Access Course

Access to Higher Education Diploma: Medical Science with Chemistry or Physics

Course details

Study options

Full-time: 36 weeks

Course level


Start date



Derby Campus

Diplomas are offered to mature students over the age of nineteen. The intention of the course is that students will achieve a place on an undergraduate degree. This is a one-year Level 3 course taught over thirty-six weeks that prepares students for the rigours of level 4 study and beyond.

Most students do not have relevant Level 3 qualifications such as A-Levels or BTECs, so our Access course (which is regulated by the Quality Assurance Agency) gives students a ‘second chance’. We fully understand that many individuals who are returning to study after a length of time, may be low in academic confidence, but we have an enthusiastic and dedicated team to make sure that our students have the tools to successfully complete the course.

This gives students an excellent foundation in the knowledge and skills that successful applicants will need to pass the Access course. Most Access courses are taught in a college, but students can study with us in a university setting. 

Please check our entry requirements to see if you meet the criteria to start with us in September. If you are lacking in level 2 qualifications, we also offer a Pre Access course. This allows students to prepare for the Access course by taking English and Maths qualifications alongside other modules to give you an insight to Level 3 study.

Book your place at our next Access information event

90%of Access Diploma graduates are employed or in further study 6 months after graduationQuality Assurance Assessment (2021)

What you will study

You will cover Biology, Physics OR Chemistry, and study skills. Each of these contains content that will be transferable to your degree. The difference between the physics and chemistry groupings depends on what degree you would like to do. Further information about this can be found in the ‘future careers’ section. In addition, this course will enable you to develop skills that will help you transition to Level 4 study.

Human Cell Biology

This unit is designed to give a foundation in the undertraining of eukaryotic cellular biology. Within this unit, we will look at the components of the human cell and investigate their structure and function. The unit will give the learner an understanding of the function of many organelles, such as the nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, lysosomes, and many more besides. We will also investigate the mechanisms of cellular transport and the role the cell membranes play in this process.  


This unit explores the fundamentals of chemistry, starting with the structure of atoms and ions. From there, students will begin to look at types of bonding found within biology to form molecules such as carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids. The student will learn to recognise the structure of the biological molecules, relate this structure to their function, and explain the formation and breakdown of polymer molecules within biology.  We will also explore the fascinating world of enzymes, with particular attention paid to evaluating the models of enzyme function and explaining the concept of enzyme activation energy.


Students will examine the core concept in the central dogma of molecular biology. Within the unit, the learner will explore the importance and function of genetic material including DNA, mRNA, tRNA genes, and chromosomes. We will discuss types of cell division and explore the importance of DNA replication. We will Understand the principles of Mendelian genetics and explain the role of multiple alleles in the inheritance. This unit lays the foundations of genetic understanding which future units will build upon.

Inherited Disease

This unit leads directly on from the genetics unit and explores the medical consequences of errors within our genome.  This unit offers the learner some freedom to explore genetic illnesses which are of interest to the student. We will also have exciting guest lectures from senior geneticists who will offer their expertise on the subject.

Infectious Disease

This unit will describe the characteristics of viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Students will explore diseases caused by these microorganisms; with a focus on Covid-19, TB and HIV.

We will describe the key methods by which pathogens may be spread and examine treatment options such as vaccinations, antibiotics, and antiviral drugs. This unit will also offer an insight into the fascinating world of immunology. We will explore both innate and adaptive immunity, consider antibody formation from both natural and artificial exposure to antigens; and evaluate the effects of mass immunisation programmes.

Human Cardiac and Respiratory Systems

The unit will offer students an understanding of the structure and function of the respiratory and cardiac systems. Learners will understand the structure/function of blood and investigate the circulation of blood through blood vessels. The unit will investigate the control mechanisms of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. This unit will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments of cardiovascular disease, including the analysis of the statistical relationship between smoking and health.

Skeleton and Muscles

This unit will examine the function of the human skeletal system, including types of bones, types of joints and connective tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Learners will be taught the biochemical differences between skeletal muscle, smooth muscle, and cardiac muscle, including an introduction to sliding filament theory.

Health Promotion

This unit is unlike any other. Rather than a purely biological perspective, this unit will look at ‘health’ from a larger, societal, view. We will draw upon aspects of psychology, sociology, law, economics and even politics to examine the health challenges being faced by British society in 2022. Concepts such as health inequality will be explored, with students being encouraged to research the larger picture of health provision within a society.

