Step Up to Higher Education

Study options


University Foundation Certificate

Key facts

Stoke-on-Trent campus
Study option:
10 Weeks
Start date:
23 September 2024

Get connected

Take advantage of our academics expertise

Pathway course

Progress onto a range of degrees at Staffordshire University

Tailored support

Increase confidence, knowledge and academic skills

The Step Up to Higher Education (HE) course is perfect for students who want to return to education and develop the key academic skills needed for university level study. This course has been specifically developed for pre-degree learners who are joining us on a range of our undergraduate level courses here at Staffordshire University.

From day one you will get to grips with the crucial skills needed in HE, including attending and preparing for lectures and seminars, gathering research, note-taking and personal reflection.

The course is designed to develop your academic writing, referencing, research and critical thinking skills, all of which are key to success in HE. At the same time, the course develops the individual confidence of each learner. Our specialist and friendly course team have extensive experience helping students achieve their academic potential, working with hundreds of students over the years. Many learners who complete the course progress on to foundation or degree level study at the University. Past students have gone on to study photography, law, business, social welfare, sociology and many more.

This course also gives you the opportunity to try taster sessions in various subjects, and our tutors will provide you with the guidance and support needed when making a decision on your next step.

On successful completion of study, we will issue the following award: University Foundation Certificate Step Up to Higher Education

Part-time study

The course is studied part-time, 8 hours a week for 10 weeks.

Course content

This course is taught by friendly and experienced tutors including subject-specialist academic staff, study skills tutors, library and IT specialists, ensuring that you develop the key skills needed for HE. Within your first week, you will be assigned a personal tutor who will nurture you, provide feedback and develop your academic skills throughout the programme.

The course leader for the Step Up to HE programme will be your main personal contact throughout, helping you find your feet and offering guidance, advice and tuition on your learning development and possible future study routes that may be open to you.

This course consists of two separate modules which are designed to introduce you to a variety of skills and provide a firm academic foundation to build on.

Module 1: Skills Know-How: Review and Development

This introductory module will help you as a learner to reflect on your existing life, work and pre-existing learning experiences to date, enabling you to develop a firm sense of self-belief to support your transition to further study. This module will get you to grips with key Higher Education topics such as reflective practice and applicable learning theories. Coupled with this to further supplement your learning development as a student, you will also be gently introduced to the processes of carrying out research, reading and referencing at a University level. The overarching ethos of this introductory module is to help you understand yourself more as a learner, while allowing you to aptly apply various theoretical concepts to your own personal and professional practice. At its heart, this module will enable you to see the links to your own past experiences in relation to learning, alongside realising the importance your past experiences play in facilitating your future success at University. In terms of assessment, you will be supported in writing a 1,500-word self-reflective assessment which will hone your writing skills ready for University-level study. You will also be supported and guided on the effective use of IT in a digitally focused Higher Education environment.

Module 2: Research and Evaluation

Within this concluding module, you will build upon and hone the skills you have gained and developed within Module The overarching ethos of this module is to enable you as a learner to think critically and enquire with confidence on a range of complex theoretical areas. In addition, you will be guided on how to research, read analytically and reference using reliable and evidenced-based information. Through active engagement, your writing ability will grow more readily as you work closely with the support, guidance and encouragement of Course Tutors. You will be introduced to a variety of workshops, seminars and tutorials on the development of grammar, essay planning, structure and presentation, academic and critical writing, in addition critical thinking skills. As the weeks progress, your level of autonomy as a student will grow, with an increased level of confidence developing as you become accustomed to the nature and conventions of objective, evidenced and researched based writing. In terms of assessment, you will be supported in writing a 1000-word Critical Assessment alongside preparing for a 10 Minute Reflective Verbal Discussion with a supporting 500-word Reflective Written Diary as supporting evidence which will enable you to reflect on your learning journey to date. This will allow you as a learner to identify any areas for further development, improvement and areas which you have excelled in over the duration of your studies. You will also be supported and guided on the effective use of IT in a digitally focused Higher Education environment.

Throughout the programme, students will be able to attend timetabled assignment support sessions. There you will get one-to-one support, feedback opportunities with experienced course tutors; these sessions will improve and develop your academic skillset and confidence to succeed within a Higher Education setting.  

Academic year

We have course intakes taking place on the following dates:

  • Monday 25 September 2023 – Tuesday 5 December 2023
  • Monday 15 January 2024 – Tuesday 26 March 2024
  • Monday 22 April 2024 – Tuesday 2 July 2024
  • Monday 23 September 2024- Tuesday 3 December 2024
  • Monday 13 January 2025 – Tuesday 25 March 2025
  • Monday 28 April 2025 – Tuesday 1 July 2025

Attendance is required on a Monday and Tuesday, 10am-2pm.

