The University provides comprehensive Advice for Teachers, Tutors and HE Advisers, and much of this is relevant to those working with mature students. 

Access Diploma Applicants

Access Diploma applicants, and their tutors and HE Advisers, may have additional questions. We have tried to answer some of the more common ones below, and others are covered in our FAQs for applicants. We welcome enquiries and visits from tutors and HE Advisors at any time of year, and can also arrange for our Admissions Director or Outreach & Recruitment Officer to visit most areas of the UK. Please contact our Admissions Office ( for further assistance.

Does Cambridge accept Access Diplomas?

  • Access Diplomas can constitute acceptable preparation for Arts degrees and for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences, although students should ensure that their unit choices reflect the requirements of the course they wish to follow at University.
  • An Access Diploma alone is not generally acceptable for Science degrees (other than Psychological and Behavioural Sciences), or for Economics, although it can be a useful ‘first step’ for students willing to undertake further study prior to admission.

Students with Access Diplomas make up around a third of the undergraduates admitted by Lucy Cavendish each year. A similar number arrive with other ‘non-traditional’ qualifications, such as Scottish Higher Nationals, Certificates of Higher Education, and OU Credits, or with a mixture of qualifications. Around one in five Access Diploma applicants obtains a place and this does not differ significantly, across the University, from students with A-levels.

Are some Access Diplomas more appropriate than others?

We do not distinguish between Access Diplomas on the basis of overall ‘quality’; however, some Access Diplomas are a better fit for some degree courses than others, and prospective applicants should check the entry requirements for their chosen subject carefully. We expect students to be taking at least 45 credits at Level 3. 

All our degree programmes are examination- rather than coursework-weighted. We also test at interview, so applicants who have had practice working under controlled conditions may be at an advantage.

When should applicants on Access Diplomas and other one-year courses apply?

Applicants in the following subjects must apply by October 15th, for entry the following year:

Art History Medicine Philosophy
Law Music Veterinary Medicine


For all other subjects, Lucy Cavendish accepts applications up to March 1st. We actively encourage those on one-year courses to take advantage of this extended deadline as it is our experience that these applicants come with more confident references, more confident examples of written work, and more confidence at interview.

Which students are you most likely to interview?

All Access Diploma applicants working at clear Distinction standard are likely to secure an interview, provided that they meet the requirements of their chosen degree course. We also interview some applicants with a mixture of Merit and Distinction grades, particularly if there is evidence that they have been disadvantaged by personal or educational circumstance, or if references and written work suggest they are on a rapid upward trajectory.

We will not generally interview applicants on one-year A-level courses predicted any grade below an A.   

How can I help my students prepare for interview?

Any practice you can offer students in discussing aspects of their chosen subject, in a small-group or one-to-one setting, will be helpful. Interview guidance is available on the University site here. Our Outreach & Recruitment Officer can also offer advice about interview preparation to students in FE colleges.

What is a typical offer for an Access Diploma candidate?

The University standard offer is Diploma with Distinctions in 'all relevant subject units'. In practice, this is likely to mean Distinctions in every Level 3 unit. The equivalent tends to be true in other 'non-traditional' qualifications, i.e. we would expect an overall Distinction in a Certificate of Higher Education, 80% in OU Credits at Level 2, 70-80% in a Foundation Year. However, we would not necessarily discount an applicant who had achieved one or two Merits early in their course, if subsequent work was of exceptional quality.

Occasionally, we will ask applicants to complete post Access Diploma assignments, as part of their offer. No grade is attached to these assignments.

Do you provide feedback on applications?

Most Cambridge colleges prefer to provide feedback to the applicant’s current educational institution. Lucy Cavendish will also provide post-interview feedback directly to applicants, on request, including guidance on further study. We circulate general feedback to all FE colleges from which we have received applications, each year.

Student Profiles - Access Route to Cambridge - Shelly, Heather and more