 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 mandatory Welcome Week, followed by a four week module called Learning Strategies. This is designed to help you get back into study and provide some study skills. During this period you will also gain familiarity with being on campus, as well as learning to use our virtual learning environment. From mid-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.

You will attend the course on two evenings a week, either for in-person teaching on campus or online for live meetings in our virtual learning environment. These classes may take place on either Monday, Wednesday or Thursday evenings.

How do I get ready for the course?

Make sure you have the following in place, before you start the course. If you have problems in accessing the necessary technology and/or WiFi, and live in the Stirling Council area, you can contact their Digital Inclusion team at for advice and assistance. The University also has a free laptop loan scheme.

  1. Make yourself available for study - the Access course requires your time commitment, each week that the course runs. You must be available for study from Mid-August until the 1st week in December, then again from the 2nd week in January until Mid May. Do not book holidays during these periods and set time aside each week, for independent study.
  2. A laptop or desktop computer - a computer is essential for attending classes on-line and working on your assignments. Study will not be possible via mobile phones or tablets.
  3. WiFi access - a reliable WiFi signal is essential. When on campus you will have access to free University WiFi via Eduroam.
  4. Headphones and webcam - you must have headphones and webcam to hear and see your lecturer and the other students when attending classes on-line.
  5. Find a quiet space for study - it's important that you have time for study without any distractions. You may make use of local council libraries, or the University library and study areas.

How will I be taught and be assessed?

Classes, whether on-line, or in-person, are opportunities to question, debate, discuss, and learn individually and collaboratively with others.

The Access course offers a blend of in-person teaching and live on-line learning. When in class, you will get to know the campus and start to feel part of our Stirling community. You will gain valuable experience of studying with other students in on-line classrooms, via Canvas, our virtual learning environment. You will become familiar with various on-line learning features, becoming fully prepared for contemporary university life.

Depending on the subjects you learn, assessment might include a range of essay or assignment writing, presentations, problem-solving exercises, class tests and tests.

The assessments are designed to ascertain how successfully you have engaged with your studies. In addition, tackling assessments builds your skills in writing essays, taking tests, and giving presentations. Your confidence will grow, preparing you effectively for university studies.

All subject modules (not Learning Strategies modules) include more than one assessment, allowing opportunities for you to demonstrate your progression with that subject. All subject module have a final assessment, in early December and early May.

How much does the course cost?

The fee for the course in 2023/24 is £575. 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. Applications for the Part Time Fee Grant are submitted via the University – information on how to apply is offered when students enrol for the course.

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 on an undergraduate degree course at the University of Stirling. The University aims to offer you a place on 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 to Degree Studies course, 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, Education (teaching) or sports-related degrees, should have voluntary or work experience in those sectors to be competitive to apply.

Students wishing to take the Nursing route should also be compliant with the code of conduct for nurses, including criteria relating to criminal convictions. Contact Admissions with any questions, before taking up a place on the Access Course.

If you are aiming to achieve a teaching qualification, please note that in Scotland, entry to a teacher education degree course requires specific qualifications in mathematics and English. These requirements are demanded by the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). For the latest information see the GTCS website.

For all other degree paths, gaining work or volunteer experience in those sectors is encouraged to make your undergraduate study application more competitive.

Nursing and Science routes – further criteria

These routes require studying maths at SCQF Level 5 and Data Skills at SCQF Level 7. Successful applicants for either route, should demonstrate potential and confidence to study maths at this level. This could be:

  • Core Skills Numeracy at Level 5
  • Nat 5/Nat 4 mathematics
  • Standard grade (3) mathematics
  • Relevant work experience evidencing confidence with numerical tasks.

If your highest level of numeracy study is one of the following levels, we recommend you contact the adult learning department within your local authority area about opportunities for increasing your level of numeracy qualifications before applying for the Science or Nursing routes of the course:

  • Access 3
  • Standard grade (5) or below
  • SCQF Core Skills level 3
  • National 3

For information about adult learning in the Forth Valley area you can contact:

Fife College also offers a ‘Getting Ready for National 5 mathematics’ course.

Some science and maths-based degrees such as Computer Science, require additional mathematics qualifications.

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 welcome applications from students from widening participation backgrounds, and offer wide range of support from pre-application stage right through to graduation. For more information on the support available for care experienced students, estranged students and student carers, please visit our Widening Participation webpages or email

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 Sarah Galloway - Sarah is Director of Access to Higher Education Degree Studies. Sarah also teaches on the Teaching Qualification in Further Education (TQFE) programme.

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."