James Moore - Step up to HE

James Moore - Step up to HE


With the help of Step Up, James was able to leave his job and get through his degree in almost half the time.

Sorry, this video requires the use of functional cookies which you have not consented to use. Change your cookie settings or watch the video on the provider's website

Entry requirements

Applicants must be able to demonstrate written English equivalent to ESOL Level 2.

Applications for Step Up to HE are contextually considered in order to secure attainable academic progression and future transition into degree level study. We also value your experience as well as formal qualifications, so our entrance requirements are flexible. You may have qualifications including CSEs, O Levels and GCSEs – or you may have a range of work-based, or other skills and achievements.

We particularly value life experience and anyone who is interested in progressing on to the course is invited to enquire and contact us at

Step Up to Higher Education at Staffordshire University

Step Up to Higher Education at Staffordshire University


Advice on support available to prospective students

Sorry, this video requires the use of functional cookies which you have not consented to use. Change your cookie settings or watch the video on the provider's website



We have Libraries and service desks at both sites in Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford. Our experienced and friendly staff can answer your IT queries, help you to access resources, show you how to research for your assignments and help with referencing.

Blackboard (VLE)

Blackboard is a virtual learning environment which houses your learning content. It enables online teaching/learning, provides spaces to build online communities and knowledge sharing.

Digital Kiln

A modern social space for students based in Mellor Building. It's ideal for group work, creative ideas sessions and relaxation.


This programme is very successful in supporting individuals to achieve their future goals. Many learners who have successfully completed the Step Up to HE Certificate move onto a wide range of degree courses at Staffordshire University. Examples of the subject areas now being studied by Step Up to HE learners include photography, history, law and business.

Step Up to Higher Education Blog


Information, advice and inspirational stories for mature learners
Teaching and assessment


Teaching approaches can include formal lectures, group work, tutorials/practical sessions, seminars, workshops, directed and self-managed study, and research projects. Each of these will be used on your modules so you get the chance to learn as effectively as possible.


There are two types of assessments: practice (also called formative) or formal (also called summative).

Practice assessments do not count towards your final mark. These are your chance to test your understanding and learn how to improve for the real thing.

Learning support

Your course tutors will provide lots of support. But you can also take advantage of our Academic Skills team, who can help you with:

  • Study skills (including reading, note-taking and presentation skills)
  • Written English (including punctuation, grammar)
  • Academic writing (including how to reference)
  • Research skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Revision, assessment and exam skills (including time management)

Additional support

If you have additional needs like dyslexia or a sensory impairment, then our Student Inclusion Services are here to help make sure nothing stands in your way.


We know that it’s important for you to be able to gauge your progress. So, your tutor will give you feedback on any practice assessments you do.

We usually give you feedback on formal assessments within 20 working days, but the format will vary for each module.


You will be taught by an expert teaching team whose expertise and knowledge are closely matched to the content of the modules on the course. The team includes senior academics and professional practitioners with industry experience. 

Ashley Cotton

Step Up Programme Manager

Ashley's area of expertise at Staffordshire is working positively with a range of harder-to-reach learners in order to develop the core academic and learning skills-set to be successful within a university level environment whilst developing a s…

Ashley's profile

Kay Dawson

Academic Tutor - Step Up To He

I am an Academic Tutor on the Step Up to Higher Education. In my career I have been involved with teaching, coordinating Foundation Degrees, working closely with local businesses, looking at opportunities & skills gaps.

Kay's profile

Daniel Tapley

Academic Tutor - Step Up To He

I am an Academic Tutor on the Step Up to Higher Education, helping students return to education and develop the key academic skills needed for University level study. I also provide learners with pastoral and UCAS support, careers advice & guidance.

Daniel's profile


The course is free of charge for students progressing on to study at Staffordshire University and our associated partner colleges. Tailored and individualised guidance on Student Finance is available during the course to support students progressing onto undergraduate programmes at Staffordshire University.


Location Award Study option Start date Apply Link
Stoke-on-Trent campus University Foundation Certificate Part-time 23 September 2024 Apply now

Rules and regulations

If you are offered a place at Staffordshire University, your offer will be subject to our rules, regulations and enrolment conditions, which may vary from time to time.

Students of Staffordshire University enter into a contract with us and are bound by these rules and regulations, which are subject to change. For more information, please see: University Policies and Regulations

in the UK for Quality Education

Sustainable Development Goal 4, Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2024

for Career Prospects

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Facilities

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Social Inclusion

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023

of Research Impact is ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Very Considerable’

Research Excellence Framework 2021

of Research is “Internationally Excellent” or “World Leading”

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Four Star Rating

QS Star Ratings 2021