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College of West Anglia student, Rik Thornton, returned to studying as a mature student after working in construction. He returned to learning, studying on an Access to Higher Education course in science and nursing to give him the qualification he needed to progress to further study at university.

“I am a mature student at the College of West Anglia, currently studying an access to higher education diploma in Science and Nursing. I chose this diploma as a route onto further study at university to fulfil my ambition of working in the NHS as an Allied Health Professional (AHP).

Last year, at the age of 46, I contracted Covid and while convalescing I decided the time might be right to take a step back from life as a heavy equipment operator and study for the healthcare career I have wanted for several years now.

I looked at the requirements for the degree courses that interested me and found the access to science and nursing diploma to be an ideal fit, as it was suitable for AHP courses as diverse as podiatry, radiotherapy, diagnostic imaging and physiotherapy, as well as nursing. The access course comprises of biology, psychology, health and social care, applied maths, study skills and a project unit. To my immense relief, an Adult Learner Loan was available to fund the course in full, and it was on a part-time study basis too, enabling me to find work at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital alongside studying.

I had some concerns about heading back into academia after a long hiatus, but those were proved to be unfounded. The rest of my class were of a diverse age range and had widely varying educational backgrounds and rich life experiences. I clicked straight away with several people and soon felt at ease. It was lovely to be able to draw again on the prior biology and laboratory knowledge I had and pass that along to my new friends who had never been in a lab and had limited experience of the subject. I found the tutors to be helpful, supportive and knowledgeable. Their approach is about as far from a school environment as it is possible to get - we are adults and treated as such. Campus life is great - it is a great environment to learn in, with good facilities and plenty of quiet spots in which to have a read.

I am due to complete the course this summer and we’ve already made our university applications before Christmas. I am hoping to gain a place at the University of Suffolk to study Radiotherapy and Oncology at University of Suffolk. I am incredibly grateful to all the support I have received from my tutors and course director both during the course and help with progression onto university. If it weren’t for the access to higher education diploma, I wouldn’t have been able to study for a degree or pursue a career in the field I love.”

If you’re interested in finding out more about the full range of access courses on offer to give you the qualifications to move onto further study at university, please visit:

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