Control and Regulation

This unit will cover key concepts involved in homoeostasis. Including osmoregulation, blood glucose regulation and temperature control; We will also explore the medical consequences of the loss of control, including diabetes

Human Reproduction

Within this unit, students will examine the structure and function of the male and female reproductive systems and gamete formation. We will explore the role of Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH), oestrogen and progesterone in regulating the menstrual cycle and describe the events involved in fertilisation. Learners will explore the role of hormones in maintaining pregnancy, initiating birth and lactation; before detaining the events of parturition.

Static, Forces and Newton’s Laws of Motion

This introductory unit investigates balancing forces acting on an object (including gravitational force), objects moving under external forces, and friction.

Waves, Light and Sound

This unit investigates oscillatory motion (such as mechanical and electromagnetic waves and their frequencies), properties of light and sound, and speed of waves.


This unit explores electrical charge and current, resistance and capacitance, and calculating electrical energy consumption and cost.


This unit investigates electric and magnetic fields, electromagnetic induction and its use in power generation, and transformers.

Nuclear Properties of Material

This unit explores the atomic structure of materials, structure and properties of atoms, radiation and radioactive decay, and nuclear fission/fusion.

Medical Physics

This unit, completed by students as an independent study, explored medical diagnostic techniques (such as X-ray/MRI/ultrasound imaging), the aspects of physics relevant to these techniques, and safety implications. The aspects of physics explored are specifically those from the previous four units.

  • Fundamentals of Chemistry
  • Haloalkanes, Alcohols, Aldehydes and Ketones
  • Acids and Bases
  • Reaction Kinetics
  • Bonding, Crystal Structure and Shapes

Study skills provides you with some essential skills necessary to complete your Access Diploma and progress onto undergraduate study and is regarded as increasingly important by degree programme admissions tutors. Study skills is comprised of two units: Progression Skills and English for Academic Study. In your study skills lessons, we aim to provide you with a range of new skills or to give you the opportunity to develop existing skills.

Please note that our modules are subject to change - we review the content of our courses regularly, making changes where necessary to improve your experience and graduate prospects.

How you will learn

A diverse range of teaching and learning activities are used across each subject. Sessions are interactive and work to include student participation and student-led tasks. You will likely learn differently in each taught session; some sessions utilise group-work, others will focus on independent research and investigation. Scheduled teaching hours are led by your tutor who designs the learning accordingly to the group profile and therefore you will be exposed to a vast range of practises – this also helps demonstrate the techniques/strategies reviewed within the subjects

Wider enrichment takes place to supplement learning across the academic year. There are opportunities where guest speakers attend to deliver short talks from settings. You will also have access to the University of Derby’s library and on-site facilities for Further Education students.

How you will be assessed

You will be assessed through a range of different assessments that include essay writing, presentations, writing and academic posters. Assessments are explained within each unit and support is offered to scaffold your progress throughout the course. These are all designed to apply the knowledge, skills and behaviours from sessions (and wider reading/experiences) into areas of interest within education.

Entry requirements

You will need to be 19 years of age or above on 31 August 2024. You will have achieved Mathematics and English Language GCSEs at grade A-C/9-4. 

How to apply

Please look at our application deadlines before you apply.

If you're interested in this course you'll need to attend an Information Event.

At the event, you’ll be able to find out everything about the course, find out about fees and finance and get careers advice.


After completing your access course, you can progress to a degree within the Medical Science discipline that matches your study of either Physics or Chemistry. A degree in the Medical Sciences can lead to varied and exciting career opportunities for graduates within the health service. Some examples include:

After graduation, you will be able to begin seeking employment in the health service. For further information about your career prospects, you can contact our careers team at

Find out more about our careers service

Contact us

Course +44(0)1332 591080

If you need any more information from us, eg on courses, accommodation, applying, car parking, fees or funding, please contact us and we will do everything we can to help you.

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Additional information about your studies

Teaching hours

Like most universities, we operate extended teaching hours at the University of Derby, so contact time with your lecturers and tutors could be anytime between 9am and 9pm. Your timetable will usually be available on the website 24 hours after enrolment on to your course.

Please note: Our courses are refreshed and updated on a regular basis. If you are thinking about transferring onto this course (into the second year for example), you should contact the programme leader for the relevant course information as modules may vary from those shown on this page.

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