Higher education is usually the preserve of the white, able-bodied, middle classes. This paper reports on the experience of the participants in a project designed to challenge this by givingaccess to working-class, black and disabled community activists to the degree in communityeducation. It identifies the institutional and dispositional barriers to access to higher educationand to sustained participation, and shows how the project has overcome many of them usingillustrations from the participants’ experiences. In particular, their school and later learningexperiences and attitudes to higher education and the factors that helped them to stay on theircourse, are discussed. It makes suggestions for the ways in which higher education mightbecome more accessible, based on these findings, at both an institutional and an individuallevel.