SWAP Access to Nursing

What is special about this course?

Our SWAP Access to Nursing course is exactly what you will need if you are thinking of a career in nursing or care.

If you would like to train in the health industry but lack the necessary qualifications, this could be the course for you.

Access to Nursing is part of the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP) and is specifically for people who have been out of formal education for at least 3 years (see entry requirements for more details). It prepares adult returners for entry into Higher Education and can lead to a place at college or university.

Health care is provided in settings such as nursing homes, residential homes, hospitals and resource centres for people with learning disabilities. The demands for a skilled health care workforce are increasing.

This course provides a range of topics both theoretical and practical related to working in this sector.

Care workers must operate from a good ethical value base and so you will study the principles underpinning the National Occupational Standards and National Care Standards. The programme will allow you to meet the professional standards required for registration with the Scottish Social Services Council.

The following universities will consider applications from SWAP Access to Nursing students to their degree programmes:

Edinburgh Napier University

Glasgow Caledonian University

Robert Gordon University

University of the Highlands and Islands

University of the West of Scotland


Entry requirements

  • Experience of working in a care setting is desirable but not essential
  • Good communication skills and a real interest in working with people
  • A successful interview

Additionally, the criteria for entry to this SWAP (Scottish Wider Access Programme) course are:

  • Out of education for at least 3 years and your highest qualification is National 5, or
  • Out of education for at least 5 years and your highest qualification is Higher.

Preparation for higher education

Understanding of mental health and mental illness

Working as a team in a care setting

Health promotion

Understanding the needs of the older person

Caring for people with dementia

Care Higher

  • Care Human Development and Behaviour
  • Care Social Influences
  • Care Values & Principles
  • Exam

Human Biology Higher 4 credits (evening class)

  • Human Cells
  • Physiology and Health
  • Neurobiology and Immunology
  • Exam

2 Week Work Placement

How will I study my course?

  • Full Time

How long will my course last?

34 Weeks

Where can I study my course?

    • Auchtertyre
    • Broadford
    • Fort William
    • Gairloch
    • Kilchoan
    • Kinlochleven
    • Mallaig
    • Portree
    • Strontian
    • Ullapool

Start date



Most students have their course fees paid as this is a full time course. Please read our Fees & Funding information pages for more information regarding residency, previous study and bursary rates. Please contact funding.whc@uhi.ac.uk if you have any further questions.

Rest of UK students : For students normally domiciled in the rest of the UK (England, Wales and N. Ireland, including Channel Islands and the Isle of Man), with a term-time address in Scotland, studying full time, the course fee is £5,800.

Some of our courses require students to have essential equipment/clothing.

If you are under 18, you are entitled to have essential equipment paid for whether you are entitled to Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) or not. However you must complete an application even if you know that you're not entitled to EMA.

If you are 18 and over and are eligible for a bursary, these costs will be met through your bursary. If you are not eligible for a bursary, you will need to fund these items yourself.


Students may qualify for bursary, EMA or childcare funding. Please contact your local college centre or Student Services for more information.

Is there more information available online?

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What our students, graduates and staff say

The SWAP course has enabled me to get back into education after 13 years. It has allowed me to gain the qualifications to go further into the field of Nursing and has also set me up to use my abilities to apply myself to a university degree. I have really enjoyed studying; it has given me a focus and taken me a step further towards becoming a nurse. I have enjoyed being involved with the classes, feeling a sense of achievement from completing course work and being supported by the wonderful college team. I would highly recommend the SWAP course. It is a package to help you into the career you want. It will refocus your abilities to prove to yourself that you can achieve your goals. The most important thing for me was proving to myself that I am capable if I put my mind to it, and that it’s never too late to apply yourself. This course was a crucial part of my career path. I plan to go on to university to study Adult Nursing.

Robert MacNeil  

Apply for SWAP Access to Nursing

I want to start in 2021/22

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at West Highland College UHI. West Highland College operates a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender identity, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity status, race, religion and/or belief, sex, sexual orientation or socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.